Frederika Huys is owner and senior conservator of The Protocol Room in Ghent (BE). The studio specializes in the conservation and restoration of contemporary artworks.
Frederika started her career with a scientific research project of the Flemish Community. In collaboration with an art historian, she made a comparative study of leading museum conservation departments of Contemporary Art in France, Netherlands, Germany, England and New York. Relying on the results of her research, she created the conservation and restoration department at S.M.A.K., which she led between 1998 and 2010.
She was a founding member of INCCA from 1999 till 2010, the international network for the dissemination of knowledge and experience in conservation, exhibition and restoration of contemporary artworks. Frederika represented one of the five co-organisers of the EU project Inside Installations and was responsible for the research on Artist Participation.
In 2011 she created The Protocol Room as a professional company to provide a real ‘hands on practice’, accessible for museums, galleries, artists, private collections and companies. Often she works in collaboration with conservators from different disciplines, engineers, scientists and technicians. In addition to the conservation of already existing artworks, she aims to help artists with the integration of conservation, already in the process of the creation of artworks. Protocols are made with a variety of content, depending on the characteristics of a specific artwork.
Complexity, Variation, and Conservation. How to Proceed as Contemporary Art Conservators?
From the moment a work is included in a collection, there are usually several conservation aspects to be investigated. For us, conservators, it is important to investigate this interplay with the work of art, for example the way in which installations are exhibited and conserved. Installations have extremely diverse characteristics and are probably the most difficult cases to chart. Aspects like variability, reproduction, performance, electronic media, and interaction are incorporated in many works. Ready-made answers for dealing with these works do not exist. Here, research lies at the heart of the quest for solutions and is preferably the framework for an interactive thought process between artist and researcher. Interactive research, resulting in guidelines for individual works of art, is the basis and often the only guarantee for the continued existence of the work. Should no communication exist in this regard, then one would have no idea of how to tackle these works after their initial installation. An installation might remain “unvaryingly” installed and often disintegrate because of its fragility or complexity. Frederika Huys gives an insight into the conservation and documentation methods used in her practice to preserve contemporary artworks. The application of several methods used for the preservation and representation of complex works such as installation art, electronic media, performances, and re-executable art will be discussed. Often she works in cooperation with restorers from various disciplines, engineers, scientists, and technicians. The approach or strategy for conservation is determined based on various sources and arguments. Interaction with the artist is in many cases the basis to assess the possibilities and limitations.
Various conservation strategies for conservation:
- The preservation of the original
- Replacing parts
- The re-executing a work of art, like a performance or a conceptual artwork
- Migrating an artwork to a new carrier or format
- Emulating an artwork to a contemporary application
- The reinterpretation of an artwork, alternative modes of representation
A second part of the presentation gives insights into the tools that are made to preserve the artwork in the long term.
- Reference materials
- Replacement materials for items with a short lifespan
- Materials for implementing conceptual artworks
- Instructional video for the reenactment of installations
- Technical manuals, drawings and plans
- Condition reports and protocols
- Archive and documentation
Case studies will be discussed to provide insight into the practice,