Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art

About the conference  

Contemporary art conservation requires a re-assessment of the distinction between the work and its re-configuration in documentation.

Although documentation is crucial for the survival of many contemporary works of art, it is never neutral: all approaches, formats, media and systems have their own inherent affordances and blind spots and always transform what they document. Furthermore, in process-centered, technology-based or performative artworks in particular, we often can no longer make a sharp distinction between an original work and its subsequent documentation or replication: documentation is part of the work’s very core.

On the other hand, even the most meticulously documented works will need to be re-installed or re-performed regularly in order to survive, because otherwise important tacit know-how will get lost.

The role of the artist in this process is central, but contested: what if s/he changes her mind, loses interest or is no longer available? And what if the authorship of the work is distributed over several actors? Also, the role of the conservator has taken new dimensions: conservation responsibilities and tasks are now distributed over a diversity of agents.

Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art is jointly organized by the research project Documentation of Contemporary Art and the Network for Conservation of Contemporary Art Research (NeCCAR).