Conservation in the Performative Turn

Joel Taylor, Helia Marcal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Over the last century, conservation practice and discourse have undergone several turns. One of the most recent - the cultural turn - prompted discussions on the importance of values-led approaches, highlighting the inherently social nature of conservation. In this paper, we argue that conservation is now at the edge of a performative turn, emerging (also) from the field of critical heritage studies, which questions not only the uses (and users) of the past but also the ways in which cultural heritage is ultimately made through the actions of many agents. The performative turn in conservation comes with a set of reworked questions - not only about the aims and process of conservation itself, but also about ideas of what heritage is, for whom it is conserved, and practices of participation. This paper will focus specifically on how this performative turn revises current assumptions in practice, focusing on conservation risk assessments and how they are applied to contemporary art. We use contemporary art as the lens for this discussion, not as an exception but as the vantage point from which broader issues in conservation are more visible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-266
Number of pages7
JournalStudies in Conservation
Issue numbersup1
Early online date10 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Performative
  • Risk assessment
  • Values
  • Contemporary art
  • Ethics


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