The band name game: conservation edition


Another one fights the dust: Senior objects conservator Kerry Head installing Ernesto Neto’s Just like drops in time, nothing in Spacemakers and roomshakers in 2018

It all began a year or so ago when Asti Sherring, the Art Gallery of NSW’s conservator of time-based art (video, digital work, sound art), uttered the phrase ‘dead tech’ during a presentation.

‘Dead tech’, in this instance, is a term for electronic and mechanical componentry that has ceased to work or is no longer supported by external systems.

But clearly, ‘Dead Tech’ is also a great band name.

Our conservators, like pretty much everyone we know, love inventing names for fictitious bands. So, when the Gallery closed temporarily due to COVID-19, they went looking for more possible band names lying in wait in the conservation laboratory.

Now – in what we’re pretty confident to say is a world-first for music and conservation – we bring you ‘The band name game: conservation edition’.

And while the bands may be fictitious, this music-conservation crossover is not only a bit of fun; it’s (perhaps surprisingly) highly educational.

Inherent Obsolescence

An all-American rock supergroup formed in Nashville, Tennessee. While their first studio album, independently produced, dominated both the rock and country charts, the difficult second album has been postponed indefinitely due to infighting. The lead singer of IO was recently quoted as saying, ‘I lost faith in my bandmates and myself. Fame changed us, we stopped being a family’. Fans still hope for a reboot.

Art fact

Inherent obsolescence is a term used in conservation to describe the technology or equipment that forms a part of an artwork becoming outdated and/or no longer commercially used.


Testing projection monitors during the installation of Conrad Shawcross’s Pre-retroscope (marine) 2003 in Under the stars in 2020

The Repro-bates

If you haven’t heard this act perform at a North Shore wedding, then you probably weren’t invited to the wedding. Known for their mastery of the classics and decorative compositions, this cover band can bang out medieval numbers on the harpsichord or cut to a more modern timbre. They know how to get guests carving up the dance floor. Look out for the matching gold jackets.

Art fact

The Gallery is one of the few institutions in Australia that has a dedicated reproduction frame-maker, Tom Langlands, who works closely with curatorial and conservation staff to design and construct accurate reproductions of historical frames for artworks in the collection. The namesake of this band, The Repro-bates, draws on the term ‘rebate’, which refers to the recess groove that an artwork sits in within the frame.


Tom Langlands working on a Lawrence Cetta-style frame for one of the Joseph Backler portraits in the Gallery’s collection

The Split Battens

Widely known for sharp, hard-edge sounds that ‘lift’ spirits, and for a humble attitude that has kept them from the limelight, The Split Battens are viewed by the industry as a reliable ‘support act’.

Art fact

A split batten is a two-part, self-mating fixing device (seen below on the back of a large painting) used to mount artworks on walls.


Conservation technician Melissa Harvey overseeing the movement of an artwork in the Gallery


De-ionIZE is a best-friend trio originating from Mount Franklin, Victoria. Committed to filtering out the noise with their clean fresh takes on acoustic classics, De-ionIZE have said, ‘We’re after something simple and elemental that reveals what really matters’.

Art fact

Deionised water is a form of purified water used in conservation for cleaning.


A Toulouse Lautrec poster being washed in deionised water in the Gallery’s conservation laboratory

Paranoid B-72s

They say that this all-girl band has big hair to hide even bigger secrets. Well, they have had a role in many an international scandal… At the height of their fame in the 1990s, this group could do it all. Transparent and versatile, the band members were famous for their composure during interviews, smoothing over even the harshest critics.

Art fact

Paraloid B-72 is a registered trademark for a clear, colourless, thermoplastic acrylic resin that is widely used as a coating, consolidant, varnish and adhesive by conservators.


Head of paintings conservation Paula Dredge undertaking a consolidation treatment under microscopy

Minimal Intervention

A slacker/shoegaze band, known for their apathy and general disregard for audiences, media or anything at all. In 2008, the band’s bass player stated, ‘I hate the production process, I make music that I want to listen to, that means something to me. The record company doesn’t own our sound’. He has since been replaced.

Art fact

Minimal intervention is the conservation principle of intervening as little as possible with an object, and only when necessary.


Paper conservator Analiese Tracey and senior librarian Claire Eggleston installing archival material in ARTEXPRESS 2020

The Ultra Violets

This group aim to ‘excite’ and ‘ignite’ their audiences. Their new album Spectrum covers a variety of music styles from cool blue beats to red hot hits! Enjoy it while you can – rumour has it that front-man Roy G Biv, who shines like Freddie Mercury when he’s on stage, was thinking about a solo act after having a blue with the other band members.

Art fact

Ultra-violet light is used by conservators to identify materials with unique fluorescent qualities.


A detail of Ebenezer Wake Cook’s Last days of the Campanile, St Mark’s, Venice c1902 under UV light, with the zinc white pigment fluorescing a bright lemon-yellow colour

The Flakes

This on-again-off-again rock’n’roll couple are known more for interpersonal dramas than innovative tunes. Luckily, the addition of a new drummer in 2019 has consolidated cracks in their relationship and The Flakes are due to set out on a regional tour later this year. Let’s hope they stick together!

