Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting & 42nd CAC ACCR Annual Conference – Electronic Media Session, May 15, "Re-Constructions: Preserving the Video Installations of Buky Schwartz" by Eddy Colloton

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