Navigation – Plan du site
Dossier

The Play's the Thing

Staging conservation and the role of conscience
Annlinn Kruger

Résumés

La question "Quels sont les effets de l'exposition de la restauration?" implique de se préoccuper d'éthique rapport à la "spectacularisation" de notre profession. C'est une question de pragmatique et/ou d'analyse. Cet essai examinera la langue, utilise par notre profession, pour élucider la question. La préservation de l'art-performance et de l’art-processus sera utilisée comme exemple pour illustrer les contradictions de nos termes et suggérer des approches en réponse à notre question.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1  SHAKESPEARE, W., Hamlet, New York, NAL Penguin Inc., 1987. p. 9.

    The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
Shakespeare, Hamlet1

  • 2  HEIDEGGER, M., Poetry, Language, Thought, in RAYNER, A.," Presenting Objects, Presenting Things", (...)

The vessel's thingness does not lie at all in the materials of which it consists, but in the void that holds.
Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought2

1The question "What are the effects, on the stage and behind the scenes, of the exhibition of restoration?" implies ethical concern about the "specularisation of the profession."  Ethical action is, depending on our point of view, either a leap of faith or a roll of the dice made in the shadow of the gallows; our knowledge of what to do is inescapably limited. Rejecting the notion of an omniscient vantage point, we may address the effects of exhibition as a question of pragmatics and/or of theory. This essay will examine: language we use in discussing conservation as this generates our thinking as well as transmits our thoughts; terms we use which are often assumed to be unconditional; and the idea of conserving performance and process art as illustrating contradictions in our assumptions about an enduring cultural memory. Its goal is to survey a number of prospects, from the perspective of a theoretical critique, to attain a better understanding of our question about exhibiting conservation.

2Conservation is self-consciously multidisciplinary and increasingly conscious of participating in an interdisciplinary network of professions concerned with interpreting cultural productions.  There is an abundance of pragmatic conservation writing which speaks of, from, and to an ethics of best practices; to some extent this includes writings which discuss philosophical and historical issues as a basis or justification for specific conservation interventions. Although practice and theory are inevitably linked it is sometimes necessary to discriminate between them.  In conservation this is particularly difficult and much 'theoretical' conservation writing is, in fact, essentially pragmatic discussion of practices rather than theoretical discussion of principles independent of the practices to be explained. Although the pragmatic approach dominates conservation writing there are also contemporary theoretical writings which discuss conservation itself as a cultural intervention.  This development in conservation follows developments in other disciplines. One effect of the exhibition of conservation may well be increased dialogue with a wide range of professionals and an associated need for conservators to be well versed in the language of theoretical critique as this is now the lingua franca of many allied, and other scholarly, disciplines. In considering the exhibition of conservation, this essay draws on sources which discuss the presentation, representation, and interpretation of cultural productions; both conservation and the exhibition of conservation are considered products of culture. Readers interested in Western culture and contemporary theories of conservation will be acquainted with the authors cited; even though these authors are not explicitly concerned with conservation, their ideas speak to our concerns.

3Conservation is always as much about the preservation of ideas as it is about the preservation of materials. We are engaged in the preservation of ideas, in so far as we think that: we must and can preserve the intangible qualities of tangible objects; metaphysical qualities are inherent or attributed to physical materials; original materials hold and convey inimitable meaning and have unconditional significance; and it is necessary and worthy to preserve a class of materials designated as cultural heritage.  Through the exhibition of conservation (as conserved materials, as a discipline, and as a set of practices), we promulgate ideas and we incur an obligation to critique these ideas. For example, in a culture which valorizes a metaphysical, and possibly antithetical, idea of self-identity (something remains the same over time) and self-sufficiency (something adapts over time) embodied in physical material, wholeness is valorized while loss is devalued. Conservation practice informed by this ideology of wholeness promulgates it through performing technical mimesis in compensation for loss.  Conservation practice informed by a competing ideology, one which appreciates the uses of loss, promulgates it through performing stabilization of the fragmenting and fragmentary in compensation for loss. In the first case the immediate experience of loss is mitigated and in the second it is not.  It is the difference between either preserving a simulacrum of wholeness re/presenting the unified nature of our experience and knowledge or preserving an obviously incomplete object re/presenting the fragmentary nature of our experience and knowledge. How we navigate competing ideologies, market interests, and political agendas, in the exhibition of conservation, involves the role of conscience (which, it must be said, is also, in some sense, a product of culture.)

