Art History

Untimely Techniques. On the resumption and continuation of artistic procedures


Prof. Dr Magdalena Bushart, Henrike Haug, Stefanie Stallschus

Artistic techniques and procedures emerge and disappear; this historical change is considered an essential motor for further development of the arts. But what happens when the knowledge of certain working methods, actions and practices does not become extinct, but is reactivated? When it should or must be revived, rediscovered, practised anew? The fourth conference of the research project 'Interdependencies. Arts and Artistic Techniques' asks about the 'untimely' techniques and thereby consciously doubts the traditional art-historical development models. The aim is not to rewrite histories of progress or decay, but to consider the historiographical anachronies that result from 'revival' as a figure of posterity. It is the reactivation of a past that sets the techniques in a tense relationship to each other and defines what is meant by "old" and "new".

The grand narrative of occidental art history repeatedly names

'Renaissances' after periods of decline and decay - a resurgence of the

artistic creation, which at the same time also meant the inventio of old techniques - inventio meaning both 'rediscovery' and 'new discovery'. Each of these epochs is attributed at least one revival of a lost (mostly ancient) process: What bronze casting is to the Carolingian period, Mediterranean textile techniques are to the Normans in southern Italy, and the art of gem-cutting or porphyry carving is to the Florentine Renaissance. The real heyday of the untimely techniques, however, seems to be the late 18th and 19th centuries; the historicisms of this epoch obviously provided fertile ground for the revival of old techniques, both experimental and systematically researched.

have been uncovered again. The acceleration of technical developments and the shortening of technological cycles since industrialisation favour the phenomenon of technological nostalgia, i.e. the symbolic reactivation of older techniques for the sake of their historical-cultural secondary meanings. Furthermore, contemporary art offers numerous examples of socio-political engagement that attempts to counteract the death of techniques and the loss of practical knowledge.

Reactivations are thus dynamic processes in which a wide variety of actors, things and ideas are involved. Against this background, we will ask about concrete constellations of such processes, their causes and effects. How must one imagine the reactivations? Are they happy accidents of experimenting craftsmen or the result of systematic studies? How does the 'memory' of once-practised techniques come about? Which forms of transmission and models provide clues to older techniques? What role do source writings play, and what role do the findings of the surviving




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