Authenticity in the Fine Arts (to the Present Day)

Anything which is concerned with art beyond its works - in a media, theoretical or discursive sense - must be content, and it seems unconditionally, with a second rate role.  Art consists, or so convention has it, in the sum of its artworks alone.  These are products of a genuine, nameable, individual finding, and they embody authenticity. According to this, artworks are not possibly, but necessarily authentic.  Determining the nature of art ontologically, whilst also based upon the historical dispositions of modern, particularly romantic stylisations, authenticity is not only a key category in the production of art, but art's essential, theoretically and empirically indispensable determining factor; both a necessary and commensurate criterion.  Necessary, since the inauthentic cannot be art, commensurate, since whatever presents a significant form of authentic quality always has to be art.
As far as the background work of securing, classifying, elucidating, collecting in archives, researching, conserving, exhibiting and mediating art is concerned, it can, according to this conviction within art, only be secondary: supporting functions.  They are of course indispensable for art's survival, but do not touch upon the nature of art in any way; they represent a form of charitable aid - an offer to be called upon, a promise of protection which despite material interventions, for example in the case of restoration, into the substance of the original - differ from this ontologically and are characterised by a lower status of being.
In this essay, against such monolithic idealisation of an individualised, productive instance of artist creation, the thesis will be presented that the important aspect is not the genealogical dimension of art, but its structural complexity.  What many institutions do - media, theories, studios, workshops, debates - to increase our ability to perceive art, is not external to art but an essential factor of it. This is true of all fields and all epochs, not only for the arts of the 20th century.  These are based on an extension of aesthetic materials, artists having coupled the idea of the artwork with a radical, even insistent transitoriness of the materialisation, which embodies it.  This means that from the word go, the restorer must necessarily share the decision concerning the life-span of the authentic work.  Museums of contemporary art not only offer evidence of the generalisation of the collectible and the acceleration of that artistic invention which is impelled by archive collecting.  They also demonstrate - although this is hardly consciously articulated - a transfer of the supervision of form, work and material of the completed artwork to the guardians of its historical durability.  Museum time and effective time - in the case of public ownership of art at the moment of acquiring contemporary art - coincide with the physical durability and half-life period of the materials.  Even the responsibility for a guarantee is no longer within the artist's, but the restorer's competence. In the following remarks, the instance of the restorer, as an agent of the storehouse of the present for the future, serves as the medium for a complex, non-linear logic employed to describe the conditions (of durability and of emergence) of art.  
The relativisation of authenticity, which insists upon the temporal precedence of the genuinely creative before the development of its influence also alters the normative gradations in the traditional, ontological foundation of art.
The previous preference for a numerically, chronologically recountable history, the collection of datable records of origin in the form of artworks, their correct linear arrangement - the so-called historically critical hanging - temporally and spatially determined in the modern art museum since the French revolution and Jacques-Louis David's new presentation of the Louvre collections, as in the prototype enfilade architecture of Schinkel, must now give way to an interchanging permeation of the primary and the secondary; in the sense of a concentrated and complex configuration of conditions.
The summarise up to this point: the authentic in art is neither a material quality nor is it established by the use of particular media.  The authentic is a place of significations in a multi-faceted field of associations. It is created by purposes, concepts, artistic intentions, but also by institutions, expectancies, formed attitudes.  The authentic is a part of an aesthetic definition of a problem within specific cultural regulations. It is not evident, but is attributed in a specific discourse, in the narration of art history.  In principle, nothing is altered in history's preference for the authentic in the sense of origin.  The valences of the authentic have been firmly established.
Only the problematisation of the concept of the original brought about by digital media and the impossibility of distinguishing between unique-genuine and reproductive-copied will compel us to accept paradigmatic changes with respect to the authentic in the future.  Digital media, in as much as they are always symbolic, like all non-iconic sign systems, have a non-technically defined traditional reference.  But it is the technical definition, which is decisive - on an electronic basis - for the problem of authenticity.
It determines a new form of co-operation, which transcends the artist individual's framework of action to date.  On this basis, a new, much more highly rated role could be established for restoration: it is independent, constructive and essentially participating in the creation of the authentic.

