Focus Artistic Research

The Museum of Lost Technology

Project lead: Ebru Kurbak
Institute of Art Sciences and Art Education
Duration: 01.09.2020 - 31.08.2024
Austrian Science Fund (FWF): V 795 Richter-Programm (inkl. Richter-PEEK)

This project investigates textiles in the art and technology context. The aim of the project is to challenge expectations that are brought by terms such as media arts and tech-arts, and explore the position of “women’s work” in contemporary technology-engaged art frameworks. 
The project builds on the premise that inventions in the history of science and technology were products of not only the intellectual capacity of the inventors but also their practical knowledge and skills. In the Western world, not only women but also particular knowledge that had been dominantly held by women had been excluded from official sites of science and technology research for centuries. By carrying out hands-on experiments at the intersections of textiles and selected scientific subjects, the project excavates some of the speculative “lost possibilities” that were unimaginable in the past due to the gendered social and spatial segregation of knowledge. Directed towards establishing a speculative “museum of technology,” the studio enquiry searches for an imaginative collection of information, techniques, and technologies that could have been conceived—but never were. The museum, here, is understood and explored as a site where truth is produced through the sorting of objects, knowledge and practices.
The four-year arts-based research project establishes “the lab as method.” The studio environment of the project is intentionally set for open-ended and open-minded material investigation that acknowledges the agency of materials and material processes. Every year, a new theme is established by pairing an extra-disciplinary research field with a particular textiles crafting method. Each year, the studio is rearranged and re-equipped according to the selected thematic pair and prepared as the locale for situated material enquiry. The practice-based experiments in the studio are supported by art theoretical research, comparative studies of various histories that are relevant to the project, comparative surveys of collections of selected anthropology and technology museums, as well as creative writing and world-building activities. Research residencies are regularly carried out at the international cooperating institutions to stimulate further reflection on the project within an interdisciplinary and international network of key experts.