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Forkology: conservators as art-developers

Event Label
Organisational Units
Conservation – Restoration
Location Address (1)
Schillerplatz 3
Location ZIP and/or City (1)
1010 Vienna
Location Room (1)
Anatomy Hall

Lecture by Jonathan Kemp.

This talk is about conservation being a form of version control. I will argue that all artworks are 'forked-out' of being the creative output of a singular creative origin (viz. 'the sovereign artist') when conservators (& others) produce the next iteration of a work. I will illustrate how conservators engage in a form of what I call ‘ontological constructivism’ in which they use adversarial, anexact, and generative processes that in effect make them ‘art-developers’ when they commit to their version of a work. I will then demonstrate how conservation has parallels with software development and how conservation should be seen as a form of version control where conservators create time-stamped ‘versions of record’ that persist until the next cycle of care. In the final part I will argue how the idea of version control affords cultural heritage an ontological openness which makes conservators necessarily complicit as art-developers in their 'taking care of things'.

For over 30 years Dr Jonathan Kemp has worked in sculpture conservation across the world including in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, the UK and Ukraine. He was a Senior Conservator at the V&A Museum, London and he is a Senior Lecturer at the Grimwade Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Materials at the University of Melbourne. He has published on conservation theory, new media art, as well as various technical studies; he is also the Editor of the Journal of the Institute of Conservation. His PhD was a media archaeological project on the geology of computing. For over 20 years he has both initiated and co-organised new media art-related projects including DIY material processing laboratories, environmental installations, performances, interdisciplinary symposia, and social software events executed in various international media art festivals and venues throughout Europe, the US, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan and Australia