In museums, like in other production houses such as laboratories, daily practices involved with ‘the making of’ are mostly considered irrelevant to the public’s eye. Up till recently, backstage activities of contemporary art conservation practices were mainly only discussed among specialists and museum professionals. Although this is understandable from the perspective of the history of conservation, in the light of current developments in artistic practice and conservation of contemporary art a different approach is needed as museum practices behind-the-scenes play an increasing role in the perpetuation of contemporary artworks. Drawing on fieldwork in contemporary art museums involved in the European research project ‘Inside Installations: Preservation and Presentation of Installation Art’, this talk explores the inherent impact of museum intervention caused by matters of presentation and conservation and argues that the common distinction between frontstage (presentation and display) and backstage (conservation and collection management) is particularly untenable in the case of installation artworks. How then do museums manage the distinction between frontstage and backstage for works of art that may change over time, for example due to successive installation moments? And what does it mean to re-think this persistent boundary?
Vivian van Saaze holds a master degree Arts and Social Sciences from Maastricht University. Since 2001 she has participated in several research projects concerning the presentation and preservation of contemporary art carried out by the Foundation for the Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, and the Netherlands Media Art Institute/Montevideo. In 2009 she completed her Ph.D. thesis Doing Artworks. A Study into the Presentation and Conservation of Installation Artworks at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), Maastricht University and Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN). She is now postdoctoral researcher at FASoS within the research project ‘New Strategies in the Conservation of Contemporary Art’. Her current research, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) explores the relationship between knowledge transfer and procedures of documentation in the re-execution of contemporary artworks.