|AIC members from all specialty groups are invited to attend and participate in the event “A failure shared is not a failure: learning from our mistakes,” happening on Saturday, June 2nd, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — click here to add it to your Sched. We will gather and share our cautionary tales, including treatment errors, mishaps, and accidents, with the idea of helping our colleagues not to repeat them.
Discussing mistakes is a hot topic that has already been embraced by others in our community. Two examples of events scheduled during the month of May are: “Mistakes were made,” a regular feature at the American Alliance of Museums conference, and the lecture “Conservation Confidential” hosted by our conservation colleagues across the pond in the Independent Paper Conservators’ Group.
Participants can speak for up to 5 minutes; if you prefer to remain anonymous, a reader will be happy to present your tale on your behalf. If you are unable to attend AIC’s Annual Meeting but would like to submit a tale to be read by one of our organizers or a colleague, please reach out.
Screens to project PowerPoint slides containing your images/video will be available (16:9 format), and a Dropbox folder will be made available for submissions. Please also bring your presentation on a USB Drive (highly encouraged). Time permitting, audience members inspired by their colleagues will be welcome to present. If appropriate (and acceptable to the speaker), the floor will be opened for questions and discussion following presentations. Extra points for suggesting safeguards and solutions!
Please note that this is a forum for sharing personal mistakes and solutions only. Participants are requested not to name other persons, organizations, work places, and avoid politics—institutional, national, and global!
The event will include a cash bar, so come, relax, unwind, share, laugh, groan, and learn. We plan to publish the event for those who wish to be included.
If you are interested in participating or have questions about the event, please contact Tony Sigel at email@example.com or by calling 617-767-1900 (cell), or Rebecca Gridley at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 10th.
Please include 2-3 quick sentences introducing your topic and indicate whether you plan to use a PowerPoint with images and/or video.
See you in Houston!
Warning: I am a paper conservator who knows her way around a computer, but that doesn’t mean I totally get all of this. We’re starting to consider doing work like this at my home institution, so I thought I’d better see what it was all about. Luckily, there are a lot of pictures of slides, and it was presented in such a way that I just saw it as another case of documentation of an artifact – it just happens to have many moving parts (literally). Oh. And I apologize in advance for the photobombing microphone stand in the slides.
The basic summary is that the Tate collaborated with Klaus Rechert from Freiburg University to develop a workflow, and created a report describing a framework for the use of emulation for preservation of artworks. This was made possible by PERICLES, a European funded project which focuses on evaluating and representing the risks for long-term digital conservation of digital resources. As part of that collaboration we then tested that approach in a workshop with the participation of Dragan Espenschied of Rhizome on works from the Tate’s collection. One of those artworks was “Subtitled Public” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (T12565).
The emulation challenge with “Subtitled Public” (2005) was that it involved electronic and live components in addition to the operation of cameras. Good news is this is one artwork that was deeply documented, so it was a good test case for developing a workflow. Below is the extent of the documentation (BTW the computers were Mac Minis):
Selecting Preservation Strategies: These are the Essential Steps, which are complimentary:
Note on artwork’s significant properties: one of the elements of the artwork is projecting words on people. The entire artwork would need to be reinstalled in order to compare completely and properly.
Note on resources, sustainability, and application: how many artworks can you support? You need to think about the collection as a whole; resources, sustainability, and application for the long term.
Defining boundaries will help you identify commonalities among artworks, which can help with prioritization and creating systems that will work for multiple artworks.
In the emulation environment, you have the artwork itself as a digital artifact. This does not change over time and can one of any huge number of different objects. The computer system are a rather small number of different hardware environments, but they require constant replacement.
In between is the most interesting work to approach the problem: keeping the operating system monitored and functional. If the OS is interfering with artwork directly, monitor and maintain technical interfaces (OS and CS – hardware environment).
So why do it this way? Scalability!
Making emulation approachable is the ultimate goal.
- Image disk and normalize it. Make it work in an emulator. Unify hardware configuration. Disk controller issues may appear if moved to different emulator.
