Case Studies on Restoration
Methods for Long-Term Preservation of Media-Art Installations
Date01.01.2006 - 01.01.2011
Between 2006 and 2011 the IMAI Foundation studied the following works in case studies: Il Nuotatore (va troppo spesso ad Heidelberg) (1984) by the artists’ group Studio Azzurro, In Situ (1986) by Gary Hill, Exchange Fields (2000) by Bill Seaman, Testcuts I (2010) by Katharina Sieverding, and Light Composition: Documenta 8 (1987) by Nan Hoover.
What restorer or curator is unfamiliar with the challenges and problems that can arise in the daily process of preserving and presenting of media art works: Can the difficult-to-find and high-maintenance U-Matic players of an exhibition from the early 1980s be replaced in the future by DVD players? On what standards should the migration of videos to new storage media be based? Can contemporary flat screens replace tube monitors? What are the spatial requirements for a particular projection? What projectors are suitable for it? What are the aesthetic components inherent to the work of art that should be brought to bear in future presentations as well? And who defines these criteria?
The problems that arise in the area of restoring and conserving media art installations are as diverse as technologies and materials use. For that reason, there cannot be standard solutions for preserving the substance of this complex, technology- and time-based art form. The five case studies between 2006 and 2011 took the approach of citing different types of media art installations as examples and using the results derived from their individual circumstances to draw general conclusions that can apply to comparable works. Each case study entailed not only inventorying all of the media, techniques, and technologies originally used but also evaluating the problems of conservation. In a further step, the path to and form for restoring the work were worked out, or it was asked under what conditions conservation of the work was possible at all. For example, it had to be considered whether software could be reprogrammed to preserve a work of art for the long term and whether the experience of the work was altered as a result. In other cases, it had to be decided whether old technologies could be replaced by newer technological possibilities, even if did not just imitate their effect but also updated it (migration). This was necessary, for example, when technical defects of the hardware components had to be eliminated and the work could only be repaired by employing new technological possibilities. In general, with all measures the spatial concept of the installation had to be preserved.
The goal was to find presentation forms for the media art works analyzed that did justice to the specific aesthetic-artistic conceptions in each case. It was therefore important to study which aspect accounted for the authenticity of a media art installation and to define which characteristics were indispensable to the given installation.
Case Study 5: Nan Hoover, Light Composition
The IMAI has conducted a feasibility study on the recnstruction of this work and in the process grappled with the problem of restoring time-based works of art.
Case Study 4: Katharina Sieverding, Testcuts I
The installation Testcuts I by Katharina Sieverding was conceived and realized by the artist at the IMAI for the exhibition Projected Data Images: Testcuts as part of Quadriennale 2010.
Case Study 3: Bill Seaman, Exchange Fields
In collaboration with the Institut für Restaurierungs- und Konservierungswissenschaften of the Fachhochschule Köln and the agency 235 MEDIA GmbH, an appropriate restoration and restaging of Bill Seaman’s Exchange Fields were worked out and implemented.
Case Study 2: Gary Hill, In Situ, 1986
The mixed-media installation In Situ (1986) was restored in cooperation with the artist Gary Hill and then exhibited in the solo exhibition "Strange Trajectories". The last time the installation had been shown previously was in 1990.
Case Study 1: Studio Azzurro, Il nuotatore (va troppo spesso ad Heidelberg), 1984
"Il nuotatore" (1984) is the first media-art installation that the IMAI restored and restaged as part of the IMAI restoration project in cooperation with restorers, art historians, technicians, and the artists.
The Presence of the Ephemeral
Accompanies the eponymous conference in November 2012. It was supplemented by the IMAI’s latest case study on the restoration of Zweileinwandkino (1968) by Lutz Mommartz.
The Cassette Underground
A research project about archiving the alternative distribution channels of the cassette underground in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Fringe of the Fringe
A conference that seeks to bring together queer-feminist and antiracist strategies for archiving and cataloging the audiovisual documents of punk, postpunk, new wave, and industrial.
The video art channel IMAI-Play relies on a participatory presentation of the videos from the IMAI archive and invites users to curate, comment and discuss their own video programs.
Video Online Archive
cataloging/ presenting/ communicating
A project as part of the eHeritage funding program of the BMBF
Video Art Distribution
This international conference addressed the interactions between art production, art market, and exhibition activity for media art.
The Media Art Agency 235 MEDIA
Its significance in terms of the conditions for producing, establishing an economic basis for, and internationalizing media art.
Two-year long-term archiving project at the imai foundation.