In the artist’s absence, the conservation of installation art has come to rely on instructions or other forms of documentation which all play a fundamental role in the processes of acquisition and activation. Drawing on the relationship between theoretical documentation models and collecting institution practice, this article focusses on the process of ‘doing artworks’ and examines the posthumous acquisition and activation of the installation Hiding/Unhiding (1978) by Ana Vieira (1940–2016) in a museum context. By highlighting these processes, the article aims to articulate how open-ended documentation methodologies diverge from museum practices that otherwise tend to stabilise complex artworks by using more prescriptive forms of documentation. In comparing these practices, we question the impact of documentation on the future preservation and trajectory of these ‘unruly objects’, particularly in the artist’s absence.
- Ana Vieira