Re-Constructions: Preserving the Video Installations of Buky Schwartz

Eddy Colloton
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Four: 2015-2016


Buky Schwartz (1932-2009) was an Israeli-American concep­tual artist whose work focused on the nature of perspective and perception. Schwartz worked in many different art forms, but he is best known for his single-channel video works, and video instal­lations. Trained as a sculptor in Tel Aviv, Schwartz studied at St. Martin’s School of Art during the 1960s, and moved to New York in the late 1970s, where he began experimenting with video in his SoHo studio. His work was quickly noticed by John Hanhardt, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, who included Schwartz’s Yellow Triangle (1979) in the Whitney’s Re-Visions exhibition in 1979. Schwartz’s video installations often involve a distorted, unrecognizable pattern in real space, which, from the privileged perspective of a video camera, forms a coherent image fed to a monitor in the gallery in real-time. Concerned with the psychological process of perceiving three-dimensional space, the artist’s video installations are often large, made up of a variety of materials, and must be installed to be appropriately experienced. As the nature of such a work is accumulated through multiple components, iterations, and concepts, rather than any one partic­ular object or thesis statement, the dizzying array of variables and treatments can easily become overwhelming. What are the limits of Schwartz’s installations? How rigid an interpretation is restric­tive? How flexible can a work be before it loses its identity? By accumulating relevant and significant forms of documenta­tion, while examining the artist’s oeuvre and creative process, I hope to answer some of these questions. Correspondence between the artist and curators, photo documentation of instal­lations, sketches and models created as studies, interviews with the artist and interviews with his collaborators were all reviewed and compiled to develop a comprehensive understanding of Schwartz’s installations. Using this information, garnered from the artist’s personal archive, the records from multiple museums, and published sources, I will outline prescriptive preservation policies for video installations, which have not been exhibited in decades.

Eddy Colloton
MA student
Moving Image Archiving and Preservation
New York University