- Generalize disk image otherwise you’ll get the blue screen of death. Goals: All images share the same technological risks.
- Yay! It works! Changed a layer on top to original image to get it to work, but the original image was untouched.
EaaS: automate image ingest of disk image. Select matching machine template. Automatic check of hardware configuration of operating system.
The proposed workflow is reversible and recyclable. One can try different ways and every revision can be forked.
The operating and computer systems are not specific to the work itself. Emulation can be considered since the digital artifacts and the hardware are not tied to the artwork itself.
Unfortunately, the entire installation couldn’t be completed, so further testing needed for this artwork. But now they understand the process, and disk images are captured and archived.
Glenn Wharton, Clinical Associate Professor in Museum Studies at New York University, started the talk by the initial following challenge: how to organize and access the data created by time based media conservators during the treatment process of a contemporary artwork? Based on the MediaWiki platform, this project ended up dealing with larger issues met in time-based media conservation.
Conservators create a lot of documentation, in various formats (notes, videos, drawings, etc.) and one problem is how to organize this information and make it available within an institution. Also, as Wharton mentioned, at the New York University, teachers tend to help and encourage students to work and experiment with different programs.
The David Wojnarowicz Knowledge Base
Wharton followed by introducing David Wojnarowicz, an artist and activist who died of AIDS in 1992, who produced, among other materials, paintings, drawings, and videos. His archives left at NYU were the primary sources of information – a page of his journal was shown as an example. In order to complete these precious resources, the students interviewed several persons who worked with the artist, and a computer scientist did technical research on the tools he would have used.
As Wojnarowicz is getting more and more attention internationally today, people worry about how to preserve and exhibit his work. In that regard, the idea was to gather more information available for researchers, curators and conservators. One challenge was to document his “Magic Bow”, found under his bed and containing objects related to several of his artworks. The question here was how to report the very complex relationship between those elements and the actual artwork pieces using a searchable database.
The project goals and system requirements
Deena Engel, Clinical Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University, presented the goals to be reached by the future database. The idea was, along with conservator students, to think through the approach of the software development, in particular, how to capture the complex relationships between the different elements, with an easy to use interface, and a long term preservation of the data.
In order to select a suitable software, they established the requirements for the future database as follow:
- Be a support for a directed graph model;
- Support user authentication;
- Be an open source software:
- Require only standard maintenance;
- Support extensive discoverability for all;
- Have a clear navigation;
- Support controlled vocabularies.
In the lab: Software testing
The students used the data collected early to test different softwares – such as Omeka, Drupal, Plone, Collection Space and WordPress. After a lot of searches, they chose the MediaWiki, an open-source software with a strong user community, easy to use and configure, which supports text, image, audio and video medias, allowing for example to publish conservation reports and audio interviews, and filled their technical needs – In particular, they wanted the pages to be available on all types of supports (phones, tablets, etc.).
The content was organized in categories and subcategories; for example the category “Works on Paper” was subdivided in “Drawings”, “Prints”, “Stencils” and “Xeroxes”. The different pages related to each other are connected via hyperlinks; furthermore, the “what links here?” part allows to reach the pages that lead to the current page.
Launching of the database
A Beta Test Session was organized with the NYU students, conservators and archivists, were questions were asked, in particular about the user interface, the user experience and the scholarly goals that had to be reached.
On April 21, 2017, a Symposium about David Wojnariwicz’s work was organized at the Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University, were the database was presented and launched.
Though, the project is not over! This is an ongoing research, and anyone can contribute by sending pieces of information to: email@example.com.
For the future, the scholars at New York University are interested in working with museum professionals on similar projects, using MediaWiki again or other software – Deena Engel mentioned that she would prefer to experiment with other tools.
This presentation allowed to appreciate the common effort made by scholars, archivists and art historians, as well as computer scientists and curators, in order to make available qualitative information about a contemporary artist’s complex work, in an accessible and intelligent form. Glenn Wharton added that university was a great place for that kind of research, because of the possibility to get research grants, the available time and the deep interest and motivation of the students.
