Video: Contemporary Art: Who Cares? Reinhard Bek on Replacement and Preservation in Technology-Based Art (2010)

Posted on Thu, 03/04/2010 - 08:37
Reinhard Bek speaking at Contemporary Art: Who Cares?
Questions for the speakers moderated by Barbara Sommermeyer.
Plenary lecture
Walking the Line: Between Replacement and Preservation in Technology-Based Art
Reinhard Bek, Head of Conservation
Museum Tinguely
The challenge of technology-based artworks lies in its blending of functional and media characteristics. When the medium is dependent upon the physical function of the artwork the preservation plan may challenge the conservation ethic to preserve the original artwork. Physical parts can serve a purpose whether or not they are performing a specific action. However media is always dependent on the functionality of technology. Function based failures can be frequently predicted as soon as the artwork is completed. They often occur as a result of wear and tear, insufficient maintenance and faulty mechanics. In such cases, particularly if a relatively short period of time has passed between the creation of the artwork and its failure, the exchange of parts or even the exchange of the whole artwork seems likely. However, in other cases, where failures occur later in time or as a result of technology advancements, such conclusions may not apply. Developing a hierarchy of parts for an artwork can assist the conservator with the decision of when to exchange or restore functional elements. The hierarchy is part of a larger preservation strategy, which includes frequent monitoring of operations and maintenance as well as the collaboration of specialized technicians. This lecture discusses methods of decision making central to the conservation of technology-based elements.
Reinhard Bek is Head of Conservation for the Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland where he has worked since 2002.  In 2009, he was invited as a one-year Conservation Fellow with The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Since 2003 he has been an active participant in European conservation research projects Inside Installations and PRACTICs. His recent research is focused on the relationship between exchange and conservation of ephemeral elements in contemporary art and the methods of documentation that influence the decision. Reinhard received his diploma in Objects Conservation from HTW, University of Applied Sciences in Berlin and has interned with the Museum für Arbeit, Hamburg; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg as well as the Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich.