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Symposium: Transmitting Embodied Knowledge across Generations in Contemporary Art Conservation

21. Juni

How do you do it?

Transmitting Embodied Knowledge across Generations in Contemporary Art Conservation

International Symposium, HAWK, Hildesheim, 21 June 2024

Embodied knowledge refers to the tacit understanding that resides within the body, which allows us to perform and refine tasks without having to consciously consider every step of such action. In the realm of complex artworks, which often contain technology-based or performative components, this knowledge is anchored within the artist’s vision, developed and fine-tuned throughout their career, and transferred often implicitly to their assistants through years of experiencing the artist’s creative process. Custom-made devices, unique installation techniques and aesthetic preferences define the artwork. However, these individualised tweaks tend to defy traditional forms of documentation, raising the question: How can we effectively impart embodied knowledge to others?

Bringing together experts from an array of disciplines, the symposium aims to refine the understanding of concepts such as implicit, tacit, procedural, and embodied knowledge. Participants including linguists, sociologists, conservators, artists, artist’s assistants, art historians, curators and representatives of artists’ estates will delve into the functioning of embodied knowledge and share experiences and best practices for intergenerational and interdisciplinary transmission.

The symposium will address crucial questions related to the transmission of knowledge in several key scenarios:

  • How can we bring implicit and embodied knowledge into conscious awareness to make it accessible and transferable?
  • What approaches can ensure the continuation of knowledge transfer to future generations, expanding beyond the artist-assistant relationship to encompass conservators and institutions?
  • Once a complex artwork enters an institution, the transfer of knowledge necessary to its survival needs to be enabled also between different departments, e.g. across curation, conservation, or archiving. What are the hurdles of knowledge flow in this context?
  • Sharing knowledge is not always done without hesitation. What might be the motivation of different stakeholders, and what are the possible reasons for their reluctance to share knowledge?

Furthermore, it is crucial to train future practitioners in the field of contemporary art preservation on how to reinstall complex artworks ensuring their perpetuity and managing change. Considering the sheer number of unique artists’ installations, which are deeply reliant on techniques developed within their own studios, along with specialized tools and refined procedures, it seems unrealistic to expect future conservators and other professionals to master every technique and procedure. Therefore, it is necessary to identify and train the adaptable skills that are essential to deal with a wide array of artistic challenges: What forms of knowledge are necessary to equip new generations to support the longevity of such complex artworks? Through what educational frameworks and hands-on experiences can this knowledge be best transferred?

Confirmed Speakers: Oliver Ehmer (Professor of Romance Linguistics, Universität Osnabrück), Agathe Jarczyk (Associate Conservator Time Based Media, Guggenheim Museum New York), Mischa Kuball (Professor of public art / public spaces, Academy of Media Arts, Cologne), Hélia Marçal (Lecturer in History of Art, Materials and Technology, University College London), Diego Mellado Martinez (Technical Director, Studio Daniel Canogar), Martina Pfenninger Lepage (Head of Modern Materials and Media, Master’s Programme in Conservation-Restoration, Bern University of Applied Sciences), Francesca Pola (Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan), Christoph Rausch (Associate Professor of Economic Humanities, University College Maastricht), Jochen Saueracker (Artist and former collaborator of the artist Nam June Paik), Anna Schäffler (Art Historian and Curator, Berlin), Christian Scheidemann (Conservator, New York).

Location: HAWK, Aula, Hohnsen 2, Hildesheim

Conference language: English

Conference committee:

Prof. Dr. Tiziana Caianiello (Faculty of Architecture, Engineering and Conservation, HAWK Hildesheim)

Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich (Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, TH Köln)

Julia Giebeler (Cologne)

Mareike Opeña (New York)

Prof. Dr. Francesca Pola (ICONE – European Research Center of History and Theory of the Image, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan)

Organisation: Sandy Bruer, HAWK

Participation is free of charge. Limited seats. Binding registration is required via email by 31 May 2024 at: sandy.bruer(at)


21. Juni