Ultimology* is the study of that which is dead or dying.
The first Department of Ultimology was established by Fiona Hallinan and Kate Strain in 2016, at Trinity College Dublin. In the academic context, when applied across curricula and disciplines, Ultimology becomes the study of extinct or endangered subjects, theories, and tools of learning. More broadly Ultimology responds to a contemporary environment of anxiety around endings; a time of apocalyptic climate events and turbulent political change, threats of resurgent populism, depleted resources, rapid obsolescence and technological changes that are shifting society.
The Department of Ultimology considers that which is dead or dying across all fields as an entry point for transformative encounter. Working through artistic methodologies, Ultimology presents complex issues in playful and exploratory ways, conducting interviews, workshops, projects and discourse around the question “what is dead or dying?” In this way Ultimology functions as a means of openly grappling with opaque subjects.
The Department of Ultimology is part of the Orthogonal Methods Group (OMG), a research group based at CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications, headquartered at Trinity College Dublin. OMG works in critical and creative relation/tension with technology. Working through artistic methodologies, Ultimology is offered as a tool for critical reflection by engineering researchers who work in cutting edge technology, and as a means for those outside of that sphere to gain insight into networks and communications.
* The term Ultimology was first encountered through the work of Ross Perlin, director of the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), New York.
Fiona Hallinan is artist and researcher for the Department of Ultimology. Based in Brussels, she conducts interviews, organises events, collaborations and commissions, researches and writes. She is interested in thresholds, gestures of hospitality, embodied knowledge and instigating uncanny encounters between individuals and things. Her work has been shown at Kerlin Gallery, IMMA, Mother’s Tankstation and Brown University. She is currently a member of the Science Gallery Dublin Leonardo Group and is developing projects for South Dublin County Council and Grazer Kunstverein. She is a graduate of History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Orthogonal Methods Group (OMG), a research group based at CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre.
Kate Strain is a curator researching performativity in contemporary visual arts practice. She is artistic director of Grazer Kunstverein, Austria and co-founder of the Department of Ultimology. She was acting curator at Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2014-15; Curator in Residence at Cow House Studios, Wexford 2016; and Curator in Residence at CONNECT Centre for Future Networks and Communications, Trinity College Dublin 2017. Ongoing curatorial projects include online research and commissioning body The Centre For Dying On Stage and the paired curatorial practice with Rachael Gilbourne: RGKSKSRG. She is a graduate of History of Art and Architecture, at Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Orthogonal Methods Group (OMG), a research group based at CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre.
Nina Höchtl explores the practice of fiction-making as a political process in art, literature, politics, history, and popular culture, with an emphasis on feminist, queer, post- and de(s)colon/ial/izing theories and practices. This interest is closely intertwined with questions of linguistic, cultural and socio-political processes of transformation and translation, her role as an artist within them and the privileges she may lack or have as a result of gender, race, class, ethnicity, age, education and profession. Together with Julia Wieger she founded the Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps in 2012. Since 2013 she has been part of INVASORIX, a queer/cuir-feminist working group in Mexico City who is interested in songs, video clips, publications and tarot readings as activist and didactic practices. Höchtl is adjunct researcher for the Department of Ultimology as part of a working group established to undertake critical research into Styrian traditions.
Julia Wieger works in art and architecture. Her work is concerned with queer feminist productions of space, archive politics, and history writing, as well as collective approaches to research, knowledge production, and design. She taught/worked/researched at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the IZK at TU Graz. From 2014-16 she was part of the transdisciplinary research project “Spaces of Commoning” at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. From 2012-17 she was a member of the board of VBKÖ – an artist run queer feminist art space in Vienna. Together with Nina Höchtl, she founded the working group Secretariat for Ghosts Archival Politics and Gaps in 2012. Wieger is adjunct researcher for the Department of Ultimology as part of a working group established to undertake critical research into Styrian traditions.
Ultimology makes tangible practices, processes, tools and other examples of things that are extinct or endangered. The Department does not attempt to conserve or memorialize, instead producing responses that are living, in the form of new artistic work and commissions, publications and live events.
Ultimology offers the possibility of unearthing discarded practices through examining new ideas. Particularly within the Humanities and Social Sciences, theories and concepts are constantly revisited and re-drawn for new contexts. Ultimology employs a methodology of Negative Space to interrogate what obsolescent concepts may exist in the shadows of contemporary terminology.
Ultimology as a Service (UaaS)
Ultimology can be applied to particular subjects, situations, or processes as a kind of service that allows users to critically reflect on their own practice or discipline. Thinking through Ultimology provides an accessible framework through which to have an in-depth discussion about any field or topic. The question ‘what is Ultimological in your field’ enables the opening up of a complex set of subjects and ideas.
Ultimology works performatively, constituting meaning through the embodiment of certain acts or practices. The Department sees performativity as the potential of language, actions (symbolic or otherwise) and speech not just to communicate but to create realities.
Digging refers to the methodology of performatively embedding oneself in a specific context as a means of reification. Ultimology itself exists through a number of strategic undertakings. Digging also works as a methodology through which to uncover information – searching for answers, and turning up questions.
Fiona Hallinan / Kate Strain
CONNECT Centre for Future Networks and Communications
Dunlop Oriel House
34 Westland Row
Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin
Grazer Kunstverein, Palais Trauttmansdorff, Burggasse 4, A-8010 Graz, Austria
Atelier Fiona Hallinan, Rue du Framboisier 38, 1180 Uccle, Brussels, Belgium
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