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Collaborative PhD position on ‘Precarity in the Social-Material Networks of Technology-Based Artworks’​ (The Netherlands) Deadline: July 8, 2018

Maastricht University in collaboration with Tate Britain

Application Deadline

July 8, 2018

Program Commencement

September 1, 2018

Duration of the Program

Four Years

Program Details

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University (FASoS) and Tate Britain are inviting applications for a collaborative PhD position on the topic of ‘Precarity in the Social-Material Networks of Technology-Based Artworks’​.

In contrast to the traditional museum model that bases itself on collection knowledge and conservation capacities that is held within the museum, the contemporary art museum is understood as being increasingly dependent on socio-material networks outside the museum which are beyond the museum’s direct control and which circulate in alternative economies, often dominated by different commercial concerns. Greater understanding of these networks is needed to inform and build upon methodologies such as risk assessment and other tools for imagining the future viability of particular works in contemporary art collections. This study will investigate these conceptual, theoretical and practical challenges of precarity and will be guided by two main questions:

  1. How to characterize the condition of precarity of contemporary artworks? What makes some socio-material networks of artworks more precarious or robust than others?
  2. How to design viable strategies for museums to address the challenge of precarity? How might the findings of this research inform and improve the development of risk assessment methodologies for contemporary artworks?

The selected doctoral candidate will identify in several cases from the Tate collection an artist’s work or body of works, which exhibit dependencies on one of three technologies (16mm film, Delphi programming language, Cathode Ray Tubes). Through the use of ethnographic methods and methods drawn from experimental archaeology, the candidate will explore the socio-material networks that constitute these works and their production and maintenance.

The doctoral candidate will reside at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University in the Science, Technology and Society Studies research program, and will be able to benefit from the research activity conducted as part of the project Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum. In addition, the candidate will spend three periods of three months hosted by Tate over the course of the four years.

The research will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Harro van Lente (Science and Technology Studies, FASoS), Prof. Pip Laurenson (Tate/ Arts, Media and Culture, FASoS), Dr. Vivian van Saaze (Arts, Media and Culture, FASoS).

Descriptions & Requirements

Read Effects of Light on Materials in Collections – Data on Photoflash and Related Sources, a review of the literature on the impact of light sources, particularly photo and reprographic flash, on art and archival materials!

The successful candidate will be highly motivated and able to work both independently and creatively, and demonstrate an interest in and committed to transdisciplinary forms of research. S/he should have an active interest in museum practice and contemporary art apart from the following:

  • A relevant Master’s Degree (e.g. conservation, art sociology, museum studies, innovations studies, STS or related fields)
  • Proficiency in English including fluent academic writing skills
  • Excellent scholarly abilities, as testified by previous academic record, particularly by the quality of their master’s-level thesis

The PhD candidate will have the unique opportunity to carry out research within one or more of the four themes within the research program at FASoS and will contribute to the development and outreach of its interdisciplinary research center – the Maastricht Centre for Arts and Culture, Conservation and Heritage. The candidate will be part of an international network of top universities and renowned scholars within the field. The workload will consist of 90% research activities and 10% teaching activities. Remuneration will be according to standard salary levels for PhD students starting with a salary of € 2.222,- with a yearly growth to € 2.840- gross a month (plus other allowances).

Application Process

Interested candidates are invited to apply with the following documents:

  1. A letter of motivation stating the candidate’s qualifications and reasons for interest in the position.
  2. Curriculum Vitae.
  3. A grade transcript of previous education at Master level.
  4. A research proposal of max. 5 pages, outlining a proposed direction and methodology for the project.
  5. The contact information of 2 references (e-mail, phone number, mailing address, & relationship with the applicant).

Selected candidates will be invited for an interview on 17 or 20 July 2018

Send your application electronically to the Secretariat of the department of Society Studies:

For further queries, please write to Prof Dr. Harro van Lente ( or Prof Dr. Pip Laurenson (

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