Inside Installations : Preservation and Presentation of Installation Art


Theory & Semantics of Installation Art

Over the past ten years installation art has become a mainstream art form representing some of the most important and exciting art of our time. Installation works are prominent at all major contemporary art museums and festivals in Europe.

The nature of installation works is distinct from traditional art objects. Works incorporating time-based
media, such as audio-visual & electronic media, or performance are understood in terms of their behaviours as much as their component parts. These works often anticipate an active involvement by the spectator (interactivity) and evoke a multi-sensorial experience (sound, vision, touch and smell). These works are often created for site and time specific occasions, and demonstrate specific vulnerabilities both in terms of the contexts and technologies on which they are dependent.

June 1st 2004 marked the start of a new three-year research project on the preservation and presentation of installation art, supported by the European Commission’s Culture 2000 programme. The project is coordinated by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN) and co-organised by five other European organisations: TATE, England; Restaurierungzentrum Düsseldorf, Germany; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Spain; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Belgium and the
Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art, The Netherlands. Each co-organiser collaborates with national partners, among whom the Netherlands Media Art Institute, bringing the total number of
organisations participating to around 30.

'Inside Installations'
asks - How can we safeguard these expressions of our contemporary visual culture so that they can be experienced by future generations?

For contemporary art museums this is a key question as they struggle to address their responsibilities in relation to art which differs significantly in its nature from earlier forms. These works are seen as complex and expensive and present new challenges, not only with respect to the production processes and artistic intentions, but also in the (re)-presentation and preservation once they enter a museum collection. In order to be able to display these works in the future it is important to understand what is important to preserve and where the risks and vulnerabilities lie. Installation works of art require a greater interdisciplinary approach in their conservation, production and installation, drawing on a wide body of expertise. This is a new area for conservation and collections management and one which is ideally suited to a collaborative approach in the development of guidelines and models of good practice for European museums.

Investigation will take place on important aspects such as, preservation of complex installations, documentation of installation art and vocabulary needed to describe works, their presentation in the museum environment and a virtual environment like the internet as well as, how this knowledge and information can be shared through a professional network such as INCCA. The research will be based on 30 case studies of installation works in the collections of participating museums. From the framework of case studies good practice and tools will be developed under five main topics:

1. Preservation Strategies
2. Artists’ Participation
3. Documentation & Archiving strategies
4. Theory and Semantics
5. Knowledge Management and Information Exchange

The project results (tools and good practice) will be shared with the conservation community through seminars planned throughout the project. Information on the case studies and project results will also be presented on the INCCA and TATE websites, accessible to both professionals and the general public.

The ICN and Montevideo are jointly responsible for two of the case studies. The ICN/Montevideo team selected 'Revolution, a monument for the television revolution' a computergraphic /photo installation by Jeffrey Shaw and Tjebbe van Tijen in cooperation with Gideon May (software) and Huib Nelissen, Charly Jungbauer and Bas Bossinade (hardware) and Bill Spinhoven' s Alberts Ark as case studies.

Next to the developed registration model and other textual documentation, visual documentation in particular video registration or 3d registration is a welcome addition to the existing documentation techniques and can give maybe even a better insight in to the installations connection to space, architecture, the body and interactivity. The Netherlands Media Art Institute is researching these forms of visual registration.

2 3d research Models of ‘Revolution’ are produced by VU and HKU students.
Video recordings of installations and temporary art events are common practice but research into video registrations is rare. What requirements a video registration should meet to provide an insight into to the installation or for reinstalling the installation is almost unknown. 1e presentation of this research in progress will be in May 2006 in Maastricht by Gaby Wijers, coordinator of Collection of the Netherlands Media Art Institute,at the plenary meeting of the participants.

May 11, a one-day seminar is scheduled on Theory and Semantics of Installation Art in Bonnefanten Museum (Maastricht, The Netherlands).