Cultures of Conservation: From Objects to Subjects – On Sites, Rites, and Paradigms

What is conservation? Simplistic as it may seem, this question has many possible answers. From the contemporary perspective, conservation no longer aims simply to prolong its objects’ material lives but is seen as an engagement with materiality—that is, with the many specific factors determining how objects’ identity and meaning are entangled with the aspects of time, the environment, ruling values, politics, economy, conventions, and culture. Accordingly, this course explores diverse cultures of conservation derived from anthropological-humanistic, aesthetic, and scientific approaches. Centered around the conservation of a variety of artworks and artifacts, our discussion will examine the challenges of traditional and contemporary materials and the so called ‘new’ and technology-based media. We will explore the conservation cultures of multiple institutions and stakeholders, and examine the historical conditions that have shaped conservation discourse and theory, especially as reflected in the split between scientific and humanistic cultures and the move from objects to subjects. 3 credits.