4In conservation decision making, as in much of human existence, we cannot refer to eternal absolutes. Not everybody would agree with this. Cultural products can speak to differing views and how they are marketed and/or enforced. Performance and process art explicitly address issues of impermanence and relativity and so one may see some contradiction in the impulse to preserve, and market, the actual materials of such productions (rather than allowing evidence of their 'having been' to persist in memory through circulation of traces in various forms of discourse); from a perspective informed by the ideology of wholeness preservation just looks like business as usual but it is open to critique from other perspectives. While an effect of exhibiting conservation may be to elucidate practice, there may also be a greater need to explicate preservation priorities; theoretical critique can contribute to this effort. As conservation is exhibited, on stage and behind the scenes, we will be exhibiting not only the practical complexities of how we interpret and treat the materials of various cultural productions but also the theoretical complexities of how we interpret and treat contradictions attending the production of culture and of an enduring cultural memory.

  • 3  PREZIOSI, D., "The Museum of What You Shall Have Been", in PECKHAM, R.S., Rethinking Heritage, Lon (...)

5Staging involves performance which will be, briefly, discussed before concentrating on conservation. It is a premise of this essay that Western conservation is part of the Western museological apparatus which fabricates and factualizes3 a specular (in both instrumental senses of speculum - as a mechanism opening bodily orifices to examination and a polished mirror in a telescope), spectacular, and speculative story of all things.  Discussion of conservation will include reference to the idea of conserving performance and process art (to example inevitable and ineluctable contradictions.) Returning to the initial question, of the effects (on conserved materials, on the discipline and practices, and on the public) of exhibiting conservation, it will conclude with some suggestions as to how we might make this assessment.

Performance

  • 4  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987. p. 98.

. . . the purpose of playing, whose
end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold,
as 'twere, the mirror up to nature . . .
Shakespeare, Hamlet4

  • 5  KIERKEGAARD, SOREN, Repetition, in HONG, H., HONG, E., (ed. & trans.), Fear and Trembling; Repetit (...)

A proper theater public generally has a certain restricted earnestness: it wishes to be – or at least fancies that it is – ennobled and educated in the theater.
Soren Kierkegaard, Repetition5

6As our question does not discriminate between live and mediatised performance or scripted and unscripted, I will only mention debate over possible differences in affect and effect although these are not trivial to a thorough discussion of performance. In Shakespeare's sense, performance is a mirror reflecting an image of conservation to an audience which includes the profession. In Kierkegaard's sense, performance is expected to be beneficial. Both senses imply a belief that special ways of presenting and seeing provide knowledge to good effect. Our ceremonies of looking at things, whether sacred relics, princely treasures, or commercial goods involve staging materials in belief that exhibition mediates between physical and metaphysical realms in acts of devotion, allegiance, and valorization.  To assess this belief, which is central to Western ideas of exhibition, one should analyze and/or deconstruct, the assumptions in such binary oppositions as: passion/reason, experience/cognition, direct/mediated, random/intentional, inspiration/technique, invention/imagination, subject/object, confusion/order. Each of these informs our conception of performance.

  • 6   RAYNER, A., op. cit., 2006, p. 181.   