The David Wojnarowicz Knowledge Base: http://cs.nyu.edu/ArtistArchives/KnowledgeBase/index.php/Main_Page
Presentation of the Artist Archives project: http://nyuhumanities.org/the-artist-archives-project/
The Artist Archive Initiative: http://cs.nyu.edu/ArtistArchives/Initiative/
In the abstract for their paper, Ariel O’Connor, Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) objects conservator, and Dan Finn, SAAM media conservator, write that this presentation “aims to present a case study that is exemplary of the wide range of expertise that time-based media conservation can require, and the collaborative approach that it necessitates.” Their talk certainly demonstrates this, as it presents a myriad of challenges, from documentation tasks and working with living artists, to what to do when a massive cable failure occurs just minutes before the museum director is coming to see the work in action.
The paper discusses the kinetic sculpture titled “the willful marionette,” by Brooklyn-based artists Lilla LoCurto and Bill Outcault, and the piece incorporates sculpture (a 3-D printed, blue poly(lactic acid) biodegradable plastic marionette with strings made of fishing line), software (Puppet Master), and electronics. The custom software is designed to interact with its audience, responding in real time to recognizable human gestures with gestures of its own. Meet the artists and get a glimpse of the marionette, affectionately named Little Bill, in this short video.
O’Connor and Finn outline the documentation process they employ at SAAM, making us all realize how incredibly detail-oriented the documentation of time-based media works really needs to be. This includes a testing and acceptance report, an identity report, various iteration reports, documentation photographs, artist interviews, copious notes, and organization and storage of all files, such as the STL files that can be used to reprint the sculpture in the future, if need be.
The authors candidly recount stories about working with this exciting and challenging piece and getting it ready for the museum director to review. For instance, an issue with Little Bill not blinking properly was fixed by the good old “CTRL-ALT-DEL” method. But when the 80-lb. line that mainly held up the sculpture spontaneously snapped, they had to be resourceful and quick-on-their feet, looking to the facilities crew for the right tools needed to remedy the situation.
Future challenges for this work are similar to many time-based media works, including what will happen to the proprietary software that Little Bill is operated on, as well as storage considerations for the plastic sculpture itself.
- Application Deadline: February 1, 2017
This workshop is part of The Museum of Modern Art’s Media Conservation Initiative. This initiative seeks to advance new strategies for the field of time-based media art preservation and restoration. Rethinking the role of the conservator in the museum setting as well as the knowledge and skills that future media conservators should possess, a series of media conservation workshops and peer forums will address these serious challenges, explore best practices, and identify long-term approaches to the care and collection of time-based artworks.
Workshop Dates: May 2 – 5, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – participants are expected to attend the full program
Workshop Description: Does your institution have a collection of time-based media works in need of a long-term preservation plan? Are you uncertain where to get started? This four-day hands-on workshop will provide an in-depth overview of the processes and workflows which can be implemented at collections without dedicated time-based media conservators. Participants will leave with the knowledge and tools to design and execute action plans at their institutions.
Caring for time-based media collections is broadly acknowledged as a pan-institutional endeavor requiring direct involvement from curatorial, conservation, audio visual, IT, registrar and collection care staff. This will be reflected throughout the workshop curriculum as well as in the application itself which requires pairs of colleagues from the applying institution.
The 4-day workshop schedule includes:
May 2, Foundations
–Group session: collections and case studies
–Time-based media art: Part 1, a history of art production
–Practical session: Media format history
–Time-based media art: Part 2, a history of technology
–Conducting a media art collection survey
May 3, Acquiring Media Art
–Acquisition, step-by-step workflows and processes. This session will cover pre-acquisition, documentation, budgets, contracts, and rights, deliverables, registration, artist interviews/questionnaires, policies.
–Practical session: Acquisition, four case studies. This exercise will cover a broad range of challenges, including a range of media (analogue to born digital), legacy and dedicated equipment, fixed and variable parameters for installation.
