Taiwan

Testimonial of the 4th APTCCARN Meeting

The APTCCARN meeting proved to be an excellent opportunity for me to meet professionals working in the field of conservation in Southeast Asia. The atmosphere was warm, welcoming, enthusiastic and friendly. It was my aim and I very much enjoyed hearing about the specific challenges our profession is confronted with in tropical climates. As an emerging conservator who is focusing her work on European museum collections of Southeast Asian art and heritage, I feel obliged to reach out, come in contact and present myself and my research internationally. APTCCARN's key message and insight for me was, that conservators in Southeast Asia are evidently shifting from an object- to a community-based conservation approach. 

Kind greetings to you and again many thanks! 

Eva Christiane von Reumont

MA student at the University of Arts Bern   
Conservation of non-European Cultural Heritage
– Polychrome Paintings and Sculptures –

Recap of the 4th APTCCARN Meeting | Embracing Cultural Materials Conservation in the Tropics

Julia Brennan, Textile Conservator

Attracting 100 participants from ten countries, and a large contingent from Taiwan, the forum was an energetic, diverse, informative, and congenial gathering. APTCCARN is unique– it is low key and congenial, and attendees all get to know one another. After every talk there were questions and discussions! Younger conservators and people interested in conservation, felt welcome and part of the dialogue, and many wonderful coffee breaks and fun dinners and field trip outings arranged by the university. Talks were presented by established and emerging conservators being a supported environment for the sharing of ideas and the mentoring of the next generation of conservators and heritage professionals.

 Living up to its reputation this meeting brought together people who are concerned with preserving cultural heritage in hot sticky climates, and attendees bonded in shared efforts to deal with these particular circumstances. Whether from Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, or Thailand– everyone felt the common challenges of trying to preserve paintings, wood, drawings, textiles and metal with high humidity, insects and the monsoon weather patterns. Moreover, many work in circumstances that shape conservation daily work differently from colleagues in Europe or the USA. Much of APTCCARN’s attendees’ work is community oriented and driven; making decisions with elders, and clergy, and indigenous leaders, and small rural museum directors. The context, soil, climate, religion, language all shape the way conservation projects are directed, whether surveys or treatment. So, everyone joined in a spirit of mutual respect, recognising that the cultural context is paramount in daily work to successfully preserve the past for the future.

Leading the meeting was the local organising committee that included staff from Cheng Shiu University and the APTCCARN Organising Committee. Together they ensured everything ran smoothly, papers were kept to time, breaks were perfectly timed and visits and transfers well organised. Dr Ioseba Soraluze from the Conservation Center at Cheng Shiu University gave several papers along with his colleagues Tai Chun-shan and Lee Meng-ken. They also organised a fabulous paintings exhibition of Chen Cheng Po and the X-rays of his works, as well as made everyone feel welcome. A big congratulations to Ioseba and his colleagues from the Cheng Shiu Conservation Centre, who planned such an interesting and enjoyable conference, and worked so hard.  

New committee members have joined to work on the next APTCCARN meeting, slated for the Philippines. Diana Tay from Singapore is managing the website to include the program, attendees names and keep the momentum of this great forum going.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

  • Dr Rujaya Abhakorn, Director of SEAMEO SPAFA, BANGKOK, gave encouraging  welcome remarks and reminded us all that this forum has a growing base in SEA. A stalwart supporter of APTCCARN, Ajarn as we know him, gives this meeting a continuity that is vital.

  • A knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark performance-art lecture by Professor Hsiao Chong rui, about the famed Taiwanese artist Chen Cheng Po. Music pianissimo, and crescendo, photos of painting details, and life in 1920’s Shanghai and Tokyo, an oratory and dramatic piece that drew the audience into the brush stroke and colour, and tragedy and triumph of this romantic painter – even with the minimal translation (she did a great job for someone on the job for 90 minutes!) we could feel the seduction of his words. Spectacular key note.

