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«GUIDE TO GOOD PRACTICE: ARTISTS’ INTERVIEWS Table of content Introduction. 1 1. Letter. 3 2. Questionnaire. 4 3. Phone call. 5 4. Working ...»

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I N C C A International Network for the Conservation of Contemorary Art



Table of content

Introduction …… 1

1. Letter …… 3

2. Questionnaire …… 4

3. Phone call …… 5

4. Working together with the artist …… 6

5. Face to face conversation …… 7

6. Brief or limited interview …… 8

7. Extended interview …… 10

8. The interview under great pressure …… 12

9. Other ways of interaction with the artist …… 13 The project is funded by the European Commission, Raphael Programme 1999 INCCA, P.O.Box 76709, 1070 KA, Amsterdam. Web address: http://www.incca.org Introduction The INCCA project aims to promote the conservation of modern and contemporary art by means of exchanging knowledge and information between professionals concerned with maintaining and exhibiting collections. As well as making existing information accessible, INCCA partners collect new information by interviewing artists.

The value of this primary source material is immense, addressing issues such as materials and techniques used, working processes, meaning of the art work, the artist’s view on aging and deterioration, conservation and presentation. Conservators and curators – art historians and interpreters – consider this information provided not only by the artist, but also by assistants, constructors and gallerists, as increasingly important in preserving modern and contemporary works of art.

INCCA partners developed ‘The Guide to Good Practice - Artists’ Interviews’. Eleven international institutions are involved in this European Union project, which is funded by the Raphael Programme 1999 and organised by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tate. In the course of 1999INCCA partners will establish a network for exchanging information and sharing their knowledge and experience in the field of artists’ interviews.

The web address of INCCA is: www.incca.org In INCCA’s first year conservators and curators conducted about fifty interviews. The evaluation of these interviews lead to the compilation of a ‘Guide to Good Practice’, which suggests and recommends different approaches to artists’ interviews. It does not prescribe how information should be gathered, but suggests which issues should be covered depending on the artist, their works and their use.

We will develop the guide as we continue to interview artists, etc; the process will continue indefinitely.

Yourexperiences will provide new insights and will contribute to improvements. Please contact us to share your knowledge.

Structure of the Guide ‘The Guide to Good Practice – Artists’ Interviews’ has a simple structure incorporating nine different

types of communication:

1) Letter

2) Questionnaire

3) Phone Call

4) Working together with the artist

5) Face to face conversation

6) Brief or limited interview

7) Extended interview

8) The interview under great pressure

9) Other ways of interaction Each section is organised in the same way, outlining the purpose of the method of communication, features, preparation, output (documentation of the information), tips (practical) and tips concerning content.

In this Guide the artist is mentioned as interviewee, however the guidelines also apply to interviews with assistants and others involved with the artist’s oeuvre.

General recommendations

INCCA partners suggest the following points for consideration as an introduction to the Guide:

- The relationship between interviewer and artist should always be oriented towards a nonauthoritative dialogue.

- It is the intention that with each approach to the artist a working relationship will be established.

Sometimes being a friend of the artist is advantageous, but too close a relationship might result in implicit ways of communication not necessarily understood by others.

- The difference between one-way communication (as in a letter or written questionnaire) and interactive communication (as in an interview or other ways of collaboration) will influence the quality of information gathered. It is suggested therefore that the interviewer considers the detail of information required before selecting the method of communication.

Direct communication with the artist (especially in the interview) requires the interviewer’s acquaintance with the artist’s work; accurate preparation is a safeguard for the quality of the information obtained.

The choice for an interviewer will be determined by various factors, but the positive value of interdisciplinary collaboration (e.g. between conservator and curator) should not be underestimated.

Interview skills are important, however acquaintance with the artist’s work and professional knowledge are in most cases decisive for the quality of the information obtained.

If available, training in interview techniques would be advisable for the professional before conducting a series of interviews.

It is strongly advised that all communication documents are annotated with the date, persons’ involved and location.

INCCA partners are developing Art Archives, which are accessible by means of a meta-database.

Descriptions of documents, such as documents resulting from communication with the artist, will be stored in this database in the format of the CIMI Dublin Core standard. To acquaint yourself with Dublin Core standards, you can access their web site at www.cimi.org/publications.html, or contact INCCA.

Recommended literature

- C. Weyer & G. Heydenreich, Documentation and registration of artists’ materials and techniques, Modern Art: Who Cares?, Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art/Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999, pp. 385-90.

- C. Macusi-Ungaro, Original intent: the artist’s voice, Modern Art: Who Cares?, Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art/Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999, pp. 392-93.