May 4, Exhibition: Treatment and Decision Making
–Practical session: seeing and hearing demonstration of the effects of different display equipment and the material characteristics of film and video.
–Documentation critical to the preservation of media arts. The session will cover exhibition history, artist interviews, curatorial perspective, art historical context, assessment of media elements, and case studies.
–Practical session: preparing an artwork for exhibition 360 degrees.
May 5, Advocacy: Establishing institutional media conservation
–Practical session: Creating exhibition documentation and installation instructions for loaning media artworks.
–Building infrastructure in-house for safe handling. Support network of outside partners and vendors.
–Storing media artworks: physical, digital, and equipment storage, with approaches for small to large collections.
–Roundtable: growing media conservation practice within institutions. This will include advocacy for building capacity, priorities, external collaborators, policy and procedures.
–Growing media conservation practice within your institution: a dialogue with leaders in the field.
Eligibility: This workshop is open to pairs of applicants who are responsible for the care of a time-based media art collection. Applicant teams must include a curator and the person directly responsible for the care of the time-based media. This could be a conservator, audio visual technician, collection specialist or manager, etc. Priority will be given to those with significant collection needs, a critical need for staff training and demonstrable institutional desire to take action. Enrollment is limited to allow for a collaborative working environment. Participants will be required to conduct basic preparatory work prior to the workshop and provide feedback in the form of a report or survey after attending the workshop.
How to Apply: Applicants should each submit a CV, a joint letter of interest, fill out the online Collection Data Form and submit one letter of institutional support. The applicants’ letter of interest should:
1) describe why participation in this workshop is important to their collection;
2) provide a brief history of the collection;
3) describe the applicants’ work with the collection to date; and
4) show how this workshop directly applies to their day-to-day work. Prior institutional action, and experience with the topic or lack thereof should be noted as well as any relevant conferences or workshops attended on related topics.
Travel and lodging expenses may be reimbursed, based on need. Please submit a basic budget of anticipated travel costs as part of the application. There is no fee for this workshop; English will be the language of instruction. Applications should be submitted to Allison_Spangler@MoMA.org, no later than February 1, 2017, with notifications expected by March 3, 2017.
The Museum of Modern Art’s Media Conservation Initiative is made possible through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The National Park Service Museum Management Program is pleased announce the publication of TREASURED LANDSCAPES: National Park Service Art Collections Tell America’s Stories (book) and a companion virtual exhibit in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial, 1916–2016. Artworks from over 50 national parks are featured in the book and the exhibit.
Landscape art played a major role in the establishment of the National Park Service and inspired national leaders to protect and preserve these special places for all Americans. Stunning paintings, watercolors, sketches, and works on paper from National Park Service museum collections are seen together for the first time. They capture America’s treasured landscapes from Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Death Valley, to works displayed in the homes of such eminent Americans as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Laurence Rockefeller. Other works mirror American experiences, from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, to solitary Southwestern scenes, to wildlife in nature. These works of art convey a visual record of the Nation’s stories and reveal the remarkable diversity and engaging history of the National Park Service.
Book available through Eastern National eParks
National Park Service Virtual Exhibit
This presentation highlighted the risks to important collections that are located outside of traditional museum or library environments. Eyebeam, a non-profit multimedia art space was among the buildings inundated by flood waters in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood during Superstorm Sandy. Eyebeam is a collaborative workspace, rather than a museum with a “permanent collection,” but like many alternative arts spaces and contemporary art galleries with no “permanent collection,” Eyebeam maintains a collection of work created by former fellowship recipients (something that looks a lot like a permanent collection).
Just as many people in on the East Coast attempted to prepare for the storm, the art center’s staff had had underestimated the magnitude of Sandy’s storm surge, since the storm had been downgraded from the lowest level of hurricane strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The staff members had worked diligently to raise equipment off of the floors and to cover furniture and equipment with plastic sheeting. Unfortunately, three feet of water flooded the interior of the building, causing the loss of 1,500 media items and $250,000 worth of equipment. The presenter showed a video demonstrating the extent of damage to the media archive, contaminated with foul, polluted, flood water. Recovery primarily involved rinsing in clean water, but recovery required more than just the treatment process.
