Living Matter/ La Materia Viva

The Preservation of Biological Materials Used in Contemporary Art/
Conservación de materiales orgánicos en el arte contemporáneo

June 3-4, 2019
MUAC and ENCRyM, Mexico City

Organized by

  • the Getty Conservation Institute,
  • the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC) of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma Mexico, 
  • ENCRyM (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía “Manuel del Castillo Negrete”) of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Countless artists from Marcel Duchamps, Dieter Roth, Andy Warhol, Piero Manzoni to Ed Ruscha, Anya Gallaccio, Teresa Margolles, Adrian Villar Rojas, Marta Palau and Damien Hirst have used biological materials (food, bodily fluids, plant material, etc.) in their art.

Because these materials are not only prone to rapid decay but often to putrefaction processes leading to complete disappearance, biological materials used in art pose very specific conservation problems.

Solutions to these problems can be of different natures, including: altering drastically the material’s behavior by embedding it in resin or inserting it in modified atmospheres—perhaps at the expense of some of the qualities of the work or periodically replacing parts or the whole of the work—but clear rules for the replacement have then to be established. In some cases, a work is meant to disappear, so the very act of preservation goes against the work’s intended nature. Yet another challenge is the display of these works in a museum environment might also present a preservation risk to other works of art in the same space.

As often is the case, there is no fit-for-all approach.

Living Matter/ La Materia Viva
 will discuss the broad implications and challenges (conceptual, ethical, and practical) associated with collecting, displaying, and preserving contemporary works that include biological materials. It will explore how the initial intention for the work might conflict with museum policies and the ways this might impact both the nature and lifespan of the work, present a range of possible solutions through case studies, and give an overview of current thinking and practices on this topic.

The two-day event includes invited keynote lectures and paper submissions as well as panel discussions, visits, and an accompanying exhibition. The symposium languages will be English and Spanish.

Detailed program and registration information will be available in January 2019.

Call for Abstract Submissions for Papers and Posters
Abstracts will be accepted in English and Spanish; however the symposium proceedings will be English language.

Papers dealing with philosophical and ethical considerations, historical perspectives, collaborations with artists and across disciplines, case studies, updates on research projects, documentation strategies, as well as papers presenting innovative solutions and approaches are welcomed.

Abstracts should include:

author’s name and affiliation, full title, 350 words summary, author contact details

Please submit abstracts to Deadline for submission: November 30, 2018.

For more information please contact:

(dal sito del Getty Conservation Institute)