7The impact of the exhibition, or public performance, of conservation on the material trajectory of conservation practices and of works conserved is a matter of pragmatics. The impact on the cultural trajectory of conservation as a practice or profession and on the works conserved  is open to analysis. One of the best analyses, which can be applied to both conservation and conserved works as staged objects, is by Alice Rayner: The stage . . . can exile or alienate objects from ideology . . .  turn objects into meaningful representations of other objects . . . reconnect objects to the pleasures of the senses  . . . isolate objects as symbols of otherness . . . shock them into reality . . . frame them as "things-in-themselves" . . .6  The impact of staging on an object's cultural trajectory involves its role on stage: for instance, whether conservation is staged as part of the public museological performance or as initiation into museological behind-the-scenes mysteries and  whether a conserved work appears as a player (a work of such significance that it causes the act of its conservation to be staged) or a prop (of only incidental significance to staging acts of conservation). Impact may keep an object on an established trajectory or perturb that trajectory; it can reinforce or realign its cultural significance and it can reiterate or change the meanings we attribute to it. This involves the play of materials and memory: how things of the past endure through memory or are memorialized through preservation.  Memory has been personified as the mother of the muses and thus of art. Ordering things has been thought to order memories and ordering memories has been thought to order human passions. Assembling and putting things in order has ethical implications. Technical and conceptual developments have raised practical and theoretical questions concerning duration, preservation, and materials associated with cultural memory.

Im/permanence, infinite jest, and active wit

  • 7  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987, p. 155.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent
fancy.
Shakespeare, Hamlet7

  • 8  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987, p. 156.

Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, / Might stop a hole to keep the wind
away.
Shakespeare, Hamlet8

  • 9  GOULD, S. J., PURCELL, R., Crossing Over, New York, Three Rivers Press, 2000, p.15.  

8Our practices of collecting and preservation begin in early modern Europe; therefore I will take an emblematic point of departure in the gravediggers’ scene in Hamlet in which Shakespeare addresses two themes touching on materials and memory. In speaking of Yorick, he demonstrates how, through language and memory, absence is made present and though decrying the displaced remains of Caesar he examples “the greatest victory biology can exert over the cosmos: the promise of continuity facilitated by active wit."9 Through Hamlet’s speech Yorick is resurrected in our minds' eye and endures as a man of “infinite jest” and “most excellent fancy.” As a permanent fixture Yorick would be reduced to a curiosity but Shakespeare’s language elevates him. As a properly medieval prince Hamlet is disturbed less by death than by disorder. As a precociously self-conscious Renaissance composition he suggests that there is more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in his contemporaries’ philosophy. Conscious ordering informs early practices of memory and self-conscious ordering informs early practices of collecting but theorists of both the art of memory and the collecting of art recognized the uses of subverting taxonomic categories; the capacity for new linguistic and visual associations was prized for its ability to create new meanings.

  • 10  LOVEJOY, A., The Great Chain of Being, Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1973.

9The preservation of materials is coordinated by the great cultural machinations of religion, politics, and commerce. These inform the language, and thus practices, of conservation; they inform our view of material things through a conflation of tangible characteristics and intangible attributes: through reification. Ideas of plenitude and that any break in the great chain of being impedes progress10have implications for conservation because of the resulting variety and extent of collections’ materials and the felt urgency to preserve them. Museological practice is informed by a cultural bias for eternal being, over becoming, expressed as material duration. This is evidenced in its appropriating the language of mutability, transforming conditional terms into inherent properties, and translating superfluous materials to heroic beings in epics of endurance.

The language of conservation: terms of endearment

  • 11  GREENBLATT, S., "Remnants of the Sacred in Early Modern England," in DE GRAZIA, M., QUILLIGAN, M., (...)

It could be argued that the words of the consecration – in the Vulgate version, "Hoc est corpus meum" – conferred upon the ordinary bread its sublimity and hence that the sublime object was a function of mystical language and not banal matter.
Stephen J. Greenblatt, Remnants of the Sacred in Early Modern England11

  • 12  ZWEIG, S., The Invisible Collection, New York, Pynson Printers, 1926, p. 11.

Pardon the word 'goods'; I know it jars upon a man like you, but these fellows use it so much that I have picked it up in spite of myself.  I have come to regard a marvelous Venetian original edition much as I should an overcoat that cost so many dollars, and a sketch by Cuercino as merely the incarnation of a bank note for a few thousand francs.
Stefan Zweig, The Invisible Collection12

10To speak as though things possess intangible properties, somehow incorporated in materials corruptible through inherent vice, is to speak as though things possess souls which must be saved.  A confusion of good and goods is evidenced in the vocabulary of conservation. Despite their presentation as being properties value, significance, meaning, and authenticity, like becoming, are terms of mutability. They are, let us say, terms of endearment. They are relational, generative, and come at the cost of forsaking eternal being for being-in-time: paradise for the world.

