NACCA ESR Nina Quabeck, University of Glasgow, wrote a review of NACCA Symposium 2018 hosted by the Cologne University of Applied Sciences last year in June. The article appeared in the German-language magazine Restauro.
Registration to our closing conference is now open. Please see the conference page for details.
From 25-29 June 2018, Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, TH Köln, hosted the third and final Summer School for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network ‘New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art’ (NACCA).
The week involved a two day symposium on the conservation of contemporary art From different perspectives to common grounds in contemporary art conservation, and three days of internal activities for the NACCA Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and supervisors.
The two initial days of the week, 25th and 26th, were dedicated to the NACCA 2018 Symposium which gathered nearly two hundred members from different fields interested in the conservation of contemporary art. During these two days, five clusters were presented as central themes of the symposium sessions. Each cluster comprised five speakers, opening with two keynote speakers presentations, followed by three NACCA ESR papers, and closing with 20 minutes discussion panels.
The sessions comprised Intent, authorship, authentication with Marina Pugliese, Antonio Rava, Nina Quabeck, Maria Theodoraki, and Tomas Markevicius, and chaired by Erma Hermens; Production and reproduction with Ursula Schädler-Saub, Ulrich Lang, Sophie Lei, Marta García Celma, and Panda de Haan, chaired by Glenn E. Wharton; Challenging institutional conventions with Renate Buschmann, Johannes Gfeller, Artemis Rüstau, Claudia Röck, and Iona Goldie-Scot, chaired by Pip Laurenson; Musealisation with Salvador Muñoz Viñas, Hanna Hölling, Brian Castriota, Joanna Kiliszek, and Aga Wielocha, chaired by Renée van de Vall; and finally, Cross-disciplinary networks with Renata Peters, Caitlin Spangler-Bickell, Dušan Barok and Zoë Miller. The symposium was concluded with a tribute to Heinz Althöfer, a pioneer in the theory of contemporary art conservation, presented by Carlota Santabárbara Morera.
During the remaining three days of the Cologne summer school, researchers and supervisors collaborated in various sessions specially prepared to fit the needs of the ESRs, carefully taking in consideration and applying feedback collected from past NACCA Schools. The programme curated by Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, introduced high quality sessions as well as space for developing and strengthen networks and relationships among all NACCA members.
The summer school program included feedback sessions, where the fifteen ESRs engaged in a peer review of draft chapters of their theses. These peer review sessions were undertaken in small groups of two or three supervisors together with three ESRs. The reseachers also received a session on didactics, in order to prepare them for a possible future in academia or education. Finally, Friday was dedicated to revising the Decision-Making Model for Contemporary Art Conservation, with a session developed by Gunnar Heydenreich, Julia Giebeler and Andrea Sartorius. This last session took the form of a group workshop, and involved an even larger network of specialists in contemporary art, including some of the curators, conservators, and art historians involved in the initial development of the Decision Making Model for Conservation in 1999, as well as other specialist and theorists in contemporary art conservation. This session re-evaluated the model and its efficiency when treating 21st Century artworks and provided a much-needed opportunity for discussing key terms used in the conservation of contemporary art.
In addition to the valuable theoretical and professional development sessions, the week also included cultural visits and activities which enhanced personal relationships between the group members. Among them, a visit to Cologne cathedral – Dom, a trip to Thomas Schütte Stiftung and Hombroich Museum, and few dinners in Cologne Südstadt.
This exciting week was successfully organised and executed thanks to the support of Diana Blumenroth, and concluded as the last NACCA School for ESRs and supervisors. The NACCA group will next be brought together for the program’s final conference, organised in conjunction with the Annual MACCH conference in Maastricht in 2019, where they can reflect on the results of a magnificent three years.
Marta Garcia Celma
This past May, New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts hosted the symposium “It’s About Time! Building a New Discipline: Time-Based Media Art Conservation” in conjunction with their launch of the first masters-level training specialism in time-based media art conservation in North America. Over two days, an international group of educators, artists, art historians, museum curators and directors, collectors, gallerists, engineers, computer scientists, and conservators convened to discuss, debate, and share perspectives on the state of time-based media art conservation education and practice.