1. Criteria, Art History

Reproducibility is - especially since its execution is not bound to any particular materiality - not determined by the sphere of reproduction, but in the last instance it is an exclusive characteristic of the original.  This is already true of the singular example, not merely of any kind of reproduction.  Today the refinement of reproduction methods appears to have all but reached perfection.  One can even imagine - and in the case of the Mona Lisa this is well-known and has been kept from our perception by corresponding contextual measures (thick protective glass, poor lighting, pretentious guarding) that all the paintings in every museum have been replaced by copies.  The only ones who might be able to notice this are the conservers/restorers.  But they may not be immune to bribery.  But such rioting and such attention is indicative of the instance, which is important here: not mystic original genuineness, but the media testimony of an attributed validity.

So what is the meaning, what are the semantics of authenticity?
Authentic means genuine and guaranteed.  Note the difference: in terms of the logic of the predicate, "genuine" is two stage at most, but guaranteed is at least three stage - the guaranteeing of something by someone for a third party; the one who is informed.  A guarantee can never pass into self-persuasion, even if it can certainly stimulate an auto-suggestive authenticity with respect to self-referential evidence of genuineness.  Authentic, as definitely 'genuine', is only the individual for himself, above all, everything in itself.  The privileged self-reference and the consciousness of self which cannot be derived from any objects in the world or from any language, are valid instances of philosophical solipsism; dependent upon the isolation and solitariness of life in the ego, that is, upon a particular theoretical disposition.  The example of stylised experiences of evidence clearly demonstrates the religious contours, which are structurally characteristic of all the art of the modern age.

But the cultural or conceptual evaluation of authenticity is always a substitution.  The significance of self-references and statements of evidence by another for me is dependent on the agent, on mediators, on witnesses.
On the level of the imaginary, it is the narration, the discourse of the other, made concrete in/by pictures; the narration of art; the narration which, as art history, has created a quite specific object (which is why creativity, the capacity for cultural expression or a civilising force is not necessarily bound to art).  One can object to solipsism, at least on the grounds that self-reference neither includes nor demands the perception of society.  Inasmuch as 'guaranteed' has to be understood under 'authentic', the conserver and the restorer become decisive agents and instances of the authentic.  They are not only guarantors of that which their work aims to conserve, but also actors who join in the construction of whatever this guarantee embodies.  The guarantee must be reliable, creditable, granting insight into the relation to the original, it must secure attributes.  The ultimate criteria are negotiated in the circle of experts - and only there.  This is analogous to the definition of concepts in the sphere of music.  The 'authentic close' is the creation of a harmonic final conclusion.  'Original' is therefore a purely temporal concept, 'authenticity' is a concept of modality; a way of being given.
The authentic interpretation is a declaration made by the originator/author himself.  The narration of art history in particular is bound to the individual as the instance of intention, as the apriori of all that is intentional. It declares its object - the genesis of modern art - as having emerged from the individual. This reveals a doubling: a discourse of history as the setting of the ego.  A meta-discourse of art history as the genesis of the genesis of this ego which, equipped with the power of abstraction, is transferred to the sphere of an aesthetic history.

It is true that the mythically excessive creative power of the genial first dates from the epoch of romanticism.  But the self-marking of the individual began much earlier.  Although there is evidence of the signing of works in Italy during the 11th century, the history of the quasi documented personal marking by aesthetic creators began hesitantly, and it developed slowly, although steadily.  Before the auto-declarative epoch of the historical individual had been arrived at, personal marks of creative individuality had little true significance, they lacked an empowering disposition. The magic of the original, guaranteed by the signature, grew parallel to the essential stages in the development of the art system - guild/trade clients, court/patronage/ power, general power of judgement/bourgeois taste, trade/auction, market/reviews.
Put another way: parallel to that suspicion, fired by the system, that the unstoppable flood of images necessitated the possibility of distinguishing the true from the false, the signature received the power to guarantee; became a documentary attest.  The artistic discourse became dominated by narration and by the checking of the genuine. In this, the place of the signature in the history of truly existent creative individuals was confirmed.  The increased importance of individual skill, the concentration of specialised professional skills and the official evaluation of the artist to the point of an acknowledgement of his true role - making the achievements of individuals accessible to groups - presupposes numerous factors.  These form a complex configuration.
But it is characteristic that both in the case of the reversal in polarity from the material value of the pigments to the individualism of the execution which has proved so significant for modern painting, and in the case of the demands for a national standard of work in sacred buildings of the later Middle Ages, the essential instances for the foundation of knowledge and the securing of prestige were not aesthetic, but legal criteria, codified in contracts.