  • “Looking Through the Xray” - The Chen Cheng Po exhibit of paintings, coupled with X-rays revealing the artists’ change of mind, re use of canvas, concealing of a nude or two, thrift and love of painting was the ‘cherry on the cake’. Exquisite small canvases, many of them nudes that rival Chagall, Cezanne, and express the artist’s local town of Chaiyi or Shanghai. Beautifully installed, leaving walking space to reflect and pause between paintings and our own revelations. This exhibit was the first I’ve ever seen anywhere, showing the juxtaposition of painting and X-ray, to reveal such clear artist’s working process. Here, the value of conservation analysis was put on view, paraded, with a clear value for everyone.

  • Really really good pastries at every break! Wow.Wonderful Cheng Shiu University students to help everyone and just hang and chat.

  • The BEST GRAND HOTEL ever. Wow. In itself, a historic 1950 example of political power and everything Chinese. Red lipstick like columns towering along the front of a sweeping roof palace. A lake, Olympic swimming pool, tennis courts and golf course, dining rooms and elegant chrysanthemum carpets, and hard wood floors that shone from 60 years of soft polishing. The conference dinner was a spectacle of local university, dance, acrobatics, massive jovial god characters, 8 course dinner, and of course our group photos! What a symbolic place to celebrate! 

Papers

  • A photo of a Catholic religious procession in the Philippines; women carrying a statue of Jesus, in the aftermath of typhoons and total loss of homes, family, food, and community. The faces personified the devotion, the sense of necessary protection and preservation that communities muster in the face of disaster. This photo is haunting. The story will continue and repeat sadly. But here is our wake up call. Triage. Co teaching. Sustainable solutions. Cross training. Community. As a community of skilled custodians and conservators, local emergency systems and models are being resolving themselves.

  • DISASTER AND FLOODING, MOULD AND SALTS- these ongoing repeated problems in Southeast Asia were a theme. It’s not the once in a century flood, but every year now. Our work as conservators, architects, teachers, is all intrinsically connected to climate change, global warming, massive industrialisation, de forestation, over fishing, corporate domination, government malaise…..Thai ministry of culture unable to conduct emergency work on multiple temples during seasonal flooding or massive tragic flooding in 2011. Salts and mould, peeling paint and murals, frustrated monk custodians, lack of budgets, lack of analysis or even sand bags, analysis too slow so drying and restoration is done without a collaborative forum. Ajarn Chiraporn Aranyanark’s several talks dovetailed with other colleagues from Thailand, with Dr Shin Maekawa from the Getty conservation Institute, with Dr Ana Labrador from the National Museum of the Phillipines. When disaster strikes, we pull together, but resources need to be rationalised and appropriately mobilised. How can we plan for what is now the ‘new normal’? 

  • PASSIVE CLIMATE –We have forgotten how clever, how climate sensitive our predecessors were, just 75 years ago. Human comfort, and massive urban development, have promoted air con, the model of the pan Asian hotel and office unit. A 24/7 model that works when the corporations are paying. But museums and collections over and over again shut themselves up into concrete blocks, with poorly designed AC HVAC systems with NO heating or humidification components. Electricity fails, no generators, the government sheds the power, the local director has to save money and switches off the power, and repeatedly– the perfect roller coaster of humidity swings of 20-30 degrees daily, which grow mould, mildew, millions of exotic spores, spiders, silver fish.

  • Arjan Chiraporn informed everyone of the enormous power and electric bills of various museums and collections in Bangkok, which still do not maintain a steady RH or temperature, and invite conservation disasters. In one case, a BKK based museum spends over $100,000 US per month on air conditioning. Cut off at night, as it is for the human comfort only. As Asian museums proliferate, thinking about long term environmental planning, sustainable architecture, protection of the collections, and training of a group of custodians who are connected to social media, colleagues in SEA, and talk about the way forward, trainings in more holistic collections management. Clearly, we all share a huge concern for the collections environment.

  • There were many papers from Chulalonkorn and Silpakorn Universities, as well as the National Discovery Centre and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok. Conservation research is growing in strength as the Thai researchers are building knowledge and building partnerships to solve their problems.