The presenter provided a convenient, numbered list of lessons learned:
Lesson 1. Know Your Context: Assess known risks and anticipate the worst-case scenario. Eyebeam was located near the water, but the staff members had not anticipated catastrophic damage affecting the entire region.
Lesson 2. Maintain Contacts with Local Responders: Assembling a network of contacts in advance of the disaster will greatly improve response time; plan a well-designed scalable system for working with responders
Lesson 3. Train ALL Staff for Recovery: You never know who will be available in an emergency; Be prepared to break all procedures into simple steps for training. The two biggest risks during recovery were dissociation (separation of related parts or separation of labels and other identifying markings) and mishandling (outside expertise in video preservation may be scarce).
Lesson 4. Label Everything: This makes it possible to reunite parts that were separated during recovery.
Lesson 5. Make Hard Decisions in Advance: Maintain records of collection salvage priorities, so resources will not be wasted on low-value materials.
Lesson 6. Know What Roles You Will Need: Do not allow people to multi-task; each person needs a clearly defined scope of responsibility.
Lesson 7. Keep Critical Supplies on Hand: Regional disasters cause shortages of supplies that might be plentiful at retail under normal circumstances.
Lesson 8. Adrenaline Wears off: Schedule breaks from work, and assign someone to provide food, water, etc.
Lesson 9. Integrate Preparedness into Institutional Culture
Lesson 10. Strive to Avoid Negative Press: Many anonymous critics on social media complained that Eyebeam should not have maintained an archive of analog videos or hard copies of digital content, that all of the content should have been duplicated on some cloud server not affected by the storm.
Since the disaster recovery, Eyebeam has relocated to Brooklyn.
This talk announced the completion of the latest phase of the Matters in Media Art project focusing on digital preservation and assessment of digital video, and marked the official re-launch of the project’s website, mattersinmediaart.org. The website is the product of a collaborative effort over many years by teams of staff members from Tate, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the New Art Trust. In this talk, Peter Oleksik and Martina Haidvogl, media conservators at MoMA and SFMOMA respectively, provided a background and history of the Matters in Media Art project and walked the audience through the new website.
The New Art Trust was founded in 1997 by Pamela and Richard Kramlich, pioneering collectors of media art. In 2003 they approached the three museums with some funds to gather the four institutions together to discuss emerging practices in the care of media art, and the “Matters in Media Art” project was born. The first phase focused on lending and was launched in 2005. The second phase launched in 2008 and focused on acquisitions, and the third phase began in 2011. The scope of the third phase was originally going to be sustaining digital art; however, this proved too broad, as it could have included all digital art (software-based art, web-based/net art, graphics, and more). The effort was instead fine-tuned to focus on digital preservation and assessment of digital video. The speakers explained that the length of the third phase exceeded the other two not only because the original scope was too broad, but because the field was evolving so rapidly that material they were creating ended up in a constant state of revision. To address this, the group made two decisions: first, to launch a new website encompassing all phases of the project at this AIC Annual Meeting (to provide a much-needed deadline), and second, to create a dynamic resource that could evolve with ongoing input from the wider conservation community. They felt that the project should be a resource for multiple audiences and provide a framework for ongoing collaboration, rather than represent a single perspective and a static endpoint.
The new Matters in Media Art website is hosted on Github, situating the content in an open-source environment where anyone can make suggestions for revisions and additions. The group felt that moving away from closed platforms and static white papers would enable these resources to stay current despite the dynamic pace of change in the field generally. The text of the website was written by teams at the partner institutions and collaboratively edited during bi-weekly virtual meetings. The design team created mock-ups and design tests, coordinated user trials, and solicited and consolidated pre-launch feedback from users within and outside the conservation community. All the work on the third phase was done as a volunteer staff effort with no grant or other project-specific funding.
