Art & Documentation

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Documented Art. General Assumptions [Symposium]

These days art frequently exists as art that has been documented. Works of art come into being with the assumption that they will function in the form of documentation. The nature of the documenting process becomes the nature of art. History of art operates as the history of works already documented. Experiencing art is often in fact based on documentation. The phenomenon of documentation is one of the elements specific to contemporary art.

The Art & Documentation Association deals with examining and showing various aspects of documentation being present in contemporary art. In order to do that, the Association organizes a festival and issues the Art & Documentation journal which has published records of the panel discussion summarizing each edition of the festival. In 2011 the Festival ended with a symposium and a panel discussion aiming to develop and theorize a key aspect of the relationship between art and documentation.

Łukasz Guzek
28.04.2011, Poleski Osrodek Sztuki,
ulica Krzemieniecka 2a, Lodz, Poland

01.1. Documentation and the Horizontal Way of Understanding Art / Grzegorz SZTABIŃSKI

The 'horisontalism' of artistic activity and reflection on art is connected with current life and surrounding reality. Their elements flow into works of art. Artworks are not examined historically (according to the history of a medium, style or individual creative evolution) but as a reaction to the network of object arrangements and functioning discourses that surround artists. Such comprehension of art has made Sztabinski introduce the concept of a 'documental turn'. Moreover, it has been depicted by him that the idea of 'documentation' is getting extended. Therefore, 'transdocumentation' appears.

The term allows us to notice the specifics of such contemporary phenomena in which documentation does not only perform an informative function but also gives feedback upon what is documented. It is possible to distinguish many artistic approaches and practices within transdocumentation. One of them is a 'mock-documentary' - an ironic documentation that refers to documentary stereotypes and the audience's trust in the reliability of documents. 'Transdocumentation' as a practice and theoretical scheme, possible when understanding art 'horizontally', reveals a great potential for artistic activities and the critical practice.

02.1. Total Art or Dichotomy? Classical and Modern Art in the Documentation and Care / Iwona SZMELTER

Contemporary art is dichotomous - that means that it functions either within the classic art disciplines or the innovative ones, which have existed generally from the times of Marcel Duchamp. The aim of this paper is to consider an innovative, practical and theoretical framework for the documentation and conservation of the works of art created by the new generation of artists who utilise new media and integrate their works with new technologies, interactive sonic spaces, transformation of sensual processes, etc. Is it possible that one day the human mind, including artists' memories and their consciousness, will be downloadable into a data-base?

The key issue is the conservator's thorough knowledge about the work of art. This is achieved through cooperation with artists. A conservator should play a role in the artworks' pre-acquisition and should use all of his/her knowledge, including the complexity of humanities and science, one's erudition, experience with art, sensitivity and empathy. The result is therefore an appropriate diagnosis of the object allowing the conservator to undertake the appropriate documentation method and action. The artwork shows the truth about the artist, bears the traces of the artist's personality, has traits associated not only with their sensitivity and artistic abilities but also with the creative process and the technical solutions that the artist selected. We can discover these technical methods and materials by a scientific instrumental analysis.

  - The specifics of the care over contemporary art and its classification with regard to the choice of a particular conservation strategy:
  - The co-operation with an artist, artwork's pre-acquisition, registration, interview with the artist.
  - The perception of artworks in the exhibition space. The measurement of the impact of the surrounding architecture on the artwork's expression.
  - Preservation and restoration of objects created using atypical techniques (new materials and the specific use of them).
  - Records of objects that include ephemeral elements, such as: dematerialisation, the recording of noise, smell, kinetic effects.
  - Care over objects that include multimedia elements (video, audio, slide projections, interfaces and computer programs etc.).
  - Supervision over the transportation, manipulation and storage of exceptionally sensitive objects or / and ones that have a specific, complex construction.
  - Registration that complies with the specific nature of installations.
  - Supervision during the objects' assembly and disassembly (e.g. re-installation of installations).