2. Time, Museum, the Aspectual

In virtuality, museums are form, and in actuality imagination.  The form of production gives collections a specific shape.  The virtuality of the archive becomes real in selection and arrangement in the shape of an exhibition.  In this, the potential is transformed into the actual.  The isolated monumentality of discrete components is integrated into a documentation, a narration.  This narration creates a history.  For this reason, museum situations both make eternal and cause to disappear.  They take their vitality from an interpenetration of the two.  Historically, art forms a comprehensive bracket of meaning due to its elimination from the chain of significants Nature, mechanics, antiquity and art.  The pictorial imaginary must become the socially symbolical in order to make space for industry and science and their power to model reality. Its allegorical power is taxed to exactly the same extent as the essential function of art is seen as its lack of social function and effect. It is presented with the highest task at the height of its impotence. It only exists itself because it is measured in terms of this task - a symmetrical Munchausenism, which is the basis to modern art's genuine claim to insight through its self-referentiality, which is in turn based on the complete freedom of all conceivable materials for any artistic form.  And vice versa.  The achievements of pictorial museums are evident in their almost unshakeable capacity for the handling of paradox.  So they collect - regularly, in the name of the extraordinary - the singular products of genius, by composing regulations for the comparability of that which is ruined, lawless and deregulated by genius - and this in a quite different way to the classical academies - in the heightened expectation that their expectations will be disappointed, that is, under the aspect of nonconformity which it is possible to stabilise, of permanence within the constancy of permanent change.  The conflict between perenniality/eternity and the temporal/the fleeting is identical to the conflict between an aesthetic completion of history created by expulsion from the field of social action and individual deregularisation demanded in the name of the genial.  A conflict which may be described as the paradox of constancy and discontinuity, the closed and the open, the durable and the fleeting, repetition and uniqueness, but whatever way we look at it: as a paradox.
In terms of the theory of time, this paradoxical museum situation may be derived from a coherent model of art and art history.  The great narration of art history suggests that perenniality be treated as a value in itself. However, eternalisation also determines two different time modi: the cycle of return (perfection of styles, variation in mastery) and an irreversible renewal (innovation, avant-garde, restructuring of the museum as a result of its problematisation).  Circulating time (regularities, rhythm, return of the same) versus historical time (discontinuity, breaks, creation of new systems, swing to other attracting fields); this conflict forms the two-part driving configuration behind all art of the modern era.  The art of the moderns builds more upon historical time, which is why, at least in principle, it collides with the decisive construction of the art-historical discourse. It rescues itself from this with philosophical and metaphysical references ('the new man', a 'liberated life', technological utopias etc.), that is, with meta-theoretical statements of the post traditional, with reference to the exploded, divided image.  This is even more valid with regard to the media and apparatus of temporality, which have arisen from the technological history of the modern age (such as, for example, television and video).
The specifically artistic takes recourse - against the overpowering pressure of mass communication, of a life dominated by technology and a highly ritualised working world - in a hasty rather than quiet withdrawal from aesthetic pressure to intervene in power, to the absolute morality of the artist subject.  Parallel to this, a new haste develops - a continuation of the paradoxes - in the search for inevitable innovation: hysterically planned sensibility becomes a self-induced drive to find artistic form.