Art fact

‘Flaking’ is a sign of deterioration in artworks, where surface layers such as paint, varnish or gilding begin to detach from lower layers of material. Flaking is typically treated by consolidating the loose material with a conservation-grade adhesive.


Paintings conservator Simon Ives inspecting an artwork for potential changes during the installation of Quilty in 2019

Planar Distortion

Known for their rollercoaster style, with hit songs including ‘Cockling’ and the reliable crowd-pleaser ‘Wrinkles, puckers and ripples’, Planar Distortion is a band that you must see live! ‘Sometimes our style is rough, but these kinks just add another level to our musical journey. We just want to evolve, for better or worse.’

Art fact

Planar distortion is what happens when a flat two-dimensional artwork develops cockling, curling, folds, wrinkles or creases.


Asian art conservator Lily Yang unrolling Hiroharu Itaya’s Night procession of the one hundred demons (Hyakki yagyō) c1860 for Japan supernatural in 2019

The Scissor Lifts

These former window-cleaning brothers have just announced their tour of the industrial precincts of Australia, performing socially distanced, experimental heavy metal in abandoned warehouses. Their cutting-edge sound combines jack hammers with the dystopian beep of reversing machinery, bringing a whole new meaning to Miley Cyrus’s lyric, ‘I came in like a wrecking ball’. The Scissor Lifts refuse to advertise tour dates – but don’t worry, you’ll know when they’re performing near you. WHS-approved hearing protection recommended.

Art fact

Scissor lifts are commonly used around the Gallery. Conservators and art installers frequently use them to dust the framed paintings in the Grand Courts, or to install large sculptural pieces and works hung or suspended at height.


Conservation and installation staff installing Nike Savvas’s Atomic: full of love, full of wonder 2005 for Spacemakers and roomshakers in 2018

The Consolidants

This band has been making reliable, pub-rock anthems for more than 20 years. While The Consolidants experienced their fair share of trouble in their youth, nowadays this ‘old man’ rock band find themselves enjoying a more stable existence, choosing to mentor the next generation rather than fall apart through repetitive friction.

Art fact

Consolidants are mixtures or substances applied to friable (crumbly) media to stabilise them.


Objects conservator Melanie Barrett installing the Koj Ryui’s TOT 2018–19 for The National 2019

Gilded Sistas

An Aussie/Polish collaboration, the Gilded Sistas make music that is bold, brassy and richly embellished with multi-layered sounds. Their recent album Lasers was a chart topper that went ‘gold and then ‘platinum’.

Art fact

Gilding is the technique of applying a very thin layer of metal leaf to a surface, such as a frame. In 1988, the Gallery employed its first frames conservator, the first role of this kind in a state gallery in Australia. Our first two frames conservators, Dr Malgorzata Sawicki and Basia Dabrowa, continue to work at the Gallery today.


Real-life Gilded Sistas (left to right): head of frames conservation Dr Malgorzata Sawicki, senior frames conservator Basia Dabrowa and frame conservator Sandra Margaret Hodgen working on the frame for WC Piguenit’s The flood in the Darling 1890 1895


An experimental collective known for collaborations, most recently with Roy G Biv of the Ultra Violets and the infamous Scissor Lifts. Say bye bye bye to boring beats. This musical phenom unites the smartest session players to bring you the sounds of science!

Art fact

The Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne is a particle accelerator the size of a football field that is used for cutting-edge scientific research. The Gallery has collaborated with synchrotron researchers on several studies to investigate the materials used by artists.

Researchers from the Australian Synchrotron undertake XRF analysis on a 16th-century portrait of King Henry VIII in the Gallery’s collection

Dead Tech

A solo female artist whose broken electronica crosses traditional boundaries. Tracks of special note are ‘It’s about time’ and ‘Virtual reality’, which were recorded using ‘real instruments’ and thus marked a departure from the hard-driving synth compositions of her first album, Storage exceeded.

Art fact

The Gallery was the first art museum in Australia to employ a dedicated time-based art conservator, in 2018. Time-based art conservation is an emerging branch of conservation that addresses artworks that have a ‘duration’ and often depend on technology.


Time-based art conservator Asti Sherring assessing the audio component of Pilar Mata Dupont’s Shuffle 2017–18 in The National 2019

The Agar Agar Dolls

Impossible to talk about this band without mentioning their hit single ‘Jell-O’. It’s not that they didn’t make other great songs. This one just (sorry, one last pun) stuck in the mind.

Art fact

Agar is derived from seaweed and forms a rigid gel when prepared in water. In art conservation, gels made from agar and its purified form agarose are often used in cleaning treatments. The gel is applied as a sheet or small plug and acts like a poultice when placed onto the artefact surface, drawing impurities out. The gel has the appearance of a translucent worm when applied to the surface of an object, slowly turning yellow as it absorbs dirt and particulates – for this reason, it does not photograph well. So instead we will share an image of paper conservator Sarah Bunn and a team of volunteers organising 3000 books, which make up the work Chinese Bible by Yang Zichao. Rust never sleeps, and neither does the work of conservation!


Paper conservator Sarah Bunn (foreground right) and volunteers lay out the books that comprise Yang Zichao’s Chinese Bible 2009