Becoming a Chief of Objects

Anne de Buck


The installation artwork Voorstelling (1997) by the Japanese-Dutch artist Suchan Kinoshita consists of two connected rooms. A performer, referred to by the artist as the Chief of Objects, inhabits one of the rooms and manipulates the numerous objects Kinoshita put in both spaces. This installation is part of the collection of the Ghent Museum of Contemporary Art. To date it was only put up for display in close collaboration with the artist. Combining elements of a performance, a complex display of objects, and an interactive environment, Voorstelling challenges the museum in more than one way. This paper presents the co-operation that took place between the museum and the artist in order to allow the museum to deal with this work in the future, even without Kinoshita being present.

The goal was to develop guidelines and procedures for the future presentation of the work and its conservation – and when necessary the duplication and replacement of the installation and the objects. Although the aspect of randomness plays an important role in the performance, it was also necessary to create a performance-score for the Chief of Objects.

Being able to work together with the artist may seem to turn this research into a walk in the park, but quite a few out of the box, or rather, out of the conservation discipline solutions were needed to reach our goal. Putting neither the artist’s nor the museum’s interests in first place, but rather focusing on the artwork was one of the key elements. With this in mind both parties succeeded in securing Voorstelling for the future.

We would like to put forward the methods and approach used in this research as solutions for the conservation of similar installations and for working together with contemporary artists.

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2008 | Denver | Volume 15