The speakers then walked the audience through the site in real time. They explained that materials from the first two phases required only minimal updates. The teams worked to ensure there is no outdated information from the first two phases on the site. The new “Documentation” section includes cataloging, condition reports, and assessing digital video. The new section on “Sustaining Digital Art” describes how to store digital works successfully. This section is framed by a survey as a first step that guides the reader through the rest of the section, enabling the reader to develop a plan specific to their needs.
The new material speaks to all audiences: individual, collector, and institution. Some in the audience remarked that this made the recommendations less focused and the site text-heavy. The speakers agreed that it was ambitious and emphasized that the teams want, invite, and need feedback to make refinements and speak to multiple audiences even more effectively.
Contribution guidelines were recently finalized on the website and include ways for users to provide feedback via Github or in a simple online survey. The speakers urged the audience to visit the site and provide their opinions. The project was also announced with a flyer provided to all conference attendees, to encourage anyone dealing with media conservation at their institution to consult this valuable new resource.
Erik’s talk provided a survey of deterioration mechanisms and the evolution of corresponding treatment literature, as well as some novel approaches to condition assessment and treatment.
He opened with a discussion of “sticky shed” syndrome, in which a hydrolysis reaction in an environment with high RH causes the binder layer on magnetic tape to become unstable. During playback, this softened binder leaves a residue on the playback heads, which can damage the tape and clog the heads. While waveform monitors and vectorscopes can’t help diagnose this condition, a less common scope, tracking RF (the unmodulated RF signal put into waveform) can give a kind of “EKG” of the video signal. Erik showed normal vs. abnormal RF envelopes — the abnormal one indicates head-clogging due to sticky shed. This causes loss of signal and eventually complete loss of image. RF monitoring can help differentiate between sticky shed and other issues, such as a transfer done with an overstretched tape, poor head alignment, and deterioration due to tape wear. For instance, abrasive wear (such as that caused by a particulate scraped down the tape) can cause a ripple in the RF but looks very different on the scope from the abnormal RF envelope caused by sticky shed.
Erik also described the damage that could be caused by abrasive wear. He described various surface cleaning methods that can be employed to remove particles that could cause abrasive damage during playback. These include cleaning open-reel videotape by wrapping dusting paper around the playback heads; however, some tapes have a carbon black back-coating that is susceptible to sticky shed, so it is important to verify that neither the magnetic binder nor the back coating are compromised before cleaning. Other cleaning methods have included using isopropyl alcohol to clean the tape during playback, and using Pellon on both the oxide layer and carbon black back-coating to trap loose oxide particles, along with a vacuum to draw those particles away. Surface cleaning machines integrating these methods can be purchased off-the-shelf (such as Bow Systems 432 open-reel videotape cleaner for enterprise-level use). Alternatively, Erik showed a prototype for a cleaning machine that he is presently testing with Video Data Bank (VDB). It uses open-source circuitry (Arduino-based), approximately $1,200 in parts, and custom spindles. The design is available on GitHub: epiil open-cleaner.
Erik discussed the history of thinking on the baking of tapes exhibiting sticky shed. While this may temporarily restore binder integrity to enable transfer of the content, it does not cure the condition, and is controversial. Some maintain that baking damages the behavior of oxide particles, as well as the mechanical behavior of the pack, while others see it as necessary in order to rescue content from deteriorating sources.
In terms of condition assessment, several research projects are underway to advance scientific understanding of deterioration mechanisms. Among these is the University of South Carolina’s development of a non-invasive test for sticky shed using ATR-FTIR. Not only does this kind of scientific research enable the field to develop best practices based on data rather than anecdotal evidence, it also gives practitioners much-needed tools for non-invasive condition assessment. Presently, condition assessment is largely accomplished through observation of playback, which can cause damage before vulnerability can be ascertained.
