IIC 2016 – Crossing Boundaries to Conserve Contemporary Works
The diversity of materials, processes and modes of creative expression making up our contemporary cultures presents ever more complex challenges for the conservation profession. Whether considering works of art, architecture, products of contemporary design, or other media, the profession is having to adapt to an expanding set of values and demands, while attempting to maintain existing ethics, philosophies and best practices. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in navigating the delicate balance between the artist’s or creator’s intent and the preservation of original materials and procedures when these appear to be in direct conflict.
Conservators working in this area do so without the benefit or comfort of well-established hierarchies of values often afforded to colleagues preserving more traditional heritage objects. Faced with the uncertainty of judging which aspects of contemporary culture will be valued by future generations, the conservation profession has responded to date by encouraging stronger dialogue with artists, carrying out unprecedented levels of documentation and adopting an increasingly interdisciplinary approach to conservation with, for example art historians, architects, curators, engineers, scientists and fabricators.
While such approaches have undoubtedly resulted in an improved interpretation of contemporary cultural heritage, and vastly increased volumes of information for future generations of conservators and curators, relatively little progress has been made in assessing the likely impact of making certain decisions, or undertaking specific treatments on contemporary works today. What will be lost if the major guiding principle for conservators remains the artist’s intent? What is the consequence of avoiding treatments due to the unavailability of established procedures? Has the debate on replicas already become too polarised?
One potential avenue for advancing the field is to explore and compare different philosophies and approaches to conserving contemporary culture utilised in different disciplines, markets, countries and cultures. Can ethics and values adopted by the built heritage sector assist in conserving moveable heritage, and vice versa? Can approaches used for ethnographic collections be integrated more broadly into contemporary art practice? Can the different issues posed by public art, or the art market, help influence Institutional thinking? Can non-materialistic philosophies help to move the field forward in broader terms?
IIC and INCCA, international organisations with members worldwide, are coming together to offer opportunities for conservators of contemporary culture to cross such boundaries and engage with diverse approaches to ethics, values and conservation approaches from a variety of cultures, disciplines and geographical regions.
12-16 September 2016, Los Angeles, California, USA
Details of the Congress Programme will be available in due course.