Video Art and The Chimera Complex - Salvation or a Curse?
Carol Ann Klonarides

An Institutional Approach to the Collections Care of Electronic Art
Jill Sterret & Justin Graham

Conservation Considerations for Electronic Media from the Collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum
James de Young

Shared Resources for Conservation Documentation
Michael Skalka

Preserving Electronic Data - An Active Archival Process
Harrison Eiteljorg

Preservation of Electronic Media - Where Are the Standards?
Franziska Fry




Electronic Media Special Interest Group's First Session

San Diego, California
June 13, 1997

H o m e  |  M e e t i n g s  |  L i n k s & R e s o u r c e s 

Video Art and The Chimera Complex - Salvation or a Curse?

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?




Preserving Electronic Data - An Active Archival Process

Harrison Eiteljorg 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 files.

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.





Preservation of electronic media - where are the standards?

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 format obsolescence.




Shared Resources for Conservation Documentation

Michael Skalka
Conservation Administrator, National Gallery of Art

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.

An Institutional Approach to the Collections Care of Electronic Art

Jill Sterret &
Justin Graham

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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.

Collecting electronic 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 shown.

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.

Conservation Considerations for Electronic Media from the Collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum

James de Young
Senior Conservator Milwaukee Art Museum

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.
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