For precisely this reason, authenticity is not a quality of materials and not an isolated, invisible instance of artistic will.  Authenticity must and can be read in aspects of signs in which certain attributes of objects are expressed. It is not pictures as a whole, which certify authenticity, but specialised zones in them (creating of types, handwriting, styles, significants etc.), which are read semiotically as systems of notation and are grasped operationally in diagrams.
The working disposition of a restorer is no different - he constructs a work as the object of his coming intervention and on the basis of conceptual values. In the last instance, these emerge before the background of aesthetic trends, conveyed norms and the continuity of convictions established over a lifetime and passed on, which means: with unavoidable dogmatism.
The attributive structure of the 'genuine' - for it does not exist as a quality, but is produced by a process of referring attributes to aspects and vice versa - indicates that authenticity is not evident, but an authority supported by a discourse and thus lent to works and to authors.  More generally, behind the alternating dominances of expression: authenticity is a factor of self-interpretation of the cultural change with respect to hierarchies of education and centralised media (tasks, but also technologies, the principles of archives, image production processes).  Something like a 'worthiness for conservation', and not the material itself, is measured against these hierarchies of dominance whether in harmony with or in opposition to the uncertain will of the contemporary artist.  The trend towards eternalisation is probably due to the fact that we still live in a culture oriented on meaning, even one which is greedy for meaning, a culture of metaphysical references, the imaginary aspect of which has long been defined by art history.  Its reference to the superiority of the portrayal by contrast to all technical processing of communication by art immune information is less evidence of the nature of the authentic than of a highly arbitrary, moral rejection of the supposedly valueless, the purely derived and the secondary.  Accordingly, technical, mechanical forms and media of art production tend to be stigmatised as plebeian, and are considered unsuited to eternity as a result of their fixation on pleasure; they are thus denounced as 'illegitimate'.

3. Art, Durability, Technology, Cooperation

In face of today's variety of working materials and the differences in concepts of art, which can no longer be summarised with the term 'art', a theory of authentic values referring to the problems of semiotic notation and material configuration is difficult to formulate.  Due to the differences in materials it would have to be sufficiently elastic, in face of the coherence of notation it would require sufficient stringency, that is, it would have to be simultaneously open and closed. I cannot develop such a theory in the space available to me here. I shall come to my own aid with a collection of aspects which are illuminating for the development of a theory, viewing the structural conditions of the treatment of the authentic far more than the breaks in material development and formal contexts of recent contemporary art.  The historical change may prove to be unimportant by comparison to the creative forces of a constant of 'art' behind all the differences in works.
The variety in genres, materials, forms may be interpreted - on the contrasting background of the museum - as the location of a connection between the individual work and the great system of notation of a normatively directed art history.  This is true both of their specific handling of individual determining characteristics, and also of the creation of the aspectual with regard to the same determination of object; an interpretation as modifications which always point to a unity, here of the museum.  The use of materials or media, the employment of specific time structures are not able to define 'art' in the sense which I have outlined here.  For the temporality of the work refers, in differing ways and independent of the incorporation of this time in form and material, to the paradox time structure of the museum as that vessel which promises to connect the fleeting and the eternal in a future reproducibility of works.  The museum's promise of the perennial only exists insofar as radical concepts of art cast doubt upon its validity.  The functioning narrative 'art history' only has a normative superiority story 'art history' not only originates in pictorial theory, but is also determined by the history of philosophy.  An essential aim and a conflict of ideals within this is the divergence between the aesthetic completion of history in the museum and each individual, temporalised, accelerated, fragmented and isolated effect of artistic strategies and concepts upon history and society.  This divergence first realises the rich field of art and its history.  Without the poles of retention and disappearance, archive and production, the latent and the evident, the perennial and the fleeting, the image collection which represents the progress of history, and the scenarios which incorporate the possibilities of adaptation for the rules of art creation and mediation would all lack force.  The narration 'art history' draws energy for its own dynamics from this polar structure, which certainly repeatedly tempts it to underlay pictures with a scarcely demonstrable dimension of sense, beauty, pleasure, aesthetic conviction, urbane ductility of the person etc.  On the other hand, it compels us to constantly visualise the fact that relevant drives for the development of art are never intrinsic, but always come from the outside; they are provoked by singular interventions. In the sense of a concentration on the aspectual suggested here, in which attributes of objects are bound to signs of expression, value etc., one may clarify the way in which expectancies and concepts of art differ.  The aesthetic utopia of the modern era has at least two refuges: the negation of art in life and the disappearance of the avant-garde on the one hand, and on the other hand, the heroising of the engineer, the construction of new world-creating machines, the great technical dreams, the 'invenzioni' since the Renaissance.  According to one's own tendency, these expectations are supplemented by constructivist strategies for a reconstruction of the dominating media of the modern technological society or with visions of art as the medium of social revolution, of an anonymous collectivity and such like. The only constant is the interface of the linking of such expectations - 'art'.

