by Carol Stringari
Installation art and its preservation is a burgeoning field of interest with many contradictions and
ambiguities. Thus far no clear methodology for the care and long-term existence of installation art
has been established. Issues of documentation, re-interpretation, material condition, artist’s intent,
and criteria for preservation are not defined and often defy conventional conservation ethics. The
material nature may not be the essential part of the work in relation to its conceptual nature, but we
must acknowledge the physical object in order to address future questions regarding the state of
preservation, obsolescence of technology and materials.
Discussion of installation art is predicated on the notion that we understand the concept of
installation, and this in itself can be problematic. The word is often used as an umbrella term for
many genres which are not, in fact, considered installations by the creator.
In his Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, Richard Kostelantz describes installations as “art made for
a particular space, which need not be a gallery. Such art theoretically exploits certain qualities of
that space, which it will inhabit forever or be destroyed when the exhibition is terminated”.
For purposes of this paper, installations will be defined as any site-specific work which may or
may not be destroyed after being exhibited. Installation art is a hybrid art form that may include
architecture, various media, performance and technology.
This article was originally published in: Hummelen, IJ., Sillé, D., Modern Art: Who Cares?, Amsterdam: Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art/ Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999, p. 272-281.
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STRINGARI, C. Installations and Problems of Preservation