Throughout the presentation, Erik shared resources to consult that show the evolution of approaches to condition assessment and treatment of magnetic tapes:
- Bharat Bhutan, “Mechanics and Reliability of Flexible Magnetic Media” Springer; 2nd edition (May 31, 2000)
- Walter Forsberg & Erik Piil, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out: Section 108(c) and Evaluating Deterioration in Commercially Produced VHS Collections” Annual Review of Cultural Heritage Informatics 2012-2013, Facet Publishing (July 2014)
- Tony Conrad, “Open Reel Videotape Restoration” The Independent, AIVF, Volume 10, Issue 8, Number 8 (1987) – describes what was a pioneering treatment at the time for sticky shed
- Charles Richardson, “The New “Non-Baking” Cure for Sticky Shed Tapes” ARSC Journal, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Fall 2013) – makes a case against baking; advocates for adoption of the cleaning machine developed by the author
Erik invited the audience to visit GitHub to follow the progress of his affordable, open-source open-reel videotape cleaner, and to contribute or comment. This is an exciting project that will make a quality cleaning machine feasible for institutions on limited budgets. The novel use of the tracking RF scope and the look at historic as well as contemporary treatment literature for videotape conservation were two other highlights of this talk.
With new media, traditional exhibition and conservation practices are constantly challenged. Eddy Colloton, MA student, Moving Image Archiving and Preservation at NYU, addressed such relationship in his talk Re-Constructions: Preserving the Video Installations of Buky Schwartz. This artist uses electronic media to explore the physical space and the relationship created with its viewers. As the presenter states, Buky Schwartz “focuses on the nature of perspective and perception.”
Indeed, amongst his work, many allow interaction between the physical space and a virtual representation of the totality of the piece. The viewers may become a part of the work and create a relationship that feeds the assistance of the electronic components. As Three angles, 1986, where viewers may enter the maze and use the assistance of the monitors to find the exit of the installation. In the original exhibition, CRT monitors were used. In a later iteration, they were replaced with flat screens and was presented in a smaller space. Schwartz’s work offers flexibility in its representation in accordance that perspective is not loss and the original intent is respected.
Physical and virtual spaces are dependant since they offer a complete perspective when combined. Eddy Colloton explains that to fully understand the works, they must be exhibited. Unlike more traditional mediums, whether in storage or in their exhibition area, they remain physically the same (or so we strive to achieve such state). Buky Schwartz constructs works that are comprehensive with the electronic component like the exhibit Painted projection, 1977 and work Yellow triangles, 1992. Other examples of such relationship: Spring 1981 and Fall 1981, from the same year also follow the idea that they must be exhibited to be experienced.
The challenge with exhibition of new media work is the inevitable iteration at every exhibition. As Colloton explains, perception was important for this artist and he made sure to document his thought process and artistic decisions. A reference to Pip Laurenson’s concept of score is crucial for the preservation of new media work. It gives indications on how to present and interpret the work and allow viewers to experience it. It gives guidelines for the curator and conservator at each new exhibition, it is an iteration of the original/first presentation of the work.
As it commonly occurs for living new media artists, Schwartz worked closely with the curators and conservators. He was also very organized in his planning where he would carefully calculate algorithms, make blueprints, provide installation manuals and construct prototypes for many of this works. The indications would also clarify the equipment selection and document camera use for some specific installations. This would be useful in making informed decisions for conservation purposes. The artist’s estate passed to his daughter and son-in-law, which his documentation helped in the identification of the materials and comprehensive understanding of his perspective on his work.
The completeness of the score and careful documentation are still put to great use in efforts for conservation. Some video installations may appear less “conservative” like Painted projection as they require shapes to be painted on the walls and floors to be constructed with the help of a recording device.
Joanna Phillips puts nicely that in conservation: we become interpreters, mediators or even co-producers of time-based media artwork. I believe that Eddy Colloton communicated the essence of this through his talk.
The Estate of Artist Buky Schwartz
Authenticity, Change and Loss in the Conservation of Time-Based Media Installations by Pip Laurenson
Reporting Iterations: A Documentation Model for Time-Based Media Art by Joanna Phillips