  • PRACTICALITY AND ALTERNATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGIES FOR HOT HUMID CLIMATES- Dr Shin Maekawa, co author with Michael Henry and Vincent Beltran, gave a very inspirational talk about the potential to change the architectural paradigm in hot sticky climates. What a ‘refreshing’ talk literally. Change the use of local data of RH and temperature to use historic averages, question the over design of museums and collection spaces, and utilise new models that employ heating and dehumidification to achieve more suitable local results. Shin proposed a workshop in alternative conservation strategies for hot and humid climates architecture and renovations of museums. More on this later as discussions take place.

  • The theme of alternative environmental strategies, was addressed by a French conservator, working with paintings and ‘colonial housing’ in Madagascar and Reunion. Sarah Davarinche came from France, because of the theme of preserving cultural materials in the tropics. While her thesis was focused on a painting, it was really about location, community, vernacular architecture, an openness to the local conditions and how to augment and utilise them. Here, she made a call to the old ‘colonial’ models of open architecture with air circulation, directional cross breezes, ventilated hallways, increased human intervention and care –– passive climate.

  • It was great to see so many of Singapore’s Heritage Conservation Centre HCC staff at APTCCARN! HCC announced the expansion of their analytical and research labs, with Hanna Szczepanowska, formerly of Smithsonian, as well as Miki Komatsu, Sylvia Haliman, Sarah Benson, and Cindy Lau. This expanded resource will hopefully collaborate with other SEA collections and solve some age-old questions.

  • Circling back to community, and the challenges when collections end up far from their sources or areas of production and use. Emily Keppel, of the University of Melbourne program, gave a fascinating talk. Handed a collection of 19th c Islamic manuscripts and books, her nascent investigation is sensitive, inquisitive, and modest. The underpinnings of cultural context, is evident here – her work to date is object based research, leading to action, and collaboration. 

  • COMMUNITY – Sophie Lewincamp set the tone on morning day 1 talking about working together with aboriginal communities in Australia, to conserve, analyse, and set a future course for their paintings. Her talk was a model for many, who need to actively listen and learn from the people we work with, whose heritage we are asked to advise about.

  • Other interesting talks included treatment comparisons of Taiwan paintings, drawings, railway tracings, books that all need to be archived, and often conserved. The examination of ‘Asian’ methods, those have historically been used to restore paper and painting, were compared and challenged with ‘western’ methods. Several conservators explored the use of alternative materials such as modern foam boards instead of wood panels; and the modification of backing boards for paintings and paper.

Originally published online 29 January, 2016

Welcome Messages from the 4th APTCCARN Meeting | Embracing Cultural Materials Conservation in the Tropics

From the Host Institution

Kung Jui-chang, President, Cheng Shiu University, Taiwan

The Conservation Center, Cheng Shiu University in Taiwan is pleased to host the 2015 4th APTCCARN Meeting in Taiwan. With a focus on Asia Pacific’s diverse climate, history and future, the meeting aims to embrace cultural materials conservation in the region, our experiences and the future. Issues such as developing a regional practice of cultural materials conservation within the needs, resources, communities and geographic place will be addressed. This is in light of recent extreme weather events, the current reality of the environment and sustainable practices and crosses the themes of:

  • The effect of tropical climates on cultural materials

  • Their unique degradation mechanisms

  • The environment and current realities of collections care

  • Standards and principles of conservation practice in tropical climates

  • The impact of Asia Pacific culture and geography on artists’ material choices, techniques and artists’ intentions

Cheng Shiu University is the professional polytechnic school in southern Taiwan. In 2005, we set up the Conservation Center managed by the Office of Arts and Culture, being engaged in the promotion of arts education and cultural heritage protection work. The Conservation Center integrates all the studies of conservation and restoration about national cultural heritage into the references, developing the professional investigation, with the result that the related departments enable to solve all kind of problems in the field of conservation and restoration of works of art.

