Sunday, February 14, 2010
How has Conservation Changed Through History?—Balachandran
Is contemporary society prepared for art works to change in “real time”? Our readings this week suggest, alternatively that current society is either too skittish, too scared of changing the past to make any definitive, oeuvre-changing restorations to venerated art works OR, that society has always been this way, but that changes are inevitable for works of art to function as cultural, religious and artistic objects. But how do these works actually function? Do they have to be seen within a complete architectural and cultural framework in order to be truly understood? Carrier and Phillipot suggest, then, that we have lost the meaning of most art works in our care in museums. I remain intrigued by Carrier’s attempt to categorize art works as artifacts, organisms or artificial beings, and as much as I think that this categorization is ultimately futile, I wish that art works had that internal self-preservation mechanism of organisms, i.e, the ability to self-regulate, regenerate and come alive again. But as they cannot, the work of the conservator (and art historian, archaeologist, cultural or religious descendant, and so many other stakeholders) is to carefully consider how these works can live (if only briefly) again.
Photographs from the exhibition "Gods in Color". What do we want to see--the degraded white marble or imaginations of what the past might have looked like?