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Engineering Art’s Limits: Arup’s Machines for Art

October 30, 2023 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Please join us on Monday, October 30th from 4-5 PM in Tappan Hall 180 for a talk by Hannah Cohen, Forsyth Postdoctoral Fellow, entitled “Engineering Art’s Limits: Arup’s Machines for Art,” which will be followed by questions and conversation.

Hannah frames her talk as follows: “That art is not sui generis is no secret. Throughout history, art has been consistently sustained by the collective labor of individuals who are not artists – and who, in many cases, go entirely unseen. From the workshops of early modern Europe to the stylized squalor of Warhol’s factory, contexts of production have long been regarded as rich sites of art historical research. Insofar as the practices that sustain art vary tremendously across time and place, they can reveal much of the changing nature and politics of art itself. This presentation concerns the engineering of contemporary art. As contemporary art has grown ever more technically complex and architectural in its scale, engineers have become a mainstay presence in its production. At the same time as this, architectural shifts and advances in preventive conservation have seen to the overwhelming technologization of the museum environment, a fact that, similarly, places engineers at the center of their design. These two spheres of art’s engineering – the engineering of individual artworks and the engineering of museum environments – are extensively implicated in one another, forcing a way of thinking about art that concretely exceeds the parameters of artist- and object-centered narratives.

Tracing a history of art, architecture and engineering that extends from the mid-20th Century to the present, this presentation charts how the profound cultural influence of engineers (and, in particular, the engineers of one company: the London-based firm Arup), raises complex questions as to how we, as scholars, think about the politics of agency, interdisciplinarity, (aesthetic) innovation, and the museum environment.”


October 30, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Tappan Hall
855 S University Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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