1. Research on theory and semantics (2004-2007)
contributor(s) Restaurierungszentrum DA1/4sseldorf, S.M.A.K., Ghent, MNCARS, Madrid, Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (SBMK), TATE, London, ICN, The Netherlands
publisher Project coordinator ICN

One of the most challenging theoretical (and practical) issues of contemporary works of installation art is the notion of ’the original’. Because installation works are often produced for a site-specific context, it gets extremely difficult to define ’the original’, entailing questions such as: What is essential to determine origins and authenticity of the work? What parts of it should be preserved, transformed or re-created? How to identify the ’original’ work when reproducible media are involved, such as video, and the artist is using (parts of) the original work in future editions? Evidently, the complex notion of ’the original’ already is and will become increasingly relevant for collectors, as well as for conservation, curatorial and collection management tasks in museums and art institutions.

Other, relating questions, are: How to identify ’craftsmanship’ where new technologies are being used in contemporary art? How to identify the public’s (interactive) participation when the work undergoes considerable changes in the course of time? What is the museum’s role when it interacts as intermediate between the artist and the public?

Inside Installations Glossary
Still another problem is the lack of a ’common language’ to describe installation art. As with contemporary art in general, new concepts are being introduced and new ways of thinking are developed rapidly. This ’sliding semantic scale’ presents a challenge to the international conservation community which recognises the need for exchanging knowledge and information.

From this perspective a glossary of around 100 terms has been developed. Each term has been described with quotes selected from current literature on the preservation and presentation of installation art.

Access the Inside Installations Glossary in the Theory Research section of this website

During the project a Working Group on Theory and Semantics was established which jointly prepared the project's "Theory" seminar held in Maastricht (May 11, 2006). Individual members of the working group published on the subject, like C. Weyer, 'Restoration theory applied to installation art', Beitrage zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Verband der Restauratoren, Volume 2, 2006, p. 40-47 and IJ. Hummelen, Conservation strategies for modern and contemporary art, CR Conservatie en Restauratie, Volume 3, 2005, p. 22-26. Others presented papers or intitiated discussions at various project's seminars.

Two PhD researchers worked in liaison with the Theory and semantics working group: Pip Laurenson (Head of Media Arts Conservation at Tate and PhD researcher with support of the New Art Trust and in conjunction with Tate and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and Vivian van Saaze (Maastricht University/Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage).

Theory and semantics was coordinated by Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage. Those participating were: Karen te Brake-Baldock, Anne de Buck, Ysbrand Hummelen, Frederika Huys, Pip Laurenson, Vivian van Saaze, Tatja Scholte, Arianne Vanrell, Cornelia Weyer.

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