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PhD Research: On Production, Presentation, Preservation and Perception of Technology-Based Installation Art

PhD Research Project by Vivian van Saaze
  • Promotor: Prof. Dr. R. Zwijnenberg (Faculty of Arts and Culture, Maastricht University)
  • Co-promotor: Dr. R. van de Vall (Faculty of Arts and Culture, Maastricht University)
  • Supervisor: Mr. IJ. Hummelen (senior researcher Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage)

Time schedule

In September 2003 Vivian van Saaze started her Ph.D. research; a joint venture of the Faculty of Arts and Culture at Maastricht University and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN). The research addresses the challenges museums are confronted with when they acquire, present and wish to preserve technology-based installation art. Film, video and computer driven artworks have become mainstream in contemporary artistic practice. But acquisition of such works implies that curators and conservators have to deal with obsolete technologies and other specific problems concerning the care and management of these complex and hybrid works of art. For instance, technology-based installation artworks often provoke a specific sensory and spatial experience. Re-installation or re-creation at a different site or using different media might have an unwanted effect on the perception of the spectator.

In order to make well-informed decisions on issues of emulation (to imitate the appearance of a work by using a different medium) or migration (to upgrade the medium to a contemporary medium), curators and conservators are in need of a profound understanding of the impact of media technologies on the all-over sensory and spatial experience of the piece.

Although these issues are subjects of research in the international conservation community, and new documentation and preservation strategies are currently being developed, theoretical reflection lags behind. The aim of the project is to survey and develop theoretical insights that contribute to a good practice in the care for this specific area of cultural heritage. What kinds of strategies are used in order to preserve the so-called ‘look and feel’ of new media artworks? To what extent are notions of ‘materiality’ and ‘authenticity’ still useful in the safeguarding of these ephemeral artworks for the future? What theoretical vocabulary is needed in order to capture the experience of technology-based installation art in terms of sensory aspects?
Vivian’s main interest lies in preservation issues presented by artworks that deal with the interrelation between the spectator, projected image/screen and spatiality. In the course of a five year research period she will analyze several case studies, focusing on contemporary artistic practices as well as the working practices of museums and (new) media art institutions. The research will take an interdisciplinary approach and will build upon insights of preservation theory, art historical and art theoretical studies, constructivist technology studies, and media theory. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the research project Transformations of Perception and Participation: Digital Games (Maastricht University and University of Amsterdam) and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA, co-organized by the ICN).
In 1998 Vivian van Saaze (1975) obtained her Master’s degree Arts and Culture at Maastricht University. After her graduation she worked as a freelance writer and assistant curator in the field of contemporary art. 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.