- Shelley Sturman, Necessary dialogue: the artist as partner in conservation, Modern Art: Who Cares?, Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art/Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999, pp. 393-96.

- E. Ganzert-Castrillo (Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt), Archiv für Technik und Arbeitsmaterialien zeitgenössischer Künstler, Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 1979, 1996.

- Joyce Hill Stoner, ‘Ascertaining the artist’s intent through discussion, documentation and careful observation’, The International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 1985 (4), pp.


- W. Stebler, ‘Technische Auskünfte vor Künstlern. Fragen zur Praktibilität und Brauchbarkeit von Künstlerinterviews durch Restauratoren und Kunsttechnologen in bezug auf die Probleme der Material Erhaltung in der Zeitgenössischen Kunst’, Maltechnik-Restauro, 1985 (1), pp. 19-35.

- M. Haller, Das Interview. Ein Handbuch für Journalisten, Ölschläger, München 1991

- ICN, Scenario for Artists’ Interviews, www.incca.org Methodology/Artists intent/Scenario for artists’ interviews

1. Letter purpose

- introduction, clarification of specific points, confirmation of entire content features

- one or a few specific questions

- written communication

- relatively short time investment for author of the letter and artist

- preparation: formulation of the problem

- output: letter and, if possible: annotations by author of the letter tips

- formulate accurate and short questions

- explain the reason for the communication

- state a date for an expected answer

- if the artist is known as a very busy person, a telephone call might be a better idea (although a letter has more documental value) tips concerning content

- a letter suits well-defined questions in the hope for informative answers

- in the introduction the author may want to explain and apologise in case of damage

- process or meaning related questions make high demands on the artist when he/she is expected to answer them in a letter; oral communication seems to be a better alternative (such as face to face conversation or interview)

2. Questionnaire purpose

- to ask highly specific questions about particular artistic approaches and types of objects features

- a list of well-defined questions

- written or oral, or a combination of both

- substantial time investment for the artist; moderate time investment for the interviewer (in case of a written and standardized questionnaire); substantial time investment for the interviewer (if oral and not standardized)

- reason: acquisition, conservation management, research

- preparation: in case of a written and standardized questionnaire: none; if oral: acquaintance with the works of the artists

- output: filled-in questionnaire and if possible: annotation by the interviewer


- in case of sending a questionnaire to the artist an introduction letter is indispensable (motivating the artist to send it back)

- in most cases a better option is to visit the artist personally (guaranteeing a filled-in questionnaire and possibly extra information)

- preparatory search for existing questionnaires is recommended as they might comply with your aims; the INCCA website provides questionnaires developed by partners

- when developing a new questionnaire a well-thought out structure and a clear formulation of the questions need extra attention

- it is impossible to conceive of a questionnaire that can elicit useful responses for all artists’ approaches and all types of work – one cannot expect the outcome to be definitive

- make questionnaires as rigorous as possible, minimising ‘any other information’ boxes

tips concerning content

- material/technical and conservation aspects lend themselves to a written questionnaire

- process or meaning related questions make high demands on the artist when he/she is expected to answer them in a questionnaire; oral communication seems to be a better alternative when deeper layers of information are involved as they allow for the complexity of the answers provided by the artist

3. Phone call1 purpose

- specific, immediate clarifications; timely immediate response

- a phone call gives the opportunity to communicate on all sorts of issues as it is a direct and interactive form of communication features

- one or few specific questions

- oral

- short time investment for interviewer and artist

- reason: urgent problem, e.g. with conservation or installation

- preparation: accurate wording of the problem

- output: notes by the interviewer and, if possible: annotations by the artist tips

- the artist may experience a phone call as an invasion of his/her privacy; to prevent a rejection to co-operate it might help to mention this in the introduction

- clarify the reason/motivation for your call

- ask accurate and short questions

- put the most important question first to be sure not to miss it (the artist might allow you only a few minutes)

- it is recommended to take notes during or shortly after the phone call

- consider sending these notes to the artist for corrections and comments

- if, for any reason, no notes are taken, do registrer a few things: who made the phone call, when was it and on which subjects (this will enable others to consult you instead of the artist in the future)

tips concerning content

- in case of damage of one of the artist’s works explain the origin of the problem and apologize to the artist

- there seems to be no problem with asking process or meaning related questions during a phone-call, although face-to-face conversation or interview - especially when in front of the art work(s) - seems to provide more of an opportunity for the artist to speak freely about these matters If a phone call is expanding towards an interview (accidentally or on purpose) guidelines as listed under Brief or Extended Interview may also be applicable

4. Working together with the artist purpose

- observing the artist working and during installations features

- improvised and coincidental questions

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