Database for the Documentation of Contemporary Art

Research Project Description
Documentation is crucial for extending the lifespan of an artwork, especially contemporary works made of ephemeral materials and bound to time and space. While procedures inside art museums are increasingly supported by database systems, documentation for the purposes of preservation and conservation is organised and stored in computer and paper folders, since available systems do not meet its special needs. As technical standards are rapidly changing, software development relies on third parties with little experience of art conservation, leaving museums and other collecting institutions struggling to establish their role as central stakeholders in this new infrastructure for mediating art. Even as the possibilities for bridging these two domains are explored, the challenges and consequences of embedding database systems into the care of contemporary art are little known.

This study aims to develop a theoretical framework to approach conservation documentation of contemporary art as a problem of organising collections of data against the backdrop of recent technological changes. Its central question is: what does it entail to organise a digital collection documenting complex artworks so that they can be experienced again in the unspecified future? It will include a comparative study of everyday practice in conservation studios, documentation models developed by conservators, software developed by third parties, and case studies of documentary practice, culled from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA).

Dušan Barok

Dušan Barok holds master degrees in information technology from the University of Economics in Bratislava and media design and communication from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. He was awarded the Huygens Scholarship from NUFFIC in 2011. Recently, he convened the series The Extensions of Many: Seminars on Media Aesthetics in Bergen, Norway (2015), and the symposium Ideographies of Knowledge in Mons, Belgium (2015). He is founding editor of the platform for arts, media and humanities Monoskop, and worked on an artist-run platform for contemporary art history, ArtWiki.

Home Institution
Department of Media Studies & Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM)
University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Promotor: Prof. dr. Julia Noordegraaf, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
Co-promotor: Prof. dr. ir. Arjen de Vries, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI)

Project Partner
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

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