DEVELOPING STRATEGIES FOR THE CONSERVATION OF INSTALLATIONS INCORPORATING TIME-BASED MEDIA WITH REFERENCE TO GARY HILL'S BETWEEN CINEMA AND A HARD PLACE
In developing strategies for the care and management for works such as Gary Hill's installation Between Cinema and a Hard Place, the conservator has a number of options and tools. It is possible to manage electronic material so as to avoid loss by transfer onto new stock and new formats: this is a matter of good housekeeping. By understanding the mechanics of these installations and the technology involved, conservators are able to precisely map the function of elements before they fail so they can be accurately transferred onto different technologies as obsolescence looms. It is also necessary to work with industry and specialists outside the field of conservation to develop new skills to preserve and manage new types of objects in our care. We can also document the less tangible details of an installation such as the light levels, the character of the sound, etc.
Developing strategies for the conservation of installations incorporating time-based media is a new area of conservation, and as a profession our understanding and knowledge will deepen with time. All these strategies work together to help to limit the risk of not being able to accurately install these works in the future. Deciding what can be changed and how best to care for any element of an installation will depend on its meaning and role. For both contemporary and traditional objects, such decisions are documented by conservators, and although the focus of the conservator may have moved away from the material object, the approach is still rooted in traditional notions of collections care.
This article is informed by conversations with Gary Hill and the participants in TechArchaeology: A Symposium on Installation Art Preservation. I would like to thank the Getty Grant Program, the Bay Area Video Coalition, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Pam and Richard Kramlich for making this encounter possible. I would also like to thank Dave Jones, Paul Kuranko (Gary Hill's assistant in the mid-1990s), and the artist for their help with this project.