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Re: [BKARTS] BOOK_ARTS-L Digest - 27 Feb 2007 to 28 Feb 2007 (#2007-59)

Thursday. 29 Feb 2007 9:52 EST
From Norman Shapiro <ufemisms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: on Preservation

Essentially, I agree with Susan Wood's perceptions and documented arguments
on this 'obsession with longevity'. I'd like to add however, that it is part and parcel
of Western society's (becoming international) capitalism running amok. It is after
all about collectors and collections and money. Art as investment, prestige and
wealth. Art as Commodity.

Norman Shapiro
New York City, USA


Date:    Wed, 28 Feb 2007 17:13:49 +1100
From:    "Wood, Susan" <SWood@xxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: On preservation

Susan Wood said "It is THIS that I think is the modern obsession with
longevity - that somehow we can freeze time." and quoted Martin Venezky
we raise a toast to stability and preservation aren't we silently
our own remaining days? The art museum provides an institutional prayer
we might fight and win by simply staying put."

Margie Fenney responded: "I must respectfully disagree. Some people
have great value for book arts,
others see them as a waste of time and energy. In the same way, some
have a great interest in historical information and a great value in its
preservation, while others do not see the point. I believe that many
the people who are interested in conservation and preservation have a
for history and therefore a greater sense that we are, in fact,
who occupy a short span in the long history of man and that those who
later will have the same interest in our lives and products as we have
those who preceded us. For these people, it is not a matter of freezing
time or trying to immortalize ourselves, but of being painfully aware of
much of history has been destroyed simply because items were considered
mundane to preserve."

It is so hard to try and have a conversation using this medium! Please
don't think that my choice of quote was in any way intended as a cheap
shot at conservators or historians. In my research (as a historian) I
use shreds and patches of information to attempt to reconstruct stories
that have been lost, all the time being aware of and regretting the
interesting stories that will never be recovered because the primary
source material is gone. In my teaching I introduce students to book
history and book arts. I don't lack interest in or respect for history
or for the book arts. I am very grateful that what remains does remain -
and that there are individuals and institutions whose role it is to
preserve objects and documents.

My comment was intended by way of an observation. Museums ARE a modern
phenomenon (bearing in mind that there are different definitions of
'modern'). Once people made paintings, books, whatever, with the
expectation that they would be used, and probably used up. But today we
make things and we want them to last forever.=20

Perhaps this is a response to a world that is changing faster than we
can imagine. Perhaps, as Martin Venezky suggests, it also has something
to do with an awareness of our own mortality. I think this isn't that
different to what Margie said herself: "people who are interested in
conservation and preservation have ... a greater sense that we are, in
fact, creatures who occupy a short span in the long history of man"

I think there is something interesting in this tension between the
desire to preserve things, which I do believe is a modern tendency (I
won't use the word obsession again because I am really not trying to be
provocative) and the awareness that we simply can't preserve everything
or we would be drowning in a sea of 'stuff'. For me, especially when I
am thinking as an artist rather than as an historian, acknowledging this
paradox is a liberating thing.

Sue Wood (in Wagga Wagga, Australia)

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