4. Conservation, Interpretation, Transitoriness

The more open the choice of working materials for artworks, the more individualistic and more immaterial - dependent upon additional explicative notations - the assertion of the artistic capability of Materials produced as art will be.  Concept art, for example, fundamentally and completely evades the idea of proof embodied in a work by maintaining that art is not dependent upon the existence of an artwork, but only upon the conceivability of the extension and continuation of 'art'; that is, upon the continuation of the narration about and through art.  The work is then present only in the modus of absence; as examples such as Manzoni's earth sculpture or Yves Klein's exhibition of empty rooms indicate.
The specific technical aspects of the development of art in the last decades can be fairly easily generalised.  Firstly they confirm that what can be classified as art is not dependent on the typology or on the materiality of the medium.
Aesthetic values can only be developed by means of comparison within a formal context, and the specifics of a particular arrangement, type of depiction or pattern of formal scenarios.  In general, however, to the extent that hardware - from the TV screen to computer control - and multi-media, the sequential and installations determine the appearance of the artwork, it is likely to be true that the artist is no longer an isolated, authentic inventor, but the co-user.
In his own work, the artist receives his role in society in quite a normal way.  Restorers, but also conservers who are involved in the first presentation of a complex work with numerous technical, installative aspects, become responsible partners with the artist in his decisions.The traditional artist's studio, therefore, extends to a more complex basis of realisation, the cooperative structures of which increasingly correspond to those involved in the production of a film.  Besides - to some extent - the colophon of an exhibition catalogue, the credits of a film are the only examples in which all those involved are listed by name.  The technical utilisation and the complexity of the means of production - in the case of new technologies - necessitate even more intense cooperation; apart from the fact that knowledge of the work can be separated from the process of production, anyway: Jeff Koons, one example among many, gives order for his works to be made for him, he himself is not involved in their production at all.

Not only this overcoming of one's own work or the multi-reproduction of the media, but also the hybridisation of the artwork are creating new problems.  As a sculpture, for example, the medium of video is traditional - the only difference being that TV screens are a different material to marble.  But as soon as the screen is used as a medium for the electronic presentation of images, the media situation is extended and a paradigmatically different interface of cooperation emerges - particularly when it comes to repair and restoration.  As a programme strategy, video does not come into the domain of art, but of the logistics of mass culture pioneers such as Nam June Paik saw this distinctly, and with a certain melancholy.  Nevertheless, the insight did not prevent them from continuing to produce artworks in a penetratingly conventional sense, which mass communication apriori is incapable of altering, indeed, does not intend to alter.  The problem of cooperation becomes considerably more complex in face of completely new interfaces and their artistic use; such as computer nets, WWW and the like.  Here the demands involved in securing the life-span of an artwork, which either lays claim to this durability itself, or has demonstrated its paradigmatic importance for contemporary art, corresponds exactly to the need for cooperation in the development of the work, when the artists involve numerous other experts besides technicians and experts in the information sciences.
There are numerous theoretical and practical problems for a discussion on the status of authenticity, but also for the dimension of restoration, which result from multimedia, inter-media, installative works.  They relate to different levels in the organisation of space and time - one could recall the differences between working process, use of technology, production, contextuality and the message of works by, for example, Bruce Nauman, Bill Viola and Gary Hill, who are without doubt some of the few decisive figures influencing art today and have altered the contours of 'art'.

