- Between concept and material. Working with conceptual art: a conservator’s testimony
- Award date
- 29 June 2016
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Heritage and Memory Studies (AHM)
Conceptual art challenges the idea of traditional art conservation. How can one preserve a concept when there is material to work with? Should this be done through keeping the material, even when it no longer conveys the message? Or through working with artist interviews or artist participation, despite the challenge of potentially conflicting viewpoints? Or through documentation, and if so: how? This study explores these various approaches taken, assessing conceptual artworks through the lens of conservation in a museum context. It presents original research material, including many personal interviews and findings from participatory practice, casting new light on iconic artworks from Ger van Elk, Joseph Kosuth, and Jan Dibbets, each representing different types of conceptual art.
Three claims are made that differ from what is generally believed or accepted in traditional conservation theory and the idea of conceptual art: a conceptual artwork’s materiality is more meaningful than thought; the installation process can be considered a form of conservation; and such processes are valuable research tools and dynamic sources for technical art history. This means that the traditional object-based approach in conservation is enriched by process-based research, acknowledging the inevitability of personal input through methods imported from the social sciences. An autoethnographic approach is proposed as a new research tool in conservation, introducing a conservator’s testimony, which encourages continuous critical thinking both about the way conceptual artworks continue their lives over time, and instigates an inherent reflexive stance on the part of the conservator, which is of larger significance for the profession of conservation in general.
- Part 1: Manuscript (278 pp.), Part 2: Figures (112 pp.).
For copyright reasons, the download file of Part 2 has been placed under a permanent embargo.
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