The Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation is a not-for-profit organisation, founded in 2009 in Madrid. It works alongside its sister company, Factum Arte: a multi-disciplinary workshop in Madrid dedicated to digital mediation in contemporary art and the production of facsimiles. The Foundation was established to demonstrate the importance of documenting, monitoring, studying, recreating and disseminating the world’s cultural heritage through the rigorous development of high-resolution recording and re-materialization techniques. The Foundation’s activities include but are not limited to: building digital archives for preservation and further study, creating and organising touring exhibitions of the Foundation´s work, setting up training centres for locals to learn the different technologies developed by the Foundation to record their own cultural heritage, and producing exact facsimiles as part of a new approach to conservation and restoration.
Iconoclastic destruction, mass tourism, war, natural disasters, imperfect restoration and commercial exploitation all pose serious threat to the preservation of many great works of art and culture. The conservation and preservation communities have realized the importance of high-resolution digital recording and this data is starting to be integrated into professional protocols and the discourse surrounding preservation. Central to this shift of attitude is a fundamental reappraisal of the cardinal role facsimiles can acquire when installed in their original location, or even when displaced and presented afresh in touring exhibitions. Facsimiles evidence the quality of the data retrievable through high-resolution recording. They are useful tools both to monitor the changes the original objects undergo throughout its existence and to raise awareness amongst the growing number of visitors that the preservation of the past is a delicate and difficult act. It is necessary to investigate an object’s historical and physical composition in order to develop better ways to protect it.
The Foundation promotes access to the public while developing new methods of display that lead to a deeper and more intimate understanding of our relationship to the materiality of things and the dynamic nature of their ‘originality’. The Foundation is committed to a policy of open access for study and conservation purposes while helping the custodians of our heritage generate revenues to preserve and protect the works in their care.
This work is not limited to parts of the world where the application of technology may be taken for granted; the Foundation is focused on sites where the preservation of cultural heritage is most needed - whether in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, in Europe’s churches and cathedrals or in some of the world's greatest museums and collections.
The primary objective of the Factum Foundation is to ensure that future generations can inherit the past in a condition in which it can be studied in depth and emotionally engaged with. We endeavor to create a living archive of a growing collection of all the wonders that we have inherited so that future generations - whose attitudes towards cultural heritage may, of course, be very different and who will certainly develop technologies well in advance of ours - will have a resource that we bequeath to them of raw, clean and un-manipulated data.
To succeed in these aims the Foundation needs to raise funds from committed supporters. Please visit the Giving page for more information.
"The projects of the Factum Foundation involve some of the most urgent and exciting developments in contemporary cultural heritage. Digital artisans and their collaborative skills are so impressive that it’s easy to imagine that objects’ conservation and reproduction simply leave things just as they are, unchanged and immortal. But the enterprise of documentation through advanced digital recording has the power entirely to transform the worlds of material culture and alter the forms of memory and artistry they sustain. The challenges of these new kinds of digital objects and cultural memories must be collectively understood and productively directed. Wounded artifacts may sometimes need heroic surgery, but they always need nursing, forms of artful care that sustain objects’ lives and maintain their vivacity. This is why the Factum Foundation needs every support in its plans to encourage state of the art digital curatorship, and to use this curatorship to help transform the arts of the cultural state." - Simon Schaffer, Professor of History and the Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge & author/presenter of Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams, a BBC documentary.
"Because it connects the most advanced technology with the deepest care for the materiality, history and intricacies of works of art, Factum Arte occupies now a central place at the crossroads of all the issues concerning the restoration, conservation and politics of treasures spread in many different countries. What the Factum Arte team has managed to assemble allows for a set of skills impossible to find anywhere else to not only probe deeply into works so as to reproduce them, but also, to produce new works of art. Or rather, it has given to the words ‘reproduce’ and ‘facsimile’ a completely new sense and direction that has become synonymous with creation and innovation." - Bruno Latour, Sociologist of Science and anthropologist, Professor at Sciences Po, Paris & recipient of the Holberg Prize in 2013.
"Ces magiciens du numérique sont aussi des érudits et des pédagogues des arts anciens. Ils opéraient jusqu’ici en ordre dispersé." - Marc Fumaroli, Académie Française and Académie des Inscriptions, Emeritus Professor of Rhetoric and Society in Europe, Collège de France, recipient of the Balzac Prize 2001.
"La muestra que se exhibe ahora en Madrid, en CaixaForum, “Las artes de Piranesi, arquitecto, grabador, anticuario, vedutista y diseñador”, es extraordinaria. Tiene, entre otros, el mérito de mostrar buen número de los objetos que Piranesi concibió y diseñó pero nunca llegó a ver materializados, pues eran demasiado excéntricos e insólitos para el gusto de sus contemporáneos. Los ha producido, con escrupulosa fidelidad y utilizando la tecnología más avanzada, el laboratorio madrileño Factum Arte que dirige Adam Lowe. Esos candelabros, trípodes, sillas, chimeneas, adornos, apliques, jarrones en los que Piranesi dio rienda suelta a su desbocada fantasía y su amor por las civilizaciones del pasado – Roma, Egipto, los etruscos – fascinan casi tanto como las invenciones carcelarias que lo han hecho famoso o las Vistas de esa Roma de los siglos grandiosos que él creyó documentar en sus grabados cuando en realidad la rehacía e inventaba." - Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize winner in Literature 2010.
"At a time when control over big data is one of the most vital issues we face, Factum Arte is a leader in its field, providing cutting-edge technology and an ethical approach to conservation and artistic practice that offers international best practice for anyone working in the arts and humanities. Their remarkable fusion of art, science and digital technology has created unsurpassed methods of 3D scanning and printing that is transforming our understanding of originals and facsimiles. From the surface of an Old Master painting, to the recreation of Egyptian tombs and previously unrealised designs by Piranesi, Factum Arte leads the way in understanding how we can retain the integrity of the cultural heritage of the past, and preserve it for the future." - Jerry Brotton, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary’s, University of London. Author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps.
"The gift of the facsimile is a metaphor for the relationship between Europe and Egypt - the skills and technology that have been developed in Europe to create the facsimile are going to be transferred to Egypt where the local workers will be trained and those very skills and technology will become Egyptian" - Baroness Ashton, EU High Representative on the occasion of giving the facsimile of the Tomb of Tutankhamun to Egypt; November 14th 2012, Cairo.
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