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Subject: Ethics and materials

Ethics and materials

From: Mark Vine <100436.3447>
Date: Friday, October 6, 1995
Simon Hogg <s.hogg [at] ic__ac__uk> asks a very pertinent question :

>If one knows, as a conservator, that a certain material is likely to
>degrade in a certain time period, is it ethical (or indeed is it an
>appropriate question,) to advise an artist not to use certain
>materials.

The answer must be yes. Similarly it is the conservator's job to
advise the custodian or archivist if materials used to protect an
item are equally of an inferior quality.

The problem with artists seems to be their never ending vocation to
seek themes new, unusual and essentially bizarre.

Just this week I heard of an artist who was looking for a suitable
waxed paper that could be put into in a photo copier. The artist
wanted to transfer an image by the copier onto the waxed paper and
in turn transfer by pressure the image onto a canvas. Both the
canvas and the waxed paper forming part of the artists work.

Even more bizarre was the fact that the artist was after a material
of particular specification: it seems he had been made aware of that
most meaningless description of the 20th century--acid-free--and the
waxed paper must be so inclined.

This type of problem is a dilemma and one Museum custodians and
those responsible for the conservation of future collections must
surely be aware particularly.

In an ideal environment one would have thought the artist would
rather be notified of the significance of using one type of inferior
material over another if future works of art are to be on open
display rather than stuck for preservation reasons in an airless
container, freezer or darkened cell.

It seems that the more bizarre the art form the more chance it has
of reaching the publics view, for better or worse custodians eager
to promote new themes appear less interested in the ethics of future
preservation.

Mark Vine
Conservation Resources

                                  ***
                  Conservation DistList Instance 9:33
                 Distributed: Tuesday, October 10, 1995
                        Message Id: cdl-9-33-011
                                  ***
Received on Friday, 6 October, 1995

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