  • 13  ISER, W., The Range of Interpretation, New York, Columbia Univ. Press, 1999, p. xi.
  • 14  STALLYBRASS, P., "The Value of Culture and the Disavowal of Things" (Draft) in Early Modern Cultur (...)

11Value is a term of exchange. Inherent value is a contradiction of terms. Collecting is established as a privileged form of accumulation at the same time Christianity is established as the state religion and capitalism as the economic system; in these systems, the value of an object is a speculative attribution rather than a material characteristic.  While the catch-all use of value evidences the insinuation of commerce into all areas of human activity, the promiscuous use of value is an example of catachresis or misuse of a term to designate otherwise unnamed -invisible or unspeakable- cultural phenomena: how entropy is translated into control, how randomness is translated into what is central,13  and how superfluous materials are translated into goods.14

12 Significance is a marker of difference. The sign is a cultural convention that preserves, for some time at least, the difference between various concepts. Far from being intrinsic to things, significance is distanced from material referents. The significance of cultural property is a function of its presence in a system of distinctions; it does not depend on material state but rather on a dynamic of assignation.

  • 15  CAVE, T. C., The Cornucopian Text, Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 1979.

13Meaning is the result of a process of interpretation. Meaning is neither inherent nor inherently fixed or fixable. Meaning itself is copious and each object can be considered a cornucopia of possible meanings.15  The potential to be meaningful does not derive from or depend on physical state or characteristics: whether the wholeness of an individual artifact or completeness of the material record.

  • 16  CARRUTHERS, M., The Book of Memory, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ.Press, 1990.
  • 17  CLIFFORD, J., The Predicament of Culture, Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1988, p. 215.

14Authenticity is a function of a relation between a thing and a maker, an author. The inconstancy of the concept of authority is demonstrated by its use to indicate divine origins (inspiration) and also mortal origins (creativity) and by conditional attributions of authority relating to an originating creator or to subsequent creations.16 Thus, "attributes of authenticity proceed from assumptions about temporality, wholeness, and continuity which themselves are historically contingent."17

  • 18  GAMBIONI, D., "Image to Destroy, Indestructible Image" in, LATOUR, B., WEIBEL, P., (ed.), Iconocla (...)
  • 19  BANN, S., "Poetics of the Museum: Lenoir and Du Sommerard", in PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., (ed.), Gr (...)

15Science is used by conservation as an assertion of objectivity.  We might be making broader interpretive, rather than analytical, claims for science than it does for itself and we may be overlooking subjective and local influences on the form and content of science. We may also be forgetting that the binary opposition subject/object is itself a cultural construct with an historical aetiology.  Every conservation intervention is a critical inquiry and an act of interpretation often involving artist's intent which conflates religious and romantic ideas about creativity, inspiration, and authority: making an odd claim of objectivity grounded in a privileged subject. The concept of cultural heritage is not universal.  Its relatively recent Western origin can be traced to a specific gesture: Alexander Lenoir's establishment of the Musee des Monuments Francais.  To save monumental materials of the old regime and to institute a new legitimacy, they were reinterpreted as "essential to the identity of the nation and of mankind."18  In a parallel to Hamlet rejecting Yorick's skull in favor of memorial testimony, Lenoir commissioned a sculpture of Heloise for his museum while deaccessioning her skull.19  These, along with traditional uses of, and changing attitudes towards, various forms of reproduction and representation example some complexities in our concepts of duration and preservation.

  • 20  RICOEUR, P., Interpretation Theory, Fort Worth, The Texan Christian Univ. Press, 1976, p. 43
  • 21  BARTHES, R., Image, Music, Text, in KEMP, W., "Narrative" in NELSON, R.S., SCHIFF, R., (ed.),  Cri (...)

