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Distributed for Bard Graduate Center

Conserving Active Matter

Considers the future of conservation and its connection to the human sciences. 

This volume brings together the findings from a five-year research project that seeks to reimagine the relationship between conservation knowledge and the humanistic study of the material world. The project, “Cultures of Conservation,” was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and included events, seminars, and an artist-in-residence. 

The effort to conserve things amid change is part of the human struggle with the nature of matter. For as long as people have made things and kept things, they have also cared for and repaired them. Today, conservators use a variety of tools and categories developed over the last one hundred and fifty years to do this work, but in the coming decades, new kinds of materials and a new scale of change will pose unprecedented challenges. Looking ahead to this moment from the perspectives of history, philosophy, materials science, and anthropology, this volume explores new possibilities for both conservation and the humanities in the rethinking of active matter.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Report on a Research Project


Introduction: Conserving Active Matter and the Conservator
Soon Kai Poh

Introduction: Conserving Active Matter and the Historian
Peter N. Miller

1.    Philosophy

one Introduction: Active Matter—Some Initial Philosophical Considerations
Ivan Gaskell and A. W. Eaton

two The Expressive Import of Degradation and Decay in Contemporary Art
Sherri Irvin

three The Look of Age: Appearance and Reality
Carolyn Korsmeyer

four  The Aesthetics of Repair
Yuriko Saito
five Death and Entanglement: Some Thoughts about Life, Love, and the Aims of Art Conservation
Alva Noë

2.    History

six Introduction: Conserving Active Matter and the Art Historian’s Craft
Ittai Weinryb

seven Active Matter in Presocratic Thought?
André Laks

eight Active Matter: A Philosophical Aberration or a Very Old Belief?
Guido Giglioni

nine Oak and Oil, Chalk and Flint—Rood Screens and Churches
Spike Bucklow

ten  Bread and Wine, Body and Blood
Lee Palmer Wandel

3.    Indigenous Ontologies

eleven Introduction: For the Lives of Things—Indigenous Ontologies of Active Matter
Aaron Glass

twelve  Living Knowledge in Cultural Collections
Sven Haakanson

thirteen The Orator’s Dilemma: Wampum as Material, Media, Medicine, and Memory
Jamie Jacobs
fourteen Always Becoming Better Stewards: Caring for Collections at the National Museum of the American Indian
Kelly McHugh

fifteen Hoki Mauri: Bring Back the Life Essence
Rose Evans

4.    Materials

sixteen Introduction: Developing Informed and Sustainable Responses to the Alteration of Cultural Artifacts; Materials Engineering Meets Material Culture
Jennifer L. Mass

seventeen Contextualizing the Installation of Tania Bruguera’s Untitled (Havana 2000)
Chris McGlinchey

eighteen Moving beyond the Binaries: Exploring the Active Matter of Metal Soaps in Paint
Francesca Casadio

nineteen Characterizing the Immaterial: Noninvasive Imaging and Analysis of Stephen Benton’s Engine no. 9
Marc Walton, Pengxiao Hao, Marc Vermeulen, Florian Willomitzer, and Oliver Cossairt

twenty Making Meiji Red: Semiotic Activity in the Colors of Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1864–1900
Marco Leona and Henry D. Smith II

Appendix: Events of the Research Project Conserving Active Matter



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