Dimensions of techne in the arts

Last summer, the research group "Dimensions of techne in the arts", which conducts research on the making of art, was approved by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The first spokesperson is Prof. Dr. Magdalena Bushart, Head of the Department of Art History at the TU Berlin, the second spokes person is Prof. Dr. Karin Leonhard, Professor of Art Science/Art History at the University of Konstanz.

In six projects, the research group is concerned with artistic work processes and the factors that make them possible. These include the techniques and materials used in production, as well as the procedural knowledge that is passed on in texts or illustrations, the art theory that formulates the standards of evaluation for technical achievements, and the narratives that charge artistic action with meaning. Thus, the projects deal with the realization of drafts in printing blocks or in the printed sheet, with the negotiation of secret knowledge in the patents of the glassblowers of Murano, with the role of color in portrait painting, with color systems and orders, and with text types - art theoretical writings, application literature, legends and anecdotes - through which a time-specific view of technical skill and knowledge can be described.

The aim of their work is to grasp artistic production as a triad of practical doing, conceptual knowledge, and cultural location, and from this to develop methodological and theoretical models for the study of art-making. "In order to be able to describe this interplay in its mutability, we have chosen the Greek term 'techne'. It encompasses not only the two areas of art and technology, which are usually negotiated separately in German, but also aspects such as the routine handling of tools or the reflection on skill that manifests itself in the artifact," says Prof. Dr. Magdalena Bushart.

By setting up the research group, they are also promoting interdisciplinarity beyond Berlin, as the six project leaders come from art history, literary studies and the history of science. Although the spokespersons and coordinators are based in Berlin, the research group otherwise works on a distributed basis. The decision in favor of a decentralized organization was deliberate, says Bushart, in order to counteract the increasingly strong division into center and periphery and to make the topic visible beyond the city. In the first funding year, Berlin will serve as the focal point where the public events will be bundled, followed by Konstanz in the second year and Frankfurt in the third. The kick-off in Berlin will be a lecture series in which the group will introduce itself to an interested public, as well as a summer school for young researchers in the summer of 2021.

The DFG research group is a cooperation of TU Berlin, Technische Universität Dortmund, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main and the University of Konstanz and will be funded by the DFG for the next three years.