16Our words, and the ways in which we put them together, are not descriptive; they are performative.  Our rhetorical shaping of content does not correlate to something 'out there'; it makes things happen. Interpretation functions to overcome space (cultural strangeness) and time (historical difference.)20 Interpretation, often through metaphor, creates a convergence of meaning where there is palpable difference; it generates new meanings and new information. Narrative, in generating a unified linguistic trajectory, implies an authoritative reading of fragmented perceptions. "Narrative, the conceptual structure of a beginning, middle, and end, is distributed amongst different substances – as though any material were fit to receive man’s stories."21  Every story is a gesture in a specific time and place informed by local systems of meaning-making: of language and law, of custom.  

  • 22  BARTHES, R., Writing Degree Zero, in SONTAG, S., (ed.), A Barthes Reader, Toronto, McGraw Hill-Rye (...)

17Gesture is a destabilizing inscription of time in space. It conflates these concepts in a culturally distinct instance of mobility. Every gesture at once challenges and, necessarily, asserts an established order of things: thus, the subversive/submissive role of the king’s jester and of performance and process art. "Baudelaire spoke somewhere of the ‘grandiloquent truth of gestures on life’s great occasions’ . . . commensurate with the daily presence of the guillotine."22   Gesture, can be seen as a rhetorical response to mortality: potentially revolutionary, whether within the circle of hours and days or eccentric. Gesture makes time visible. Different understandings of time will influence our interpretations of a given gesture: time as an eternal continuum or propitious moment. Our sense of a gesture as taking place in or out of time may influence how we see it, what we make of it and where we place it in our historical discourse: whether it is something to keep sight of.

The cultural trajectory of materials: keeping things

  • 23  CLIFFORD, J., op. cit., 1982, p.218.

... the collection and preservation of an authentic domain of identity cannot be natural or innocent. It is tied up with nationalist politics, with restrictive law, and with contested encodings of past and future.
James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture23

  • 24  BENNETT, T., The Birth of the Museum, New York, Routledge, 1995, p.68.

Please remember when you get inside the gates you are part of the show.
1901 Pan-American Exposition, Short Sermon to Sightseers24

  • 25  Oxford English Dictionary Online, http://dictionary.oed.com, 3/16/2005.
  • 26  RICOEUR, P., Memory, History, and Forgetting, BLAMEY, K., PELLAUER, D., (trans.), Chicago, Univ. o (...)

18The original sense of keep includes "pay attention, observe, guard, preserve, desire, hold in custody", "observe with due formality and in the prescribed manner", and "preserve in being." The original sense of thing includes “assembly” "concern, preoccupation, or obsession," and "a being without life or consciousness, an inanimate object."25 Keep and thing are among the oldest words in the English language; both conflate matter with concern, the physical with the metaphysical, the tangible with the intangible, and materials with memory. "What we assemble under the idea of a trace would contain no mark of the past if we were not able to relate these indices to an environment that, although it has disappeared, nevertheless carries with it its having been."26 

  • 27  PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., op. cit., 2003, p. 8.    
  • 28  DERRIDA, J., Archive Fever, Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996. p.328.

19Museological exhibition of materials is a gesture using rhetorical devices to inscribe meaning in space and time: to re/present and historicize matters of interest. Such assemblages may be a simulacrum, an encyclopedic imaginary of what has been; what we present as the archival foundation of our culture may be imaginative use of materials in service of "the generation of narratives of origins and descent, and of commensurabilities and hierarchies".27  If we fetishize things and attribute to them lives of their own, which our lives depend on, then it is not surprising that we experience loss as death.  In the "constant equivocal motion of death and safekeeping or salvation"28  who would not be on the side of the angels?

  • 29  ARISTOTLE, Niomachean Ethics, in MCKEON, R., (ed.), Introduction to Aristotle, Chicago, Univ. of C (...)
  • 30  RICOEUR, P., op. cit., 1976, p.12. 

20Aristotle writes that "every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good."29 The good of preserving things is thought to aim at knowledge. The good of knowledge is thought to aim at "intellectual clarity and moral responsibility."30 Privileged materials are as often used to rationalize, celebrate, and perpetuate abuses of power as to mitigate suffering. It is difficult to validate claims of a 'moral imperative' to preserve cultural property or of the ethical efficacy of viewing such materials.

