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Edited by Francine Giese, Mercedes Volait and Ariane Varela Braga

The present volume offers a collection of essays that examine the mechanisms and strategies of collecting, displaying and appropriating islamic art in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many studies in this book concentrate on lesser known collections of islamic art, situated in Central and Eastern Europe that until now have received little attention from scholars. A section of the volume focuses on the figure of the Swiss collector Henri Moser Charlottenfels, whose important, still largely unstudied collection of islamic art is now being preserved at the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Switzerland. Contributors to the volume include young researchers and established scholars from Western and Eastern Europe and beyond: Albert Lutz (foreword), Roger Nicholas Balsiger, Moya Carey, Valentina Colonna, Francine Giese, Hélène Guérin, Barbara Karl, Katrin Kaufmann, Sarah Keller, Agnieszka Kluczewska Wójcik, Inessa Kouteinikova, Axel Langer, Maria Medvedeva, Ágnes Sebestyén, Alban von Stockhausen, Ariane Varela Braga, Mercedes Volait. Les contributions de l’ouvrage examinent le mécanisme et les stratégies relatifs à la collection, la présentation et l’appropriation des arts de l’Islam au XIXe siècle et début du XXe siècle. Elles mettent l’accent sur des collections situées en Europe centrale et orientale, lesquelles ont été peu étudiées jusqu’à présent. Une partie de l’ouvrage est dédiée à la figure du collectionneur Suisse Henri Moser Charlottenfels, dont les objets se trouvent aujourd’hui au Bernisches Historisches Museum (Suisse) et qui ont été de même peu étudiés. Les textes émanent de jeunes chercheurs comme de chercheurs confirmés, basés en Europe occidentale et orientale, et au-delà.

Engaging with Materials

Telling the Whole Story

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Elizabeth Pye

Abstract

This essay takes as a starting point the statement, ‘The engagement with materials still seems for many an antithesis of an intellectual endeavour’. The materials and the technologies involved in making objects are not often communicated in any detail in museums nor are the processes of scientific investigation and conservation that take place ‘behind the scenes’ in museums, despite the fact that they may have a profound effect on how objects are interpreted. Possible reasons for this are explored, and the growing interest in making and in science in wider society is highlighted. Using a range of examples drawn largely from the study of archaeological objects, fascinating information about materials and making that can be yielded by investigation and conservation, and that would attract many museum visitors, is explored. Examples of some recent exhibitions are reviewed, focusing on the extent to which they have portrayed both materials and making and the normally invisible processes of investigation and conservation. The essay concludes by arguing for integration of more material information in displays generally and suggests that this could be achieved by expanding the content of object labels and by making reference to the Internet.

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Volume-editor Hanna B. Hölling, Francesca G. Bewer and Katharina Ammann

The ‘Extended Life’ of Performance

Curating 1960s Multimedia Art in the Contemporary Museum

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Judit Bodor

Abstract

Over recent decades, museums have begun to re-evaluate the role of performance art within their collections and exhibitions. This essay reflects on my curatorial approach toward presenting Ivor Davies’s 1968 event-structured and multimedia work Adam on St Agnes’ Eve as part of the 2015 exhibition Silent explosion. Ivor Davies and destruction in art at National Museum Wales, Cardiff. I discuss how this approach differs from customary modes of exhibiting historical performance art in museums, including documentary archival displays or live re-enactments. Drawing on concepts of ‘changeability’ (Hölling 2017), ‘material multiplicity’ (Lillemose 2006), ‘remediation’ (Bolter & Grusin 1999) and ‘proliferative preservation’ (Rinehart & Ippolito 2014), I consider how Davies’s historical performance transformed in the context of the exhibition through its remediation into a performative archival environment and a re-performance. Here arises the question of what constitutes the artwork’s identity in performance. This essay concludes with a reflection on the necessary but often contentious material transformations of performance art in museological contexts and speculates on the relationship between the work’s material identity, authorship, and authenticity.

Framing Intention

Presentation as Preservation Strategy in Video Art

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Katharina Ammann

Abstract

Video merely consists of electronic or digital data, which must be installed in order to be visible. This is not only an artistic challenge but also a curatorial one and increasingly a conservation issue as well. Taking video works by the artist David Claerbout as a case study, I demonstrate that this special aspect of the medium not only requires the implementation of a different set of preservation strategies but also creates an overlap between the traditionally defined roles of artist, curator, conservator, and technician. As long as museum professionals know about the interrelation between content, form, and intent in Claerbout’s video installation, the work remains presentable. Furthermore, interplay between ‘conceive -- curate -- conserve’ creates a very specific condition of showing, which makes the video medium such a fruitful example in the current discourse around materiality and art in the digital age. The word ‘presentation’ in relation to video art can thus act as a synonym for preservation since even the regular exhibition of a work of video requires its continued migration onto a succession of new playable formats.

The Louvre on Celluloid

Curating, Disseminating, and Preserving the Louvre’s Collections in Mid-Twentieth-Century Art Documentaries

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Birgit Cleppe

Abstract

The 1940s and 1950s saw the massive production of interesting art documentaries, many of them highly experimental in nature. This essay investigates to what extent these art documentaries can be understood as answers to ICOM’s attempts to merge new museological and curatorial practices with innovative conservation philosophies. Strikingly, a substantial number of those art documentaries centred on museum collections. Focusing on art films on the Louvre’s collection, this essay investigates the complex relationships between the museum’s material collection and the art documentary, thereby revealing the institution’s vision on conservation and display and the museum’s shortcomings. They were ‘filmic, immaterial exhibitions’ and related to their physical counterparts by documenting and reproducing (parts of) the collections: with extreme close-ups to amplify their display, with animations and split screens to analyse individual works of art, or compare them to others, and with additional footage and information (interviews, registering their restoration, or showing the artist at work) to contextualize the works shown.

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Volume-editor Hanna B. Hölling, Francesca G. Bewer and Katharina Ammann

Series:

Hanna B. Hölling, Francesca G. Bewer and Katharina Ammann

The Material Forms of the Past and the ‘Afterlives’ of the Compositiones variae

Recovering, Conserving, and Exhibiting the Personal History of an Early Medieval Manuscript

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Thea Burns

Abstract

The Compositiones variae, a late eighth-century manuscript pamphlet and the earliest surviving medieval collection of artisanal recipes, is thought to reflect workshop practice and to transmit practical information in a neutral, transparent way; however its layout and contents indicate that it was not a how-to book. This essay examines the unique physical structure of the Compositiones variae and its context to enrich and deepen notions of textual integrity and authenticity, to expose the tangled yet meaningful interrelationship of text and context, and to clarify its influence on interpretation and on curatorial and conservation decisions that impinge directly on the exhibition of the manuscript.

Materials, Objects, Transitions

Jorge Otero-Pailos in Conversation with Hanna B. Hölling

Series:

Volume-editor Hanna B. Hölling, Francesca G. Bewer and Katharina Ammann

Abstract

This interview explores how cultural transmutations condition the existence/recognition of ‘transitional objects’ and how these objects are themselves physically unstable. The conversation reflects on the concepts of temporality and duration, questioning what constitutes an artwork or an artefact, to then return to their role in our attempts to grasp our own temporality and reality. The conservator’s intervention on an object is cast as a critical and creative positing of a question about whether that object serves its purpose in the continuously unfolding present.