and The Chimera Complex - Salvation or a Curse?
Approach to the Collections Care of Electronic Art
Resources for Conservation Documentation
Electronic Data - An Active Archival Process
Carole Ann Klonarides is an independent curator and producer of experimental documentaries on the arts. From 1991-95 she was the media arts Curator at The Long Beach Museum of Art in Long Beach California which houses a collection of over three thousand works of video art spanning a twenty five year history. She is currently teaching the history of video art in art schools and universities in Southern California and is working on public projects in urban contexts utilizing video art.
Since its origins as an art form, video art has been
the unclaimed offspring of the art & technology movement and
commercial television. This unique position offered a reprieve from
the overbearing pressures of the commercial art market and
television programming demands, enabling artists to work unhindered
in the pursuit of experimental work. But with this freedom from the
conventionality of the establishment video art remained marginal due
to lack of recognition and validation. The chimerical effect of
video, which initially attracted artists, has generally diminished
with the onset of newer interactive technologies. Ironically, video
art has become sanctified by museums and galleries - just as the
pioneers of the medium are moving on. The ignorance of its history
and seemingly absence of memory underscores the need for education
and preservation of this important art form. It this ephemeral
medium being reborn or on the brink of obsolescence?
IIis a classical archaeologist
specializing in the architecture of Athens. His major publications
have been concerned with the archaic entrance to the Athenian
Acropolis. Mr. Eiteljorg began using computer-aided design programs
more than a decade ago and has since worked to expand the use of
computer technology in archaeology, founding the Center for the
Study of Architecture to archive CAD models and starting the
Archaeological Data Archive Project to archive archaeological
|Archaeology as a discipline is based on the careful recording of conditions found in the process of excavation. The records made on site determine our ability to understand the artifacts unearthed. Computers have become standard for record-keeping in the field, replacing paper, and record-keeping processes have become more sophisticated. However, the records have become not more secure but less, because computer files are so easily rendered useless. The Archaeological Data Archive Project is a response to the problems that threaten the utility of electronic data. An archive - using the Internet so that it can be a distributed one - has been established, but the work has just begun, both because so many records are still without a permanent home and because this archival process must be an active, on-going one.|
Franziska Freyis a research scientist at the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Natural Sciences (Concentration: Imaging Science) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. She worked for several years on a research project dealing with the digital reconstruction of faded color photographs. She is currently working on an NEH-funded project called Digital Imaging for Photographic Collections; Foundations for Technical Standards.
| One of the major obstacles to the long-term
preservation of electronic media is the lack of standards. Existing
industry standards tend to be distillations of vendor responses to
the imperatives of a competitive marketplace. As such, preservation
is seldom a priority. Recently, however, a number of organizations
have initiated responses to the need for electronic media standards
designed to help assure future access. For example, the American
National Standards Institute and the International Standards
Organization (among others) have begun to address this challenge
formulating committees to deal with such issues as image
reconstruction the stability of digital hardcopy materials. The
promise of broadly accepted standards is that institutions charged
with the preservation of cultural material can embrace new
technology while managing the inevitability of equipment and file
|Aneed exists to preserve treatment information held by private conservators and institutions. Such records provide working files and archives for conservators, curators and visiting scholars. Despite a reluctance to accept electronic media for creating permanent records, it is inevitable that conservators will increase their reliance on electronic record keeping. Preservation of these valuable records is a concern as the volume of material grows in terms of both quantity and technological complexity. Networked computers, such as the Internet and intranets, may offer a cost effective, practical solution to the dissemination and ultimately the preservation of these records.|
Justin Graham is the Media Arts Program Assistant at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He is responsible for the research, installation and maintenance of the Media Arts artworks and programs.
Jill Sterrett is a paper conservator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is one of the many conservators at SFMOMA who contributed to the discussion about care of the museum's media arts collection.
art involves a number of unique preservation dilemmas. While it is
important to study the preservation of videotape, it is critical to
understand that the electronic artwork comprises more than a given
video format - it includes other components such as monitors,
projectors and playback units, to name just a few. The life of an
electronic artwork can be understood as a fluid one - one that
evolves as video formats change and/or components deteriorate or
become obsolete due to age or market fluctuations. Conserving media
works questions the degree to which they need to be maintained as
much as reconstructed to a faithful state each time they are to be
What is needed is an institutional
memory which can recall a detailed account of the look, feel and
intention of the piece and the institutional foresight to anticipate
the future trajectory of its ongoing technological evolution.
Preparing for the change and obsolescence of components,
acknowledges that any steps taken are inherently temporary, and
committing to a process of constant reassessment is central to the
long-term care of such collections. The San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art has already established a collections care program that
can serve as a guide for other institutions who seek to preserve and
exhibit electronic artworks.
James holds a bachelor of science in art from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh with majors in painting and radio, television and film. For the past twenty years, he has been at the Milwaukee Art Museum where for the past 15 years he has held the title of Conservator specializing in the conservation of paper. He has received fellowship support for advanced training, notably studying at the Upper Midwest Conservation Association and with Keiko Keyes.
|Electronic media is most often defined as magnetic and optical storage formats. The Milwaukee Art Museum has a collection of about 30 light sculptures comprised of what could also be defined as electronic media: neon, florescent, and incandescent lights, delay switches, light sensors, motors, wire, and speakers. The nature of these materials and their use results in consumption necessitating replacement. Obsolescence and manufacturer's modifications often lead to the sculptures being in a permanent state of disrepair or having the artist's intent seriously compromised. Examples of this evolution are presented and several options, including artists' and manufacturers' collaborations are discussed.|