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The collections of many private and public art institutions contain a growing number of contemporary artworks that involve or combine live performance, technology, and an ephemeral or variable materiality. Many new theories and practical approaches to conservation have been developed over the last twenty years to accommodate these works. From the context of working as a time-based media art conservator with the IMMA Collection, Brian Castriota’s podcast essay Object Trouble: Constructing and Performing Artwork Identity in the Museum invites us to consider how the identities of contemporary artworks are continually constructed and reified within the museum. Sharing his valuable perspective Dr Castriota explains,

“I propose that some contemporary artworks—previously characterised in conservation discourse as complex or “unruly” actors in the museum sphere—might be better understood as entities that queer not only normative notions of artwork identity and essence, but also entrenched museum conventions, policies, and practices.”

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Online Talk - Dr Brian Castriota presents Object Trouble Soundcloud

About Talk

In this talk Dr Castriota takes a critical look at the presuppositions latent in certain models employed in time-based media art conservation that frame an artwork’s identity as the object of conservation. Artworks that combine a complex and ever-changing ecosystem of materials and technologies may undergo versioning, migration, and partial or total re-fabrication over relatively short timespans. With many artists remaining actively involved in these changes, Castriota argues that “notions of the finished work or a persisting, singular identity are often challenged by the ongoing transformation of these works.” These ideas are explored in part through a time-based media artwork in IMMA’s collection: Alanna O’Kelly’s Sanctuary/Wastelands.

This talk situates some of the concepts and practical issues encountered in contemporary art conservation within an alternate theoretical discourse on identity, offering a rare insight into both the theories and practices of time-based media art conservation.

Presented in the context of IMMA Archive: 1990s, From the Edge to the Centre which celebrates an ambitious IMMA Collection and Archive Digitisation Project initiated in 2017 and made possible by the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

About Speaker

Dr Brian Castriota is a Glasgow-based researcher and conservator specialised in the conservation of time-based media, contemporary art, and archaeological materials. He holds a Master’s degree in History of Art and Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU (2014), and a PhD in History of Art from the University of Glasgow (2019). As one of fifteen doctoral research projects in the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłowdoska-Curie ITN New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art (NACCA), his thesis research examined notions of artwork identity and authenticity commonly invoked in conservation theory and practice.

Since 2018 he has worked as a freelance conservator for time-based media and contemporary art at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. He currently serves as Supervising Conservator with the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis in Turkey and has worked with the expedition since 2011. Prior to his doctoral studies he was a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Time-Based Media Conservation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and worked as a contract conservator for time-based media artworks at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

He is a regular guest lecturer on the subject of time-based media and contemporary art conservation at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh College of Art, and is an adjunct instructor for the NYU Institute of Fine Arts’ time-based media conservation stream of their MA/MS degree programme.

Additional Reading & References

Judith Butler.1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.

Judith Butler. [1993] 2011. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge.

Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems. 2012. “Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS).” Recommendation for Space Data System Practices, no. June.

Gilles Deleuze. [1968] 1994. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jacques Derrida. [1967] 2001. “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” In Writing and Difference, 351–70. London and New York: Routledge.

Fernando Domínguez Rubio. 2014. “Preserving the Unpreservable: Docile and Unruly Objects at MoMA.” Theory and Society 43. See here

Umberto Eco. 1976. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Tina Fiske. 2009. “White Walls: Installations, Absence, Iteration and Difference.” In Conservation Principles, Dilemmas and Uncomfortable Truths, edited by A. Richmond and A. Bracker, 229–40. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

Elaine K Ginsberg. 2009. “Passing and the Fictions of Identity.” Duke University Press Books.
Nelson Goodman. 1984. Of Mind and Other Matters. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Rebecca Gordon. 2011. “Rethinking Material Significance and Authenticity in Contemporary Art.” University of Glasgow.

Stuart Hall. 1990. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” In Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, 222–37. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Margaret Hedstrom, and Christopher A Lee. 2002. “Significant Properties of Digital Objects: Definitions, Applications, Implications.” In Proceedings of the DLM-Forum, 218–23. See here

David Holdsworth, and Derek M Sergeant. 2000. “A Blueprint for Representation Information in the OAIS Model.” In 8th NASA Goddard Conference on Mass Storage Systems and Technologies, 413–28. See here

Hanna Hölling. 2016. “The Aesthetics of Change: On the Relative Durations of the Impermanent and Critical Thinking in Conservation.” In Authenticity in Transition: Changing Practices in Art Making and Conservation, edited by Erma Hermens and Frances Robertson, 13–24. London: Archetype Publications.

Hanna Hölling. 2017. “The Technique of Conservation: On Realms of Theory and Cultures of Practice.” Journal of the Institute of Conservation 40 (2): 87–96.

Amelia Jones. 1997. “‘Presence’ in Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation.” Art Journal 56 (4): 11–18.

Bruno Latour, and Adam Lowe. 2010. “The Migration of the Aura or How to Explore the Original through Its Fac Similes.” In Switching Codes, edited by Thomas Bartscherer, 275–297. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Laurenson, Pip. 2006. “Authenticity, Change and Loss in the Conservation of Time-Based Media Installations: A Conceptual Framework for Traditional Fine Art Conservation.” Tate Papers 6. See here

Joanna Phillips . 2012. “Shifting Equipment Significance in Time-Based Media Art.” Electronic Media Review 1: 139–54.

Joanna Phillips. 2015. “Reporting Iterations: A Documentation Model for Time-Based Media Art.” Edited by Lúcia Almeida Matos, Rita Macedo, and Gunnar Heydenreich. Revista de História Da Arte 4: 168–79. See here

Vivian van Saaze. 2013. Installation Art and the Museum: Presentation and Conservation of Changing Artworks. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univ. Press.

María Carla Sánchez, and Linda Schlossberg. 2001. Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion. New York: New York University Press.

James Williams. 2013. Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.