Eggshells, flowers, onion peels, sponge cake, dried bread, breast milk – these are just a few of the biological materials that some contemporary artists have used to make art. But how can works made from such perishable ingredients be preserved? And what ethical and conceptual dilemmas might be posed by doing so? Because they are prone to rapid decay, even complete disappearance, biological materials used in art pose a range of unique conservation challenges. This groundbreaking book probes the moral and practical challenges associated with displaying, collecting, and preserving these unique works of art. Theoretical considerations are complemented by a range of specific case studies, thereby affording a comprehensive and richly detailed overview of current thinking and practices on this topic. With contributions by conservators, scholars, curators, and artists, Living Matter is the first publication to address broadly these provocative issues, exploring the role of biological materials in the creative process and presenting a wide variety of possible approaches to their preservation.
Rachel Rivenc is head of conservation and preservation at the Getty Research Institute. Kendra Roth is the conservator responsible for sculpture and decorative arts in the department of modern and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.