Preserving performance and process art: ex tempore

  • 31  SCHULZ, B., "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hour Glass: The Book", in FICOWSKI, J., (ed.), Londo (...)

And yet, in a certain sense, the fullness is contained wholly and integrally in each of its crippled and fragmenting incarnations. This is the phenomenon of imagination and vicarious being.
Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hour Glass31

  • 32  MARX, K., Thesus uber Feuerbach, in KEENAN, T., "The Point is to (Ex)Change It: Reading Capital, R (...)

The philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; the point is to change it.
Karl Marx, Theses uber Feuerbach32

21Performance and process art speak to radical declassification, subversion, of an order of things. They use 'infinite jest' and 'most excellent fancy',  language and invention, in speaking truth to power - whether to the temporal powers of church, state, and market or in the face of  molecular chains of being in space/time. Under the tinsel star of art, they are implicated in hierarchies of privilege, dominance, and exploitation. As a critique they perpetuate the categories they would undermine. What are the effects of freezing in time gestures made in the shadow of the guillotine?  How can an enduring material record make mortality endurable?

  • 33  JACOBS, K., private communication, 2005.

22When asked about his three-dimensional shadow plays, double projector 'nervous system' works, and magic lantern performances, film-maker and performance artist Ken Jacobs replied "a lavish waste of amazements"33 and yet these works can be said to exemplify revolutionary art in that they escape sanctification, exploitation, and commodification.. They celebrate neither transcendence nor consumption; they are beyond salvation and cannot be grasped. They change the frame of reference. They are, in the words of Jacobs' film titles, Little Stabs at Happiness and Baudelarian Capers. They make art immaterial.

  • 34  WHITE, H., "The Fictions of Factual Representation", in PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., op. cit., 2003, (...)
  • 35  GORDIMER, N., The Essential Gesture, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

23Hayden White notes that "every discipline, I suppose is, as Nietzsche saw most clearly, constituted by what it forbids its practitioners to do. Every discipline is made up of a set of restrictions on thought and imagination."34 In a sense, collecting and conservation are constituted by consumption: perpetually consuming subjects and eternally consumable objects. In this context, making art immaterial is unthinkable and unimaginable. However, sometimes the essential gesture35 of a discipline, that which creates/preserves connections, is to transgress its constitutional restrictions.

  • 36  CAMILLE, M., "Simulacrum", in NELSON, R. S., SCHIFF, R., op. cit., 2003, p. 44.  

24Western conservation practice is predominantly based on notions of authenticity, wholeness, and, "technical mastery in mimesis"36in instituting enduring material memorials. I would suggest emphasizing the temporal rather than the mimetic aspect of memory and its inventive rather than its imaginative aspect. It is not so much keeping materials together as putting together stories.  I would suggest that the transformative potential of performance and process art depends less on preservation of materials, of a complete material record in the service of authoritative transmission, than on circulation of fragments, of traces for copious association through time: through rhetorical semiotic activity, through the play of sense impressions and mental faculties, through infinite jest, through active wit.

Conclusion: infinite jest, active wit, and duration

  • 37  SHAKESPEARE, W., King Lear, in CAVELL, S., Must We Mean What We Say, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Pr (...)

Gloucester: O! Let me kiss that hand.
Lear: Let me wipe it first, it smells of mortality.
Shakespeare, King Lear37

  • 38  DUMAS, ALEXANDRE, The Count of Monte Cristo, BUSS, R., (trans.), London, Penguin Books, 1996, p. 4 (...)

I have only two enemies: I shall not say two conquerors, because with persistence I can make them bow to my will: they are distance and time. The third and most awful is my condition as a mortal man.
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo38

  • 39 FREUD, S., "Thoughts on War and Death" in RICKMAN, J., (ed.), Civilization, War and Death: Psycho-A (...)