Theatricalism of reception, sequential images in space, diffusion and multiplication of viewpoints by contrast to a baroque sculpture by Bernini, for example - provoke the question whether one may still refer to such an installation as sculpture (assemblage, collage, three-dimensional art etc.), although some of its elements are-traditional, and some are determined by new media such as electromagnetic recording processes and their corresponding films?
For as long as it is possible, one should go along with the idea that new materials can be interpreted as aspects of the mode 'sculpture' on the basis of assemblage.  The assemblage includes all the theoretically relevant problems of a multimedia work with one exception: the time or motion picture; the sequence of images which cannot be absorbed into the paradigms of traditional art history, into the topography of surface and depth.  From the point of view of restoration, such abstraction from the concrete materials must be handled differently in each case, but permits us to see works as the depiction of an idea.  Some questions may be added at this point: that which can be described as an idea, does it not have its place in tradition and is it not therefore possible to see it as something which may be passed on to future generations? Does conservation in its primary sense mean keeping, or (already) handing down? Is every act of handing down not bound to a system of notation for the creation of a systematic and technically reproductive capacity for manipulation of the chosen objects? This would not originate - which is also true of the codes of the Word languages from the objects chosen, but from their notation in superior sign systems and meta-languages (language for object languages).
Insofar as the intention determines the work, all art is founded on the concept of art.  But intention as Baxandall (1986) demonstrated - is not located with the lonely, isolated subject, but a cultural description of a problem linking individual impulses to a consciousness of form, technological methodology and the perception of mental dispositions for the regulation of the imaginary.  Applied to our theme: authenticity may well be an individual dream, but its 'hard' reality lies in the intentional relation of expression in the work, stable form and a system of guiding principles.  That is why the restorer, as one of the most significant instances of maintenance and time regulation, is part of this active interpretation of a problem.  The conditions for the preservation of a work must be negotiated, and superficially, this may come into conflict with the will of the artist.  But: if Franz Kafka had not known perfectly well that Max Brod would never destroy his works, he would not have handed them over with orders to burn them after his death besides, he could have done this himself without any problem if he had really wanted to.  The actual words spoken, and the truth behind those unspoken have nothing to do with this steadfast, if secret cooperation.  As a rule of thumb, therefore, expanded with due consideration, the following applies: art is not an invention of the artist.  The systematic relations, which lead to its production are too complex for this. It is perhaps sad that we live in a culture which is prepared to surrender almost anything to the prototype of artistic will, but ultimately this is only a compensation for the fact that an increasingly small number of individuals have an increasingly reduced freedom to make decisions.

5. Future, Restoration, Diminishing Time

The time structure of restoration may be different or exactly the same as the duration of time which the artist grants his works: obvious examples of an art calculated for a limited time: Dieter Roth, Miriam Cahn, Fluxus.  Structurally and principally, the time structure of restoration may be seen as
directed against the time structure of artistic concepts, to the extent ethics and an awareness of a social task are assumed by restorers.  The artistic intention - and this is the scandal hoped for, or at least a sensual leap into conscious paradox - of decay and disappearance is structurally directed against the perenniality of the created artwork.  And this in the context of the only institution which ensures a future awareness of artistic concepts, that is, survival in history; without which assurance the negation of the promise of the perennial as an artistically actual, destructive and radical manifestation not only makes no sense, but would - above all - have no further reference for overall responses.  And this is infuriating.  For: the more strictly a work can be reduced to an idea, the more power to encroach on future time it is possible to grant to the articulation of this idea.  This is scarcely likely to succeed without using at least elements of materialisation.  Restorers and conservers are therefore guarantors of the authentic, coexisting with artists - the authentic is not the original, but whatever may be relevant to hand down, although there are no final criteria to decide upon this; each epoch has the right to a radical turn around of values, just as, with Nietzsche, everything which has come into being is entitled to die one day -, and not only the securers of a linear, homogeneous tradition, avoiding waste and decay.  Preservation is always the production of an actual form, the shaping of a present interpretation of the content, never simply a protection of its material and objective moments.  So maintenance - from the very beginning, indivisibly and unavoidably - is construction, which is always dependent upon external and contextual settings.  Restoration, in its aesthetic aspects in particular, is a constructive activity and moves - within a normative, legal field of tension. Just as there can be no absolute, private - that is, isolated from collective interests - ownership of art or works which are decisive for the continuance of the imaginary in a cultural society, in extremis the restorer must act against the declared wishes of the isolated artist subject when it is possible to prevent the disappearance of an idea paradigmatically articulated and created in the form of a sensually perceptible, exemplary work.  To put it bluntly: an artwork belongs neither to the artist who makes it, nor to the person who has acquired it - even if the latter in particular has repeatedly contributed to the survival of works.  An artwork, however, can only 'belong' - idealistically, that is, in terms of content - to that to which it is subject: to the logics of its ideal and formal context.  This insight into the functional logic of the imaginary is irrefutable, even if legal judgement may only greet it with a weary or amused smile.  Asked whether - in the name of civilisation - there are fixed, absolute normative instances of a worthiness for conservation of a physically identifiable object against the wishes of its author, I would answer with a clear yes, and I would negate the question whether the law of ownership is one-hundred percent valid. If the artistic will writes off works to transitoriness, then their utilisation demands a medium of articulation which survives the physical existence of the work in time - and that is, for example, any linguistic description of the work or, with certain limitations, every depiction of it - the durability of the work has been decisively separated from the intention of the author in any case.
In principle, therefore, the restorer is not a laterborn servant, but the present co-author of an authentic artwork.  His significance at least corresponds to the role of the producer and sound technician in the case of a musical work such as that by Glen Gould.  This has no authentic integrity true to the score and analogue, that is, in a congruency of the work and interpretation time played as an organic whole, which - passively recorded with a shift in time simply due to technical reproduction, was however reproduced identically with regard content.  In the case of Glen Gould, the 'takes' are exchanged regardless of the analogue demand for unity, and already at the spatial and temporal location of its original production include mounting and sound sampling in the authentic sound. If the instance of the artist's will is not the moving factor in restorer's decisions, the basis for its continuation, measuring of a work's life-span, then it is also true to say that the act of original creation in time cannot be the decisive factor in a definition of authenticity.  The legal, ethical and archivist's questions are obviously inseparably bound up with the philosophical here.  Two of these appear to me to be as paradoxical as they are decisive.

