During her studies of “Restoration and Conservation of Modern Materials and Industrial Heritage” at HTW Berlin, Nahid Matin Pour was interested in crossing the limits postulated for the care of historical artefacts. The field of the conservation of contemporary art posed to be her opportunity for a different approach towards conservation practice. After her thesis on the conservation of a kinetic sculpture, Nahid Matin Pour moved to Karlsruhe, where she is living and working since 2010. Since 2011 she holds the position as Head of Conservation at ZKM | Center for Art and Media, a museum and research facility dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Besides the care for loans and the development of conservation strategies for the ZKM collection, her profession is imbedded in an interdisciplinary team responsible for the realisation, preservation, documentation and restoration of contemporary works of art, including fine art as well as digital-born media art.
Documentation and Preservation Strategies for a Contemporary Installation
This case study about Lynn Hershman Leesons’ Infinity Engine poses most of the difficult questions conservators are confronted with in the documentation of contemporary installation and shows the enormous workload of a multidisciplinary team. Infinity Engine is a complex installation, which is still in ongoing development due to continuously alterations undertaken by the artist for every new venue. Facing this challenge, the museum team of ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany, produced floor plans, clips and various further information. Hereby, the conservator’s responsibility in this team was to assemble this information, find it’s gaps and to close them, and to compile all this to a useful documentation. Lynn Hershman Leeson is one of the pioneers in the fields of photography, video, film, performance, installation, interactive and net-based media art. Infinity Engine is summarized by the artist herself as a cinematic replication of a scientists’ lab including videos controlled by a self-programmed random generator, data for wallpapers, an interactive face recognition room that uses a website, a 3D-printed nose, documents, different kinds of objects, animals as well as two heavy lab doors. It exists as a concept on the artist’s website and was first realized at ZKM for a retrospective of her work in 2014. The show travelled to three further locations, where the same installation was presented in different iterations. The setup for every venue was created in close cooperation with the artist. Lynn Hershman Leeson has full artistic freedom, no matter to the difficulties in tasks like documentation or the preservation of added material etc. Nevertheless, the documentation and preservation of an installation of that scale requires a well-rehearsed interdisciplinary team. Pictures and clips shown within the presentation have been produced by different members of the museum staff, compiled and put into context by the conservator.