Best Practices for Conservation of Media Art from an Artist’s Perspective

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Four: 2015-2016


For most artists I know “art conservation” is a troubling affair: we are already too busy maintaining operations as it is; we think of our work as a living entity, not as a fossil; we are often unsure if a project is finished; and we snub techniques that may help us document, organize or account for our work as something that stifles our experimentation and creative process. In addition, especially when we are resentful that institutions are not collecting and preserving our work in the first place, we reject the whole concept of an art collection. Agreeing with critical historians for whom collecting and preserving contem­porary art represents an obsessive-compulsive, “vampiric” culture of suspended animation and speculation that is grounded in a neo-colonial, ostentatious, identity-based drive: Nietzsche’s will to power mixed with Macpherson’s possessive individualism.

For this text, let us assume you are already at peace with the contradiction that is conservation: you are now interested in both creating the work and overseeing its death or zombification. Perhaps, despite being a staunch democratic socialist, you now have your own art collection. Or maybe you have met a few collectors who take risks with you, acquire your work and help keep your studio afloat financially. Most importantly, espe­cially if you are an insecure megalomaniac like me, you do not want to disappear from history, like so many great artists who are not collected by important museums. So here we are, thinking about the topic of conservation in media art. As you know, there is a plethora of existing initiatives to preserve media artworks, but these are always from the perspective of the institutions that collect them. While most institutional programs include excellent artist-oriented components like interviews and questionnaires, the programs are all a posteriori, almost forensic, as they look at the work in retrospect, as a snapshot of time.

This text is written to outline what artists may choose to do on the subject in order to (1) simplify our life in the long run, (2) generate income, and (3) take ownership of the way our work will be presented in the future. I welcome variations, additions, and comments. Yes, it is unfair for the artist to have to worry about the conservation of their work. Now let us get on with it. An introductory excerpt from Best Practices for Conservation of Media Art from an Artist’s Perspective at:

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Studio