Preservation, Conservation - Essential Documentation When Working With Alternative or Unproven Materials
Photographic documentation (including video and film) can be especially important when working with alternative or unproven materials. While the temporal nature of the materials may be a critical characteristic that makes the work interesting, the documentation may be the only aspect that survives for posterity. A photo clearly establishes exactly how the artist visualized the work, fresh - before it ages, degrades, or disappears.
For example, Andy Goldsworthy frequently works with seasonal materials like leaves, ice, or twigs. While the work of Andy Goldsworthy may be an extreme example of temporal materials, it demonstrates the importance of documenting your work. If you haven't seen the movie "Rivers and Tides" (affiliate link) I highly recommend it! It is my favorite artist video of all time.
Andy Goldsworthy's work is a superb realization for making art from alternative materials and still creating a market for the work. Goldsworthy actually makes a living selling the photographic images in books, calendars, etc. The marketing of the photographs in print media even produces a lower-priced, democratic way for a larger audience to support and appreciate his work.
The use of alternative or ephemeral materials didn't stop Goldsworthy from making a living from his art. As an artist using alternative materials, you just might have to reconsider options other than storage in a box, hanging on the wall, or placing objects on a pedestal.
The realization of an idea is the ultimate expression of art. Documenting the work, one way or another, helps the artist earn a living through promotion to exhibitions, collectors, publishers, or other consumers. Often, the documentation of the experiment is just as important as the object lasting a lifetime or 20 lifetimes.
This post was updated on February 19, 2022, to provide current links.
Recycle Black Plastic is from the Recycled Collection. The series uses post-consumer plastic trash as a commentary about the impact of plastic on our environment.