First: must everything be conserved which does not demand to be transitory in its concept, whereby the concept of coupling artistic creation with strict transitoriness cannot in itself be transitory - independent of whether such works will be forgotten some day, or will get lost? Naturally only ideas which are noted have the potential for cultural, that is durable presence.  Principally, however, their objective power of incorporation is not dependent on this.  Secondly: are there absolute, fixable normative instances which may decide - in the name of civilisation - on the worthiness for conservation of a physical object - whether in agreement with or against the declared or presumed wishes of the author? Fundamentally - that is, independent of the decisive causal and situative decisions in the individual case - only the following maxim is legitimate: restoration must always aim for the best possible and most durable conservation of a material, object, ensemble for a conceivable and realistic future.  This future begins with the conclusion of the restoration work.  This is true of all possible theoretically supported handling of the original material to be conserved. In fact, restoration is always an exemplification and not a representation, that is, it is a pars pro toto process.  Alt restoration is therefore a present day narration for the future the power of the narration 'art history' can be measured in it.  In the name of an aesthetic completion of history it presents a plea for the preservation, collection and arranging of essential embodiments of the Zeitgeist, and in this it has even included those trends of the avant-garde which disperse radically, which disappear, which leave the central stage, which aim to be absorbed into life.
The difference of qualities with respect to works passed on to the future emerges from the quantitative measuring of the life expectancy, that is, an actual attribution of time units in the modus of the future.  What may be different is the conditions for the calculation of the future; a speculative guarantee of its durability, trust in the linear nature of its sequence, the quasi natural perspective of reliable survival.  However, in an epoch of drastic diminishing of time, this represents the essential problem.  In terms of the logic of conservation, nothing in the previous problems is altered by video or any other non-digital media.
The decisive problem, that, on a global scale, we are using up the future faster and faster, putting it behind us, the fact that time as a whole is shrinking, is not a prospective problem limited to the handling of art.  However, the museum paradox is intensified by the obviously intended reduction in the life-span of many contemporary artworks; a trend which leads in general to the avoidance of the paradigms of eternalisation.  Art would thus become the intensified object of experience rather than of cognitively structurable experience, and the museum would become a stage in between temporalised and fleeting presences; one which could no longer meet the expectancies of representation of symbolically preserved times in the long term, and therefore no longer capable of following the logic of incorporations in chronological sequences and series.