Based on case studies we have discovered the need to define an innovative domain for the care of contemporary art, both for the sake of science and the significance of art in society. A conservator is a specific recipient of a work of art, because he/she is a mediator between an artist and a final member of the audience — both in the present and the future. This is achieved by a long-term study of the artist's work, his/her technique etc., and a search for the truth hidden in the work of art.

Only this way it is possible to recover, create or recreate the lost artistic values. A conservator should be an artist's advocate and sometimes ought to substitute him/her. This concerns replicas and emulations compliant with the artist's intention. Until now, the artistic and creative aspect of a conservator's actions have remained on the margin of our field, and sometimes they are even negated. Yet it has become extremely important in the field of the care over contemporary art and therefore must be openly spoken about, because - as Cesare Brandi said - restoration is a critical interpretation of the work.

In consequence, innovative knowledge is related to the development of artistic ideas, the concepts and models according to which a tangible and intangible heritage is taken care of, the cognition, communication and contextual aspects of art, the principles and processes involved in perception, the senses and the potential role of new media in creating new aesthetic experiences.

03.1. "After Us the Deluge?" The Preservation of the Art of Our Times / Monika JADZIŃSKA

This article outlines issues associated with the preservation and conservation of contemporary art and the role that documentation plays in this process. A contemporary artwork, in order to become an object of interest, analysis, purchase, collecting, exhibiting etc. must exist, and its existence must be preserved. Its preservation does not always mean, however, fixing the matter and halting the processes of deterioration such as in the case of traditional art, but it may adopt a totally different form, for example preservation in the form of documentation. The changeable character of ephemeral art, the use of perishable materials or readymades, as well as innovative concepts and techniques makes conservation a complex issue. An additional worrying factor is also often improperly conducted activities associated with exhibiting, transportation or storing of the artworks that cause a falsification of the artist's concept and destruction of an artwork's structure. The conservator must analyse, identify and preserve the matter in a professional way or, on the contrary, after an appropriate examination, act according to the artist's intention, and treat it in a way that is adequate to the artwork's character. This may involve the making of a replica, a reconstruction, an emulation, a re-enactment or preservation through documenting, or it may use entirely different possibilities of modern conservation. One must set a proper strategy of care and protection over the works of art and the proceedings must keep the authenticity of the artwork.

The author of this article analyses the notion of authenticity and shows the change in understanding this concept, and the influence which this change had on the form and method of preserving artworks in the past, in contrast with contemporary visual art. She writes about the new role of an artwork's matter and substance, and the challenges that result from it, and about the new role and relationship between a conservator, an artist and other 'stakeholders'. She describes the threats to preservation and the aims and limits of preservation and conservation, pointing out the key role of documentation. She also pays attention to various forms of documentation by illustrating the article with comprehensive examples of good and bad practices associated with documenting contemporary artworks.

04.1. Biological Media and the Unsettling Role of Documentation / Monika BAKKE

Biological art is one of the most recent manifestations at the intersection of art, science and technology, that has been highly productive for some time. Now, technologically augmented life, such as in vitro fertlisation and genetically engineered life forms, have come under the scrutiny of bio art in particular. By their very nature, biological media, being living systems, provoke a number of difficulties related to the production, exhibition and conservation practices of bio art.

It is significant that this emerging genre of artistic expression does not operate on the level of representation, but on the level of presentation involving actual interventions into living systems. However, in some cases organising the presentation of a living art work in a public space is difficult or in fact impossible, which leads to substituting the actual art work by its documentation. Yet, such substitution practices are not accepted by those artists whose goal it is to provide audiences with a unique opportunity to encounter unusual forms of life as art works (wet works, entities still alive or once alive) in a gallery space. This attitude requires the curator not only to arrange suitable conditions for living art works outside the laboratory but also to obtain bio-security permissions. Another option for audiences to gain an opportunity to experience actual lab life is to follow the artists' instructions and join a do-it-yourself biotech movement. In this case, documentation plays the role of both instruction and evidence.

