TOWARD GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE IN THE PRESERVATION AND DOCUMENTATION OF TECHNOLOGY-BASED INSTALLATION ART
WILLIAM A. REAL
The practice of conservation of installation art is an emerging field with many unanswered questions. While there are parallels in the practice of conservation of other contemporary art forms and in the conservation of materials outside the fine arts area such as architecture, library and archival materials, and science and technology collections, installations present some unfamiliar challenges such as the notion of performance and the experiential elements of sound, moving image, time, and space.
It is unlikely that conservation of installation art will emerge as a distinct field anytime in the foreseeable future; consequently, conservators confronted with the challenges of preserving installation art will have to become familiar enough with fields such as video technology and production, acoustics, and even appliance repair, so that they can communicate effectively with other professionals in these and other disciplines, in the same way that conservators of more traditional art forms might be conversant with architects, mechanical engineers, photographers, lighting designers, and the like.
Finally, because of the performance aspect of many installations, conservators working with this medium will need to look beyond the material and consider that the “heart” of a work might lie primarily in its less-tangible qualities. Preserving for the future something that is above all an experience might require conservators to take a more fluid view of what may or may not be changed about a work, challenging conventional notions of accuracy and authenticity.