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 Explicit Material gathers varied perspectives from the discourses of conservation, curation and humanities disciplines to focus on aspects of heritage transmission and material transitions. The authors observe and explicate the myriad transformations that works of different kinds - manuscripts, archaeological artefacts, video art, installations, performances, film, and built heritage - may undergo: changing contexts, changing matter, changing interpretations and display. Focusing on the vibrant materiality of artworks and artefacts,
The Explicit Material puts an emphasis on objects as complex constructs of material relations. By so doing, it announces a shift in sensibilities and understandings of the significance of objects and the materials they are made of, and on the increasingly blurred boundaries between the practices of conservation and curation.
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.