The lack of proper concepts of conservation causes serious damages on art relics so that we keep "education" and "research" as faith to hold several conferences and exhibitions in relation to conservation and restoration. Through related seminars and activities we'd like to let people, no matter how young or old they are, experience and understand proper methods of conservation of each artwork and then spread the correct ideas that implement "Lifelong learning", "Anytime learning" and "Learning by chance".

The Center is willing to disseminate the right information about conservation and restoration and put up a bridge of mutual trust between collectors and art relics, and even use our profession for feedback on history and culture.

We would like to thank the major sponsor Chen Cheng-po Foundation. They have made a significant contribution to the development of cultural materials conservation in Taiwan and now internationally, with the support of APTCCARN. And other sponsors.

This meeting has been supported by staff of Cheng Shiu University, Taiwan and the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (University of Melbourne, Australia) under the auspices of APTCCARN (Asia Pacific Tropical Climate Conservation Art Network). We thank you for your commitment and support in ensuring this meeting is a success.

Cheng Shiu University welcomes participants to the 4th APTCCARN Meeting.

 

From the 4th APTCCARN Organising Committee

Dr Nicole Tse, Founding Member APTCCARN & The Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, The University of Melbourne

Dr Ana Labrador, Founding Member APTCCARN & Assistant Director, National Museum of the Philippines

Diana Tay, Paintings Conservator, Singapore

Welcome to the 4th APTCCARN Meeting in Taiwan at the Conservation Center, Cheng Shiu University. APTCCARN was inaugurated in 2009 at the Balai Seni Visual Negara (National Visual Art Gallery in Malaysia) and has since held meetings at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and Silpakorn University in Thailand. It was established in recognition of the need to support a geographically focussed practice of cultural materials conservation in the Asia Pacific and a maturing discipline. Over six years APTCCARN has built a community of practice from which approaches are emerging and revealing important information about the culture and conditions in the region. Our APTCCARN meetings provide a space for reflexive thinking to share conservation experiences and test new concepts or ideologies within the geographic focus of the Asia Pacific.

As the title alludes to, ‘Embracing Cultural Materials Conservation in the Tropics’, the 4th Meeting intends to highlight how we are actively and productively interacting with cultural heritage and whether commonalities exist among us. In reviewing past conservation approaches in the Asia Pacific region, underpinning many of them are Western notions of heritage. Institutions, communities and conservation practices have struggled with a tension between an object centred approach and scientific methods versus ones that are more value based and substantiated according to differences in institutional practices, development histories and each disciplinary leader’s foci. The very existence of APTCCARN recognises the need to develop regional approaches, however recent case studies and discussions have shown that they vary in complexity, resources and capacity. How this translates to principles or a regional discipline of cultural materials conservation are worthy of discussion at the 4th APTCCARN Meeting.

In saying this, a significant aspect of cultural materials conservation relates to the physical requirements of collections and their material stability. Agreeably the success of materials conservation is centrally focussed on stakeholder and community contexts of decision making, however an understanding of deterioration processes and object materiality are important. The knowledge of such matters does exist, as vested in people, objects and documents, however it has not been fully captured for an improved understanding of material stability in the tropics. These are other points for discussion.

The 4th APTCCARN Committee is very pleased that Conservation Center of Cheng Shiu University in Taiwan is hosting this event. Dr Ioseba Soraluze and the local organising committee have worked tirelessly over the past year to arrange the event details to its perfection. Hosting an international event like this takes a lot of commitment, attention to detail and we deeply thank them. We thank Dr Rujaya Abhakorn, Director of SEAMEO SPAFA, for his opening speech and engaging vision of cultural heritage in the region. Further thanks is extended to invited scholar, Prof. Hsiao Chong-rui of National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan in uncovering the materiality of Chen Cheng Po’s artistic practice. Lastly we thank the sponsors and particularly the Chen Cheng-po Cultural Foundation as a major sponsor. We hope you also enjoy the important exhibition on the artist’s work.

Thank you to all speakers, chairs and participants for attending the 4th APTCCARN Meeting on ‘Embracing Cultural Materials Conservation in the Tropics’.

 

Originally published online 25 November, 2015