Muriel Verbeeck, There is nothing more practical than a good theory: Conceptual tools for conservation practice

If, like me, you are a conservator who can get ahead of herself when carrying out a treatment, this paper by Verbeeck is one you should read.

She uses the discipline of Philosophy, with its modes of logic and reasoning, to bring order to treatment decisions necessitated by the repeated vandalism of Anish Kapoor’s Dirty Corner. Because philosophers posit generalizations rather than describe specific cases, their theories can serve as a framework into which notions of aesthetic intent, perception and visual integrity can be organized and given proper relative weight.

Verbeeck utilized the work of art philosopher Gérard Genette, who, after defining a ‘work of art,’ identified two aspects of an artwork’s existence that have particular resonance with Kapoor’s piece: intentionality, which is what the artist means you to perceive, and attentionality, which is what the viewer actually perceives or experiences.

In the case of Dirty Corner, Verbeeck demonstrated how the changing intentionality of the piece as it changed venues caused a shift in attentionality. Originally conceived of and displayed as an interactive and sensory piece in Milan, it took on a more static and politically charged aura when it was installed in the gardens of Versailles. The new conditions in which the viewer met the piece inspired several episodes of vandalism (bringing a conservator into the picture). Ultimately new intentionalities and attentionalities, ones that acknowledged the vandalism, were incorporated into the work.

Posted by Mary Gridley