25"To endure life remains, when all is said, the first duty of all living beings. Illusion can have no value if it makes this more difficult for us."39: in this case, illusion of a comprehensive cultural narrative embodied in a full record of artifactual evidence. Ultimately the ideological sleight of hand, which reifies materials and institutionalizes cultural hierarchies as the natural order of things, is an illusion which makes life more difficult by obfuscating elements of human experience and restricting interpretation. How we assess the effects of exhibiting conservation must consider the effects of what our staging of the play of materials and memory preserves: the role conservation performs in keeping things together.

  • 40  ALBERTI, L. B., On Painting, SPENCER, J. R., (trans.), New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1956, pp. 39-4 (...)
  • 41  RORTY, R., Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1, Cambridge, Cambridge (...)

26Leon Battista Alberti wrote that he used to "grieve that so many excellent and superior arts and sciences from our most vigorous antique past could now seem lacking and almost wholly lost  . . . our fame ought to be much greater, then, if we discover unheard of and never-before-seen arts and sciences without teachers or without any model whatsoever."40  The contemporary philosopher Richard Rorty writes of people changing from a sense of  " . . . dependence upon something antecedently present to a sense of the utopian possibilities of the future, the growth of their ability to mitigate their finitude by a talent for self creation."41  The thoughts of both writers speak to subverting an order of things which institutes illusions of wholeness and authenticity, as the way to mitigate the experience of impermanence and discontinuity, in favor of including appreciation of the fragmentary nature of experience and knowledge and the mitigating potential of discovery and creation. Whether on stage or behind the scenes, conservation has always had an exemplary role in the production of experience through staging materials conserved and displayed in accordance with culturally dominant or subversive ideas. Conservation theory can contribute to understanding the various meanings of the term 'exhibition of conservation' and the significance of the role of exhibiting conservation.

  • 42  ERICKSON, J., "Presence", in KRASNER, D., SALTZ, D., op. cit., 2006, p.156.

27In assessing the effects of exhibiting conservation, of publicly performing our profession which inescapably preserves both materials and ideas, we can consider Jon Erickson's statement, about performance, that the question is not what the effects " . . . automatically result in, in and of themselves, and in all circumstances, but how it functions within a specific context, how it motivates, and to what end. It is then that we can estimate whether its use is abusive or manipulative or necessary for an ethical or compassionate (or politically just) relation to function in the first place."42  In this light, we might examine the effects of exhibiting conservation on maintaining an authoritarian broadcast platform and/or democratizing the archives.

Haut de page

Notes

1  SHAKESPEARE, W., Hamlet, New York, NAL Penguin Inc., 1987. p. 9.

2  HEIDEGGER, M., Poetry, Language, Thought, in RAYNER, A.," Presenting Objects, Presenting Things", in KRASNER, D., SALTZ, D. (ed.), Staging Philosophy, Ann Arbor, Univ. of Michigan Press, 2006. p. 185.

3  PREZIOSI, D., "The Museum of What You Shall Have Been", in PECKHAM, R.S., Rethinking Heritage, London, I. B. Tauris,   p. 172.

4  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987. p. 98.

5  KIERKEGAARD, SOREN, Repetition, in HONG, H., HONG, E., (ed. & trans.), Fear and Trembling; Repetition, Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 1983, p.159.   

6   RAYNER, A., op. cit., 2006, p. 181.   

7  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987, p. 155.

8  SHAKESPEARE, W., op. cit., 1987, p. 156.

9  GOULD, S. J., PURCELL, R., Crossing Over, New York, Three Rivers Press, 2000, p.15.  

10  LOVEJOY, A., The Great Chain of Being, Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1973.

11  GREENBLATT, S., "Remnants of the Sacred in Early Modern England," in DE GRAZIA, M., QUILLIGAN, M., STALLYBRASS, P. (ed.), Subjects and Objects in Renaissance Literature and Culture, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996, p. 339.

12  ZWEIG, S., The Invisible Collection, New York, Pynson Printers, 1926, p. 11.

13  ISER, W., The Range of Interpretation, New York, Columbia Univ. Press, 1999, p. xi.

14  STALLYBRASS, P., "The Value of Culture and the Disavowal of Things" (Draft) in Early Modern Culture: An Electronic Seminar, http://eserver.org.emc/1-1/Stallybrass.html, 2/21/2001.

