As part of the maintenance plan you will have considered the long-term future of the work and this leads us to the consideration of the life of the piece.
Perhaps the work may have a pre-planned lifespan. In the case of a temporary work this may be a matter of days weeks or months. In some cases, perhaps an installation or electronic media piece there may be good reasons to review the condition or continued relevance of the work at a predetermined point, perhaps a few years in the future when you may decide to maintain for a further period or decommission.
Even if the work is intended to be ‘permanent’ i.e. it does not have a predetermined lifespan it is still important to think about what changes might occur in the future.
- Does the building or site in which the work is located have a predetermined lifespan, shorter or longer than that of the work?
- What if the work deteriorates through damage, either deliberate or accidental or as a result of aging badly or reacting to its environment in an unexpected way?
- What if ownership of the site changes hands and the new owner has no interest in the work?
- If the work is to be removed, will it go back to the artist, be relocated, destroyed, recycled or disposed of in some other way.
Work that is seen to suffer from neglect potentially damages the credibility of both the artist and commissioner and can generate bad feeling in a community and lack of confidence in the process. So it is important to have a plan to deal with any significant changes in the condition or context of the work which will enable action to be taken in good time.
For ‘permanent’ pieces it is also important to ensure that responsibility for maintenance and decommissioning is future-proof by being embedded in a particular job remit so that there is no uncertainty when individuals move on.
As with most elements of the commissioning process, the key to a good decommissioning plan is good communication and thinking well ahead to ensure that all those involved understand the issues and responsibilities so that there are no unpleasant surprises.