The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art (2003)
creator(s) Martha Buskirk (author)
publisher The MIT Press

The book explores the last four decades of the twentieth century art production by focusing on the intersecting issues of authorship, reproduction, context, and temporality as they reverberate through artistic practice. One of the main themes is the question of authorship in works of art that lack traditional signs of authenticity and are produced with industrial materials and methods (the author refers to minimalism and pop art as predecessors for works of the 1980s and 1990s). Contemporary artistic copying and reproduction are examined in relation to the system of copyrights in commodity production. Another issue addressed is discontinuity and recontextualization arising when works created as site-specific works are subject to spatial and temporal shifts in presentation. The author also investigates the impact of new materials on the definition of medium and the role of documentation, particularly for site-specific works, performances and ephemeral works. Conservation is examined especially where decaying elements need to be replaced or obsolete technologies are updated. Looking at the tremendous heterogeneity of contemporary art production, this book addresses the important questions of how the definition of a work of art is established, how it is administered over time and the conflicts that have arisen as works have been collected and presented, and challenge institutional conventions. (T.S.)

305 pages, Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England, ISBN 0-262-02539-6