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PhD Research: Mapping Critical Mass: Authenticity in Remanifestations of Contemporary Art (Brian Castriota)


Brian Castriota

Title of research project / research interests

Mapping Critical Mass: Authenticity in Remanifestations of Contemporary Art

Type of research e.g. PhD or Postdoc




History of Art, University of Glasgow

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art


Dr. Dominic Paterson, Dr. Erma Hermens

(Estimated) date of completion

January 2019

Previous education and/or work experience

Brian Castriota is a conservator specialized in the conservation of time-based media and contemporary art. He holds a Master’s degree in Art History and a Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU where he graduated in 2014. He has worked as a contract conservator for time-based media artworks at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and was a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Time-Based Media Conservation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He has also worked as a conservator on archaeological excavations in Turkey, Sicily and Egypt.


This research develops a theoretical framework to consider how authenticity is conferred and perceived in the case of contemporary works of art lacking a fixed or finite material presence. It expands the theories that underpin some of the more novel approaches employed in the conservation of time-based media artworks, which allow for certain works to have multiple ‘genuine instances’ (Goodman 1976) despite material or contextual variability in their iteration. In this research I investigate the various ways the concept of artwork fixity is approached within contemporary art conservation, both on the part of artists and collecting institutions. I draw heavily from discussions within aesthetics and semiotics around works as abstract object or types to consider how genuine instances of works are produced or maintained in museum practice, as well as the institutional conventions that determine how authenticity is ascribed to an instance of a work. Through a series of case studies of contemporary works of art I highlight how stakeholders and caretakers identify and document a work’s ever-evolving bundle of governing conditions deemed necessary for the work to occur or persist, and the motivations and means by which fixity is sought for this ‘critical mass’ (Gordon 2011, 96). Through applications of structuralist and poststructuralist modes of inquiry I investigate works where the features deemed ‘pertinent’ (Eco 1976), ‘work-determinative’ (Davies 2001), or ‘work-defining’ (Laurenson 2006) evolve over time through the ‘reciprocal determination’ (Deleuze [1968] 1993) that occurs between works of art and their instances. In doing so, I propose that a work’s structural ‘centre’ (Derrida [1967] 2005) may be subject to change or play through the work’s ‘implementation’ (Goodman 1984). This research emphasizes the processual dimension of artwork identity as well as its bearing on conservation practice and artwork documentation strategies. The goals of this research are to a) establish a theoretical framework to understand authenticity and fixity in the conservation of variable and evolving works of contemporary art, and b) formulate practical recommendations for their documentation, acquisition, and long-term care.


aesthetics, authenticity, conceptual art, documentation, fixity, identity, installation art, instantiation, iteration, ontology, performance art, poststructuralism. semiotics, site-specificity, time-based media, variability

E-mail / Contact details