Caring for Art and Nature

Wood as an Artist's Material

Blended Intensive Programmes (BIPs) are a new funding line of the Erasmus+ programme:
They are jointly organised and taught courses by a consortium of at least three universities. Courses consist of both, virtual learning elements as well as a short study mobility phase during which all participants meet physically.

The BIP "Caring for Art and Nature" was designed by lecturers from the following insitutions:

  • University of Groningen, the Netherlands (UGR, sending institution)
  • University of Gothenburg, Sweden (UGO, sending institution)
  • University of Konstanz, Germany (UKN, coordinationg institution, host institution of the on-site teaching and learning phase)

and the group of students and lecturers of these insitutions will meet in Konstanz, Germany, from 3rd – 9th July 2022.



Wooden objects form a crucial category within human history and anthropology. Ranging from utilitarian objects such as domestic tools and dwelling structures, to vessels such as boats, ships and other modes of transport, this material is closely intertwined with the evolution of human ingenuity and creative production. At the same time, the incessant use of wood for human industry as formed an ecological challenge for centuries. The focus of this course, offered as part of the Erasmus Initiative BIP theme Caring for Art & Nature, is the status and role wood has as a (historical) material in artistic production as well as how wooden objects are conserved over time.

Using an interdisciplinary framework, the courses’ online and on-site seminars and workshops explore a number of aspects of wood as artistic material, including its biological and ecological diversity, the physical properties and affordances of different wood sorts, their geographical origins, historical trading routes, as well as technologies serving wood conservation. The course also addresses the semantic and symbolic significance of wood as a creative material for artists and craftspeople, situated in different cultural, religious, and scientific contexts.

In keeping with the theme of Caring for Art & Nature, the course aims to consider the human-made, nature-made, or animal-plant collaborations apparent in wooden objects and artworks, thus emphasising the dialogic interaction between makers and materials. Through situating wood in its diverse manifestations as an extension of a much broader natural or material environment it becomes possible to see some of the overlapping features which characterise both natural and cultural heritage.

Course Outline

This course consists of two separate blocks, designed to introduce students to the main themes, while also providing relevant reference literature. Several topics will be explored, including the history of wood as an artist’s material, as well as the conservation of wooden objects. In addition, a range of theoretical concepts will be discussed, with particular focus on the applicability of care and materiality as a conceptual framework for considering both the material and affective dimensions of an artwork’s physicality. Lectures are hosted online and onsite by the collaborating institutions and include presentations by international leading experts in the fields of art conservation, art history, and material culture studies.

Academic information / ECTS and recognition

Target group: B.A., M.A., PhD, M.Sc. and B.Sc. candidates in the fields of art history, cultural history, cultural heritage studies, material culture studies, conservation and conservation science.

Language of instruction: English

Course credits: Participants will receive between 3 and 6 ECTS points for their active participation, depending on the credit requirements of their degree programmes at their home institution. Awarded credit amounts will be based on the type (and volume) of assessment completed.

Tentative schedule (last updated 7th April 2022)

Virtual elements of the programme: Digital lectures

  1. 5th May 2022, 7 p.m. Christina Neilson: “Early Modern Wooden Objects in Europe and Colonial Latin America

    Associate Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History,
    Chair of Art History, Art Department, Oberlin College

  2. 10th May 2022, 7 p.m. Marta Domínguez Delmás: “Dendrochronology of historical art objects: principles, current advances and challenges
    Research Associate/Dendrochronologist, University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Art History

On-site teaching period of the programme: In-class / excursion programme in Konstanz

This tentative schedule will be updated regularly.

Travelling to Konstanz

Konstanz is easily reached by train. The main station is called "Konstanz Hauptbahnhof", where the majority of public transport busses stop.

If you travel by plane, the closest airport to Konstanz is Zurich Airport (Siwtzerland), where you may take a train to Konstanz Hauptbahnhof. Trains leave every half hour and take between 1:06 (direct trains) and 1:15 (1 change) hours to Konstanz. Train timetables may be found on the website of the Schweizer Bundesbahnen (Swiss national train service) .
An alternative airport would be Stuttgart Airport. Depending on the connection, it would take between 2 h 42 min and 3 h 43 min to get from Stuttgart  to Konstanz by train.

Train connections my be booked through the website of the Deutsche Bahn (German railway).

Finding affordable accommodation

Konstanz is a holiday destination and accommodation quite expensive, especially during the summer months. This is why rooms (dorms, single rooms with shared bathroom facilities as well as a few single rooms with ensuite bathrooms) have been reserved for the mobile participants from the Netherlands and Sweden. Reservations were made in:

  • the Youth Hostel Konstanz  (€ 43,70 per night per person, + tourist tax of € 2,50 per day per person)
  • the Stadthotel (80,-€ per night, per single bedroom)
  • the Hotel Pension Graf , non-smoker hotel (€ 119 per room, per night, three-bedded room (shared bathroom/toilet))

If you would like to opt for one of the pre-reserved rooms, please get in touch with Sofi Schilow, student assistent in the Department of Literature, Art and Media Studies at the University of Konstanz.

Insurance (health, accident and liability)

It is each participant’s personal responsibility to make sure they are well and fully covered with health, accident and liability insurance during their stay.

Nevertheless, we strongly recommend that you get in touch with your insurance company to check whether or not you would have to add anything to your police in order to be well-covered during your stay with us. When doing so, please also enquire whether or not your insurance policy would cover a transport home during a pandemic. In the past two years we had to learn (with our own outgoing students) that a lot of policies actually rule out this scenario.

We need to emphasise that participants will not be insured through the University of Konstanz for the duration of their stay with us in July. As our short-term visitors will not be enrolled as students, the university will not cover any insurance aspects for our participants.

Erasmus+ funding and formalities

BIPs follow the general Erasmus+ logic when it comes to funding their participants,  i.e. it is the sending institution of a mobile participant or lecturer that will provide a mobility grant/lump sum for travel. According to the Erasmus+ programme guide for 2021, mobile participants (students) of a BIP will receive € 70 per day (mobility phase up to 14 days). This lump sum may be combined with a so-called top-up for participants with "fewer opportunities" (€ 100, definition of "fewer opportunities is country-specific) and/or a top-up for "green travel" (environmentally friendly travel, € 50, plus up to 4 extra days of funding à € 70).

Mobile participants will receive their Erasmus+ grant from their home institution and will have to hand in the following documents to report on their mobility phase:

letter of admission (proving they were accepted by the host institution),
learning agreement (documenting the academic nature and study-relevance),
confirmation of stay (confirming the mobility phase),
confirmation of participation (equivalent to transcript of records for their academic achievement, basis for credit transfer),
EU-survey (mobile participants take this survey to monitor and possibly improve the programme).