In Focus: Beyond the Object Principle: Object - Event - Performance - Process (Mellon Curriculum)

The emergence of new forms of artistic expression in the 1960s and 70s has introduced new perspectives not only to museum presentation and collection practice, but also to conservation. Conservation philosophies and principles have been increasingly challenged by shifting paradigms of what once was acknowledged as the unique, singular, or authentic ‘object.’ As a result, today’s museum curators and conservators must adopt a diversified approach in order to engage seriously with new forms of cultural heritage that change our conception of the object and its relation to world, transfiguring our understanding of what and how it once was. This course will employ the prisms of art, cultural and conservation theories to focus on the challenges of conserving and presenting artworks and artifacts that may be better understood as events, performances, and processes. We will reevaluate the meaning of the ‘conservation object’ by exploring its relation to conceptions of time, archive and identity. We will go so far as to ask whether the terms of material conservation of a physical, evidential object may still be sustained in the face of the fleeting, transient and heterogeneous forms of contemporary media. So rather than asking ‘what is conservation?,’ which was subject matter of the Fall semester, we will ask what conservation was, meaning, whether, and to which degree, the term retains its validity. Are we ready to break off to the new horizons of non-material preservation of, for instance, aesthetic experience? These and other questions will be discussed through examples of works created in the context/attitude of Fluxus, Intermedia, performance, event, film, video, ephemera and foodstuff. The participants will be asked to prepare oral presentations and submit a term paper or virtual presentation. The course is conceived as a preparation for the Focus Gallery Project. 3 credits.