At the conclusion of our Contemporary Art Forum: Art at Large: Art Making in the Long View, we are sharing some reflections on Tumblr. This is the fourth and last post in the series.
In “The Hypothetical Audience,” artist Trevor Paglen and art conservator Glenn Wharton explored how the meaning of an artwork evolves over time. Wharton spoke about his work with artists to document their intentions, since effectively preserving a piece’s meaning over time might actually require actions that seem incongruous with conservation, such as altering the physical work to preserve its desired effect in a given context. Along these lines, Paglen revealed that his intention in The Last Pictures is “deeply paradoxical,” since he aims to both foster dialogue on the included images as representations of society and also reflect on the reality that images are only legible based on context—an intention that raises questions about what components conservators should preserve.
A number of takeaways emerged, but one stood out in particular: as artists think increasingly broadly about artworks responding to their surroundings in the long term, the field of conservation is becoming more engaged in the process of treating works to avoid simply freezing them in a pristine state.