15  CAVE, T. C., The Cornucopian Text, Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 1979.

16  CARRUTHERS, M., The Book of Memory, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ.Press, 1990.

17  CLIFFORD, J., The Predicament of Culture, Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1988, p. 215.

18  GAMBIONI, D., "Image to Destroy, Indestructible Image" in, LATOUR, B., WEIBEL, P., (ed.), Iconoclash, Karlsruhe, ZKM/Center for Art and Media, 2002, p. 88.

19  BANN, S., "Poetics of the Museum: Lenoir and Du Sommerard", in PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., (ed.), Grasping the World, Burlington, Ashgate Publishing, 2003, p. 74.

20  RICOEUR, P., Interpretation Theory, Fort Worth, The Texan Christian Univ. Press, 1976, p. 43

21  BARTHES, R., Image, Music, Text, in KEMP, W., "Narrative" in NELSON, R.S., SCHIFF, R., (ed.),  Critical Terms for Art History, Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003, p. 63.

22  BARTHES, R., Writing Degree Zero, in SONTAG, S., (ed.), A Barthes Reader, Toronto, McGraw Hill-Ryerson Ltd., 1982. pp. 39-40.

23  CLIFFORD, J., op. cit., 1982, p.218.

24  BENNETT, T., The Birth of the Museum, New York, Routledge, 1995, p.68.

25  Oxford English Dictionary Online, http://dictionary.oed.com, 3/16/2005.

26  RICOEUR, P., Memory, History, and Forgetting, BLAMEY, K., PELLAUER, D., (trans.), Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2004, p. 377.

27  PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., op. cit., 2003, p. 8.    

28  DERRIDA, J., Archive Fever, Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996. p.328.

29  ARISTOTLE, Niomachean Ethics, in MCKEON, R., (ed.), Introduction to Aristotle, Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1953, p. 346.

30  RICOEUR, P., op. cit., 1976, p.12. 

31  SCHULZ, B., "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hour Glass: The Book", in FICOWSKI, J., (ed.), London, Macmillan Publishers, 1998, p. 111.

32  MARX, K., Thesus uber Feuerbach, in KEENAN, T., "The Point is to (Ex)Change It: Reading Capital, Rhetorically", in, APTER, E., PIETZ, W., (ed.), Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, Ithaca, Cornell Univ. Press, 1993, p. 2.

33  JACOBS, K., private communication, 2005.

34  WHITE, H., "The Fictions of Factual Representation", in PREZIOSI, D., FARAGO, C., op. cit., 2003, p. 27.

35  GORDIMER, N., The Essential Gesture, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

36  CAMILLE, M., "Simulacrum", in NELSON, R. S., SCHIFF, R., op. cit., 2003, p. 44.  

37  SHAKESPEARE, W., King Lear, in CAVELL, S., Must We Mean What We Say, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, p. 289.

38  DUMAS, ALEXANDRE, The Count of Monte Cristo, BUSS, R., (trans.), London, Penguin Books, 1996, p. 476.

39 FREUD, S., "Thoughts on War and Death" in RICKMAN, J., (ed.), Civilization, War and Death: Psycho-Analytical Epitomes, No. 4, London, Hogarth Press, 1939, p.25.

40  ALBERTI, L. B., On Painting, SPENCER, J. R., (trans.), New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1956, pp. 39-40.

41  RORTY, R., Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1, Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991, p. 17.

42  ERICKSON, J., "Presence", in KRASNER, D., SALTZ, D., op. cit., 2006, p.156.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Annlinn Kruger, « The Play's the Thing », CeROArt [En ligne], 5 | 2010, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2010, consulté le 26 mai 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/1417

Haut de page

Auteur

Annlinn Kruger

Educated at the State University of New York, Binghamton with a major in Anthropology. Worked in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology (Curatorial and Scientific Assistant) and  the Photographic Archives (surveying anthropological photographs) of the American Museum of Natural History. Trained and works as a Paper Conservator in the Conservation Division of the Library of Congress. Has presented and published on conservation practices and theory in Europe and the United States.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Les cahiers de Revues.org