Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge is an ambitious research project based on the premise that performance art can be conserved.

The situation

Ephemeral and reliant on the body as medium, performance­-based artworks challenge the assumption that a work of art can be fixed, static and ‘conservable’ – an object easily constrained by established systems of documentation and archival ordering. Further, traditional conservation too often disregards the intangible aspects of heritage conveyance that are necessary to preserve performance: the transmission of memory, skill, technique, and tacit knowledge.

The action

Unraveling the complexities involved in the conservation of performance-based forms, Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge aims to expose the theoretical and practical apparatuses of conservation, its attachment to traditional paradigms, and the resultant shortcomings in the sphere of the intangible.


The project reviews and systematises emerging approaches to the newly established subfield of the conservation of performance-based artworks.


It also explores new methods for conserving performance-based works through: (a) forms of documentation and archives, (b) material residues, and (c) the transmission of knowledge.


The project reflects on conservation as a knowledge-generating activity, and tests its potential contribution to broader discourses in performance studies, anthropology, art history and aesthetics.


Bern Academy of the Arts, Institute Materiality in Arts and Culture


Swiss National Science Foundation

Project lead

Dr. Hanna Hölling


01.10.2020 – 30.09.2024