However, the problem of archives and restoring is basically different in the digital field.  Here we can and must replicate identically, here the concept of the original no longer makes sense; in face of its subjection to the media the material is immune and variable, every use of the material and the archives extends rather that wears out, here the user is no longer the recipient or viewer, but the arranger, producer, director, engineer.  Everything which is objectified, including the artwork, becomes a half fabrication and a constantly alterable, constantly available raw material.  Every end product is also starting material, the end form and the raw material cannot be differentiated, either physically or ontologically.
This kind of future will certainly pose new questions, but it will not stop being future, and therefore passing time; as a unity of the linear and the discontinuous. If the future is to be shapeable from the restorer's perspective, then because ultimately the description of problems cannot be eliminated: the greater the store of artworks made actual which are not identical with tradition; for the traditional must also be set in scene from the present standpoint, is therefore the result of constructions, not their genetic or objective precondition - the more capable of handling the future, which will one day become the present, will be.  The materials and forms of whatever is necessary for this must develop along the lines of problem descriptions, not along the lines of existent collections.  This demand means that the preserver of cultural heritage is transformed into an operator of meaning; one what creates, retains, modifies or completely alters forms and conditions of reception.  He is analogue to the artist, without seeking to be an artist in the sense of an authentic originator, since the active, witnessing guarantee of the genuine is always mote complex that its generative and genetic affirmation.



Relevant Literature

Baxandal, Michael (1977) Die Wirklichkeit der Bilder.  Malerei und Erfahrung im Italien des 15. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt: Syndikatders. (1990): Ursachen der Bilder.  Über das historische Erklären von Kunst, Berlin: Reimer
Belting, Hans (1994) Kunstgeschichte am Ende, München: Beck
Blumenberg, Hans (1966) Die Legitimität der Neuzeit, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp
Bourdieu, Pierre u.a. (1981) Eine illegitime Kunst.  Die sozialen Gebrauchsweisen der Photographie,
Frankfurt: Suhrkamp
Bredekamp, Horst (1993) Antikensehnsucht und Maschinenglauben.  Die Geschichte der Kunstkammer und die Zukunft der Kunstgeschichte, Berlin: Wagenbach
Brock, Bazon (1990) Musealisierung - eine Form der experimentellen Geschichtsschreibung, in:
ders.: Die Re-Dekade.  Kunst und Kultur der 80er Jahre, München: Klinkhardt & Biermann, hier S. 215 ff
Genette, Gérard (1994) L'Oeuvre de l'Art. t. I Immanence et transcendence, Paris: Éditions du Seuil
Goodman, Nelson (1973) Sprachen der Kunst.  Ein Ansatz zu einer Symboltheorie Frankfurt: Suhrkamp
Grasskamp, Walter (1981) Museumsgründer und Museumsstürmer.  Zur Sozialgeschichte des Kunstmuseums, München: Beck
Großklaus, Götz (1995) Medien-Zeit, Medien-Raum.  Zum Wandel der raumzeitlichen Wahrnehmung in der Moderne, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp
Jeudy, Henri Pierre (1987) Die Welt als Museum, Berlin: Merve
Kaempfer, Wolfgang (1991) Die Zeit und die Uhren, Frankfurt: Inselders. (1994): Zeit des Menschen, Frankfurt: Insel
Kazdin, Andrew (1990) Glenn Gould - Ein Porträt, Zürich: Schweizer Verlagshaus
Malraux, André (1947) Le musée imaginaire, Genève: Skira
Wamke, Martin (I976) Bau und Überbau.  Soziologie der mittelalterlichen Architektur nach den Schriftquellen, Frankfurt: Syndikat

First published in: How durable is Video Art? Contributions to Preservation and Restauration of the Audiovisual Works of Art, Art Museum Wolfsburg, 1997

Translation: Lucinda Rennisonuctiviste ? Et que faire si la mise en scène des attitudes de l'artiste offre un plus grand intérêt que celle de l'art lui-même ? L'importance des œuvres d'art en tant que témoins historiques ne cesse de croître.  Mais l'art actuel, au-delà des œuvres d'art, est devenu un rituel