The customs and traditions of a society can be almost invisible to its members. What are the political and ethical implications of such “ambient” culture, those events that occur every year at the same time in a certain place, and how many of them are disappearing? Which half-forgotten traditions should be resuscitated? What practices should be buried and forgotten forever? Such are the questions pursued by the hypothetical discipline Ultimology, the study of that which is dead or dying. First established as a department at Trinity College Dublin in 2016, Ultimology’s next major phase of activity commences in autumn 2018, applying its reflexive approach to knowledge production to the rituals, ceremonies, specialties, and seasonal traditions of Styria. Utilizing familiar methods of data gathering—the interview and the questionnaire—respondents are invited to propose an aspect of culture, tradition, or ritual to be analyzed and critically reflected upon using Ultimology as a methodology. The questionnaire facilitates anonymity. A proximate display structure hosts helpful visual or mnemonic prompts, while elements of hospitality such as memory-enhancing gingko leaf tea encourage loitering and prolonged thought and reflection. What Where by the Department of Ultimology takes place in the reception area of the Grazer Kunstverein throughout this year’s steirischer herbst, and is coordinated by Fiona Hallinan, Nina Höchtl, Kate Strain, and Julia Wieger.
Department of Ultimology
What Where (2018)
The Department of Ultimology is an ongoing educational-artistic project first established by Fiona Hallinan and Kate Strain in January 2016, and envisages 100 years of existence as a field of study at Trinity College Dublin. It conducts qualitative research into endangered knowledge both inside and beyond academia in the form of conferences, workshops, and exhibitions.