In the first morning session, Christine Frohnert (Bek & Frohnert / NYU IFA) presented a historical overview of time-based media art education. Speakers representing conservation training programs in Berne, Vienna, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Stuttgart, and NYU shared their varied perspectives on “core competencies” as well as the many challenges they have faced in implementing training programs around time-based media art conservation. Agathe Jarczyk (University of Berne) explained that while skill sets can be deepened with experience, it is the unique role of conservation educators to foster a particular “mindset” in their students. These sentiments were reiterated throughout the symposium; Johannes Gfeller (State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart) noted that educators cannot and should not “teach recipes” but instead must arm their students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Jonathan Farbowitz (Fellow in the Conservation of Computer-Based Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) explained how this mindset involves a fundamental curiosity, humility, and aptitude for collaboration, noting the importance of mentorship and constant learning that is critical for time-based media – if not all – art conservators.
Over the course of the second day the institutional challenges posed by time-based media art conservation were discussed in conjunction with ongoing training needs. Iolanda Ratti (Museo del Novecento, Milan) discussed the training gap around contemporary art conservation in Italy, where education is still primarily focused around maintaining the material integrity of physical objects. Curator Lisa Catt and Conservator Asti Sherring (Art Gallery of New South Wales) explained how museums, as “active spaces” contain “objects in motion”; old frameworks focused on medium-specificity and material uniqueness, fail to accommodate artworks where change is an attribute rather than a loss. They advocated for a conservation ethos that centers around asking “what is the artwork?” and emphasizes transparency about artwork change and transformation.
Jo Ana Morfin (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) emphasized the importance of “learning by doing with artists,” a notion that was picked up in a round table discussion on the interface between the artist and the conservator. Artist and NACCA PhD researcher Maria Theodoraki (University of Lisbon) expressed her view that conservators must overcome the perceived taboo of working with artists out of a fear that they may exert “influence” and change the work; artworks are ever changing, and conservators, she explained, are expert at interacting with self-awareness and sensitivity.
In a final roundtable, Pip Laurenson (Tate), Tina Rivers Ryan (Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo), Alfredo Salazar-Caro (Digital Museum of Digital Art) and Jill Sterrett (SFMoMA) discussed the “imagined futures” of time-based media art conservation. Sterrett remarked how “we plan for the future but can only really know the present,” stressing the importance of conservation’s role in negotiating between past, present, and future stakeholders. Rivers Ryan pointed to the importance of ruptures in museum structures prompted by works that break conventions and force museums into new directions. Rather than compelling artists and artworks to fit into existing conventions and norms, the tendency of modern and contemporary art to prompt new modes of thinking and doing should be embraced by institutions and be reflected in conservation training programs.
Overall, this symposium highlighted the key role conservation training programs must play in preparing conservators to tackle the unique preservation challenges associated with works of modern and contemporary art. As such, this symposium will undoubtedly be regarded as a major turning point in the history of conservation and the development of the field.
For more information about the symposium, including links to video recordings, please visit: tbmsymposium2018.com.
For information about the NYU Institute of Fine Arts masters-level specialism in time-based media art conservation, please visit: https://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/conservation/time-based-media.htm.
The 3rd Winter School was hosted by the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto, and ran from 15-19 January 2018. It was a great opportunity for the ESRs to share their research with their peers and other professionals. Through presentations of their projects they were able to contextualise their work, and the feedback sessions stimulated critical reflection and allowed a rewarding exchange with other NACCA researchers. This was done in the beautiful setting of Porto, topped off by wonderful Portuguese food.
The fifth NACCA event, the overall focus of which lay on gaining career-oriented skills, provided the researchers with workshops that will aid them in developing their future career, for instance a workshop on EU funding opportunities or an intense Bootcamp Lean Startup. It also provided an illustrative example of a conservator’s career, through the talk of Filipe Duarte, manager of the Serralves Collection. The session by artists Miguel Carvalhais and Rui Penha on artists’ points of view on the conservation of technology-based works, as well as the visit to the exhibition Mar Novo (FBAUP), with its discussions of decision-making regarding the display of damaged photographs by both a conservator and a curator, were welcome moments to discuss conservation problems in interdisciplinary settings.
The fourth NACCA meeting was organised by Glasgow University and was hosted by the Centre of Contemporary Arts and the Glasgow School of Art. It was the second summer school, and concentrated on the work in progress. During an intense and successful three day programme PhD researchers and supervisors met to evaluate the process and outcomes thus far.
