Image credit: Electric Life by Teresa van Dongen, February 2019 Filed under electro active bacteria mud light, photography by René Gerritsen

Curators on Curating goes behind the scenes of upcoming BGC exhibitions to give a window into the curatorial process. We invite you to think with us about exhibition making, material histories, and storytelling.

In this presentation, Soon Kai Poh, the Conservation as a Human Science Fellow at BGC, will introduce Conserving Active Matter, an exhibition that explores the practice of conservation as seen through the lens of matter’s activity. The objects in the exhibition span five continents and range in time from the Paleolithic to the present. Conserving Active Matter considers the many ways in which objects are active and envisions an expanded role for conservation in their care, now and in the future. The exhibition is scheduled to open in the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in the spring of 2022 and is the culmination of a ten-year project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create new pathways for exchange and intellectual mingling between conservation and the human sciences.

Meet the Speakers

Peter N. Miller is dean and professor of cultural history at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. He is the author of a series of books on the early seventeenth-century antiquarian, Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc, on the history of antiquarianism in Europe, and on early modern European cultural history. His main interest is in how and why we do research on the past, whether it is done by professional historians or by curators, conservators, and artists. In 2019, with a MacArthur X Grant he organized a series of panel discussions under the title What is Research?. Those discussions have been collected in a book just published by BGC. He has been at Bard since 2001. As dean his main activity has been elaborating a new vision of object-centered humanities graduate education that emerges from the institution’s research horizon. He previously taught at the University of Cambridge, University of Chicago, and University of Maryland, College Park. He was a research fellow at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin / Institute for Advanced Study, and has been a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseille.

Soon Kai Poh is the current Conservation as a Human Science Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center. He is a graduate of the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, specializing in objects conservation with a particular interest in Asian and Near Eastern works of art. His professional interests include the interpretive and technological implications of material culture arising from trans-geographical interactions and theory and practice in conservation, particularly in reconsidering the relationship between the conservator and the things under their care, as definitions of the former and latter continue to shift and broaden. He has worked on projects and completed internships at the conservation labs of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at NYU, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Other Presentations in the Series:

Curators on Curating: “A Map is Not the Territory”: Unsettling the Curatorial Voice in Shaped by The Loom
May 13, 2021
12 – 1:30 pm

Curators on Curating: Threads of Power
June 10, 2021
12 – 1:30 pm