05.1. Documentation of an Interactive Aspect of Media Art Works / Weronika DOBROWOLSKA

Media art requires that the traditional documenting methods both improve and work out new tools, allowing the documentation to catch specific features and phenomena associated with the functioning of artworks that include unstable, electronic media. One of the phenomena, a characteristic for many media works is an openness towards the interaction of the audience, who may manipulate the work using many interfaces creating their own performance, as well as modify the work within the framework defined by the artist. According to many researchers and artists, the actual artwork is the result of the activities of 'inter - actors' who experience it.

The traditional methods used by art institutions to document the interactive aspect of the artworks is only to a very limited extent successful. The problem of documenting art created by non-standard media (including electronic media) was undertaken as part of many projects, for example: Documentation et conservation du patrimoine des arts mediatiques (DOCAM), Variable Media Initiative (VM), Capturing Unstable Media (CUM) or the thematic residential programs realised by the Daniel Langlois Foundation. However, not all of the above mentioned projects considered that the problem of interactivity and the experience of the audience had been dealt with thoroughly. In many of them a new theoretical ground taking the concept of both the artwork and the role of inter-actors was created. A few of the proposed solutions were quoted in the article.

In the text, various strategies of documenting the interactive aspects of media artworks which result from adopting various perspectives and assumptions were described. These strategies oscillate around two opposing terms: interactivity and interaction, as well as the difference between the will to document an ideal representation of the work (according to the artistic concept) and an attempt to grasp how the work functions in real circumstances together with the more or less successful trials of the inter-actors to experience it. Of particular interest seem to be the attempts to document the experience of the audience and then applying the knowledge achieved to work further with the artwork - to protect it, exhibit it in various ways or allow it to communicate further with the audience.

The Image of the Artist in Performance Art: The Case of Rudolf Schwarzkogler / Susan JAROSI

"The Image of the Artist in Performance Art: The Case of Rudolf Schwarzkogler" frames an intervention into the scholarly and public discourse on the medium of performance art by revisiting the myth of Austrian artist Rudolf Schwarzkogler's purported death by auto - castration, which was supposedly 'documented' in a series of performances in the mid 1960s. The myth was most famously propagated in 1972 by the Time Magazine critic Robert Hughes, and, despite a public recantation by Hughes in 1996 and a number of scholarly studies and exhibitions that have exposed the myth's fallacy, it continues to demonstrably inflect the reception not only of Schwarzkogler's work but also of contemporary performance art more broadly. Jarosi's central arguments are concerned with examining the perpetuation of the Schwarzkogler myth through a series of examples all drawn from the last five years. Each of the examples revolves around the construction of an image of 'the performance artist' and what is determined to be true, proper, or detrimental to the practice of performance art. Together the examples underscore the persistent power of the myth in the representation of contemporary performance - a power that can readily exceed the historical record. The author theorizes her claims through exploration of seminal texts on the function of myth by Roland Barthes and by Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz. Having asserted the theoretical mechanics by which the Schwarzkogler myth holds such sway, Jarosi expands the scope of her essay to consider its negative impact on the scholarly reception and public perception of performance art, ultimately pointing to the ethical stakes raised by the myth's absorption into the assumed critical expectations for what the medium of performance art entails.

Panorama 1 Manifesto / Rudolf SCHWARZKOGLER

The construction of the image has been superseded by the construction of the conditions necessary for the painting - act as the determinant of the action field (of the space around the actor - of the actual objects found in the environment). The painting - act itself will be liberated from the compulsion to create relics as its goal, as it is posed in front of a reproducing apparatus that records the information. The temporality of the painting-act and its exhibition become one; the exhibited objects, as the elements of the PANORAMA, are moved and changed in space (confrontation, montage, automatic contact, etc.); an expansion of the painting-act to the total act becomes possible, one that can be experienced by all the senses. As spatial-temporal structure, the total act reveals its form to the plastic image of manifold recording through different apparatuses.

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