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On Acquiring and Looking after “Len”

As an art conservator here at the IMA, I’m always interested to hear what people have to say about their experiences with art. But having Tyler Green over at MAN say that he’s bummed he didn’t get to climb on our Orly Genger installation, well, that really piqued my interest. Of course, you know, Tyler, Len is named after the famous body builder, Len Sell, and I think our “Len” would be able to fend for himself if you came climbing around here. I agree with Tyler though that this installation is different in many ways from her previous installations that were meant to be more directly interacted with.

In addition to Tyler’s post, Ms. Genger’s installation was also discussed in Interior Design and Ana Finel Honigman interviewed Ms. Genger over at Saatchi Online. Don’t forget Ms. Genger herself wrote a post for this blog back in December.

Almost the whole installation

Almost the whole installation

Anyway, you might be surprised to hear that we actually considered the possibility of someone trying to climb one of the pieces, and more specifically the possibility of someone bumping into one and toppling it. Be warned, though, Ms. Genger is awfully clever and with the help of Larry Smallwood (a freelance project manager), an internal support system was engineered to prohibit this from happening. Without going into the details I can say it’s highly unlikely that one of these pieces will topple. But, please trust me on this one: don’t come over and “test them out” for yourself.

I bring this up as an example of how we spend a lot of time around here considering things that our visitor may not be aware of. We take seriously the representation and care of our artworks. In fact, to focus on complex installations like Ms. Genger’s this institution developed an interdisciplinary team dedicated to the care and representation of artworks that we consider “variable.” In short, we say that variable art is a term that defines art that possesses changing observable state.

While Ms. Genger’s artwork likely will not vary considerably while on view as part of the “Whole” installation, we’ve been thinking about what it will mean to separate our newest acquisition, “Len,” from this installation, and then represent it in a new location. Remember, we didn’t acquire the entire installation, just our new friend Len. You can see him in the picture above in the bottom right corner.

Anticipating the possibility of the IMA acquiring one of Ms. Genger’s pieces, Lisa Freiman and I sat down with Ms. Genger the day after her excellent Artist Talk. We excerpted a segment of what conservators call an “artist interview” to hear Lisa talk about one of the reasons she was drawn to Ms. Genger’s work; you can here that excerpt on the “Whole” web page. The excerpt picks up in the middle of the conversation in which Lisa is talking about why she let out a loud laugh during Ms. Genger’s Artist Talk.

In case you’re really interested in the artist interview, here it is in entirety:
Artist Interview with Orly Genger, Lisa Freiman, and Richard McCoy

In the interview I try to cover as many technical aspects of her work as possible. Art conservators are constantly researching from what and how art is made, and what better time to figure all of this out than just after art is made? Just think if there were recorded conversations with some of your favorite artists from the past. Those sure would help conservators out a lot.

But doing an artist interview is just one of the things we do to gather information about contemporary projects. While the project is being planned we’re constantly collecting information and images that describe and define it the process and final product. The hope is that this information will be useful the next time an artwork is installed, be that next year or 100 years from now.

Here’s something from the Genger project I find particularly interesting and helpful.

Artwork Installation Plan

Artwork Installation Plan

It’s a plan drawing that illustrates the final placement of all of the pieces in the “Whole” installation. I won’t describe all of the details but it is important to point out that we worked hand and hand with Ms. Genger to make sure that the pieces were installed just how she wanted them, while at the same time insuring that we were providing proper access in the space for movement and egress. This is just a fraction of the information that the “Variable Art Team” collected during this project. In case you’d like to know more about this, I’d like to point you to a couple of great resources:

The Tate’s Media Matters project
The European Union project, Inside Installations
International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Artworks (INCCA)

So, finally, I’d like to say, please be nice to Ms. Genger’s installation while it’s here at the IMA. And, I’d like to suggest one way for Tyler to get his hands on his own and very portable Orly Genger. He can go here and get one of her necklaces.

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Current Events, Exhibitions, Interviews

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