To start off the programme, the ESRs presented their research projects to the EU representatives. The next day the representatives recapped the conditions of funding and evaluated the process. This was followed by a session on data management and a highly entertaining course on conflict resolution skills with Taylor Clarke, which granted new insights into communication and social behaviour. The day closed with a lecture by Ranald McInnes (Head of Special Projects, Historic Environment Scotland) on the rebuilding of the Mackintosh Building after its destruction in a fire in 2014, which concluded with a presentation by artist and reader Dr Ross Birrell and culminated in a screening of A Beautiful Living Thing (2015), Birrell’s moving film prompted by the calamity. The final day was marked by great intellectual activity. The feedback sessions resulted in a vivid exchange amongst supervisors and ESR’s on the research, stimulating new thoughts and confirming approaches. The summer school was rounded off with an invitation to ESRs to re-think and discuss the reconstruction of the Lichtballett “Hommage à New York” by Otto Piene along with Tiziana Caianielle (ZERO foundation, Düsseldorf).
NACCA is excited to announce a call for papers for our upcoming conference Material Futures: Matter, Memory and Loss in Contemporary Art Production and Preservation. The conference will be held 29th-30th of June, 2017 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland. Over two days we will explore the intersections of contemporary artistic practice, curatorial practice, and conservation decision-making through the themes of matter, memory and loss. Please see our call for papers here. Registration information will be forthcoming.
Hosted by Tate Modern, NACCA’s fifteen PhD researchers met for their third training event which focused on the theme ‘professional skills for museums & the heritage sector’ from January 16th to 20th 2017.
The winterschool’s programme was tailored to introduce the researchers to the complexities of professional communication and collaboration. Designed to encourage reflection on perceptions of museum practices, all week the group considered how these are changed or still need to change. A focal point of the programme was the question whether the way in which conservation is perceived and communicated within a contemporary art museum needs to be changed and how this can be accomplished.
The group, on the very first day of the training event, had their first chance to present their work in progress to the public in a flash presentation followed by a poster presentation. A sold out event held at Tate Exchange, the presentation day provided an exciting opportunity for the NACCA researchers to mingle with and discuss their research ideas with professionals and members of the public.
The programme of the following days, curated by Tate’s Head of Collection Care Research, Pip Laurenson, introduced the group to an overview of the various avenues of communication within a museum. In a most thoughtful way, Tate’s staff members Anna Cutler, Judith Comyn, Jennifer Mundy, Christopher Griffin, Susanna Worth, Chloe Julius, Rachel Barker, Bronwyn Orsmby, Maria Kennedy and Matthew Gale all shared their expertise with the researchers. They devised interactive workshops on writing on contemporary art, tools for raising the profile of their research, object-based research, and transdisciplinary communication and collaboration. Other instructors lectured on exhibiting conservation (Sanneke Stigter, UVA and Ella Hendriks, Van Gogh Museum), analysing the professional force-fields in research (Julia Noordegraaf, UVA, with Pip Laurenson and Haidy Geismar, UCL), the parallels between the restoration of architecture and contemporary art (Maria Margarita Segarra Lagunes, Università degli Studi Roma Tre), and what it means to be a collector and keeper in the 21st century (Jill Sterrett, SFMOMA). Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Director of the Maxxi Arte in Rome, lectured on documentation versus re-enactment in performance art. NYU’s Glenn Wharton granted NACCA’s researchers and supervisors a preview and a discussion of his upcoming Reader for Contemporary Art Conservation.
Also, the group was privileged to a partake in a unique experience, the performance Tony Conrad: Fifty Five Years On the Infinite Plain at The Tanks, Tate Modern, and a follow-up discussion with Tate’s team exploring ways to transition this piece into the collection.
This exciting programme, set in the stunning Switch House, provided the PhD researchers with great opportunities to exchange ideas with experienced colleagues and imminent scholars of the field.
On the 16th of January 2017, NACCA researchers presented their ongoing research at a public poster session hosted by Tate Modern in London. Here’s the list of presentations with links to those published online:
The Authentic Instance: Reframing Authenticity in the Conservation of Contemporary Art
Interpreting Artist’s Intent: The Notion of Intent Tested Against Joseph Beuys’ Capri-Battery
Exploring Ethnography in Conservation Research
The Creative Process is Collective
Private Collections as Care-takes