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Tatja Scholte

Installation art is one of the most significant art forms of our time and is widely collected by museums and institutions. Artists' installations are extremely complex works of art and the issues arising for their preservation and presentation are different from traditional works of art...

In the summer of 2007 the large-scale international research project Inside Installations. Preservation and Presentation of Installation Art (2004-2007) was completed that investigated many aspects of installation art and their preservation for future generations. The project was funded by the European Union and organised by Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, together with Tate (London), Restaurierungscentrum Düsseldorf, S.M.A.K. (Ghent), Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (Netherlands) and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid).

The first project’s aim was to investigate and preserve a body of installations works which are made of divergent media and convey a rich spectrum of artistic motives. Based on a diversity of 33 project’s case studies and taking into account distinctive organisational structures of the museums involved, the project aimed to gain insight into the key issues on which custodianship of installations is based – in the present and with respect to the future live of the work -, and on the question who are the stakeholders in this process and how these are involved.
The case studies were carried out by the 25 project partners who represented major museums and institutions for contemporary art across six countries in Europe. The installations were profoundly researched in concordance with their questions which usually included an investigation of the history of the work, questions of preservation and re-installation, communication with the artist (or representative), extensive documentation and the creation of an installation manual.
Each partner had a local team of researchers, conservators, technicians etc. but quite a few case studies were carried out in collaboration with other project partners; the outcomes were shared during workshops and seminars that were open to a general audience. In order to increase public awareness for contemporary art and conservation issues especially relating to artists’ installations, all of the case studies were re-installed and exhibited in museum rooms during the project and by way of virtual display at the website www.inside-installations.org.

The second aim of the project was to develop practice-oriented guidelines and models for research areas which are considered to be relevant for installation art. These areas were: documentation of installations, their preservation and re-installation, collaboration with the artist, sharing knowledge and information among professionals, (re)consideration of theoretical and ethical notions for the conservation installations and building a semantic vocabulary. For some of the research areas guidelines and models have been developed by working groups that collaborated in the research activities; some activities resulted in report of a working group session or a publication.

The Inside Installations project has been successful in its collaborative and interdisciplinary approach, and the results are even richer than expected; most of the results were published by partners at the project website and can be consulted by fellow conservators or curators, students and interested public for at least another two years.
In my presentation at the conference in Milan I will give a general overview of the project and introduce a few case studies; I will pay special attention to the models and guidelines which have been developed for documenting installation art. The documentation practice for installations includes many aspects and little consistent research had been carried out when the project started. As a result of the Inside Installations project an overview of documentation techniques is now available to the field, such as the measurement of installations, and the documentation of light, sound and movement. In addition, one of the main problems for archiving heterogeneous documentation sources is that existing museum information systems are inadequate for storage of documentation material and its exchange among professionals inside and outside a museum environment. This issue has been addressed by various project partners and different models and applications have been developed among which a model developed by the German partners who collaborated in this special study and established a cooperation with The Museum System (TMS). Three different approaches for archiving documentation on installation art will be presented. Finally, an educational package for video registration of installation art will be briefly introduced.

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