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Thursday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
(Electronic Media) Repair, Replace, and Re-make: Negotiating/Navigating the Conservation Treatment of Ann Hamilton’s 'at hand'

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Since its acquisition by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2002, Ann Hamilton's installation "at hand" —a variable media artwork composed of audio, performative, and physical elements intended to simultaneously entice various senses— has suffered from the consequences of inaction. When the work was slated for exhibition last year, it was discovered that it had gone from a state of dormancy to obsolescence, challenging our ability to access and display the artwork. Treatment of a complex installation such as this can become more complicated with time, as perceptions change, information is lost, technologies become obsolete, and materials degrade, often necessitating increasingly significant intervention to bring it back to an active state. In the case of "at hand," this required a thorough examination, re-evaluation, and inventory of all materials associated with the artwork from the time of acquisition in order to identify specific components and previous alterations, as well as research into the history and intent of the artwork itself. Addressing all of the components, including pneumatic and computer-operated paper dropping mechanisms, the paper, the audio files and playback equipment, and the performativity of the artwork, could only be achieved through the collaboration of media and paper conservators, media preservation specialists, audio-visual specialists, exhibitions staff, and the artist and fabricator. The treatment itself was largely informed by the artist and fabricator, who increased our understanding of the principal action of the artwork —dropping paper from the ceiling using a mechanized dropper unit— as not simply the dropping of paper, but as the replication of the human act of an arm moving forward and releasing paper from a hand. Treatment involved not only the practical repair of the artwork, but also the replication of obsolete components, and the replacement of others in order to bring the work back to an active state. This paper will address all aspects of the conservation of Ann Hamilton's "at hand," including the overall disrepair of the paper dropping mechanisms, the obsolescence and importance of the original paper, and the inaccessibility of the eight audio tracks. The priorities for conservation varied based on materials, paper or electronic, but the idea of the artwork as a type of repeatable performance, with visual, auditory, and tactile components, guided all aspects of conservation.

avatar for Briana Feston-Brunet

Briana Feston-Brunet

Conservator of Sculpture and Variable Media, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Briana Feston-Brunet is the Variable Media Conservator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. She focuses primarily on the conservation of contemporary and time-based media artworks, including audio, video, film, performances, computer and software... Read More →

avatar for Stephanie Lussier, [PA]

Stephanie Lussier, [PA]

Paper Conservator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Stephanie M. Lussier is the conservator for works on paper and photographs at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Stephanie is interested in interdisciplinary projects that enhance the dialogue among conservators and allied professionals. She is actively engaged in education... Read More →
avatar for Drew Doucette

Drew Doucette

Time Based Media Coordinator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Drew Doucette is the TBMA coordinator at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. Drew has been working as a studio engineer, producer, and musician since graduating from Arizona’s Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2002. With the ever-changing media arts environment... Read More →
avatar for Michal Mikesell

Michal Mikesell

Post-Graduate Fellow in Paper Conservation, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Michal Mikesell is the Post-Graduate Fellow in Paper Conservation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where she is focusing on assessment, selective analysis, and treatment of contemporary collages in the collection. She is interested in commercially-produced, modern papers... Read More →
avatar for Emily Nabasny

Emily Nabasny

Archivist, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Emily Nabasny is an Audiovisual Archivist working on contract at the Smithsonian Institution. She holds an MA from the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program at New York University.

Thursday June 1, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Comiskey Concourse Level, West Tower