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Living and Growing Within a Museum: re-creating video art for preservation

Ana Ribeiro

Abstracts

This paper explores the consequences of obsolete phenomena in video art installations and their potential in re-creating works of art within the conservation process. Through Klaus vom Bruch’s Das Ende des Jahrhunderts and Jonathan Horowitz’s Mon.-Sun, it is aimed to understand the creative process that starts at the artists’ studios and follows the artwork through its life within a museum collection.

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The author would like to address her sincerest gratitude to her thesis supervisor and co-author of this paper, Professor Doctor Rita Macedo (FCT-UNL), for helping in the achievement of this paper. She would like to thank for all the support, guidance and encouraging given during the research work. A very special thanks to co-supervisors Frederika Huys (head of collection, S.M.A.K.), Rony Vissers and Gaby Wijers (PACKED coordination for the project Obsolete Equipment) for always providing answers to her doubts, questions and, for their very useful materials and ideas given during the research work. Also a special thanks to Dieter Vermeulen (S.M.A.K.) and, to Glenn Wharton (MoMA).

Introduction

1When an artwork leaves the artist’s studio to integrate into a museum collection, there is often the idea that its creative process ends with this transition. In contemporary art, more than in other periods of art history, conservation seems to be evolving towards a dynamic process where curators, conservators, technicians and artists contribute to the artwork’s growing life instead of a static existence in a collection.

2Works of art containing media, such as video, are often designated by time-based media art, dependent directly on technology and its quick evolution. This contributes to the development of the obsolescence phenomena. To overcome this situation, it is sometimes necessary to induce changes in the artwork’s physical features, in order to continue exhibiting them in the future.

  • 1 This project is being developed by the Belgian organization PACKED (Platform for the Archiving and (...)

3Klaus vom Bruch’s Das Ende des Jahrhunderts and Jonathan Horowitz’s Mon.-Sun. belong to the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) collection in Ghent. Along with other case studies, those video installations were part of the first phase of PACKED’s research project entitled Obsolete Equipment – The preservation of playback and display equipment for audiovisual arts, which was focused on video-based art (2009-2010)1. Both installations share a characteristic as they present video equipment as visible elements. This characterises the greatest problem in the conservation of these video installations.

4What does it changeinthe conservation of contemporary art?

5Especially since the 1960s, an increasing loss of importance of materiality in the arts can be felt, which is rendered by the “idea of artwork objects as clusters of meanings” (Laurenson 2006). This introduces changes in the conservation framework, particularly regarding the concept of authenticity. In contemporary art, the notion of authenticity no longer matches originality. While in the conceptual conservation framework for the traditional artwork, the material object is the root of an aesthetic experience and is centralized in authorship (Laurenson 2006), in contemporary art this idea is no longer suitable as the choice for ephemeral materials and the majority of artworks are restricted by time and space.

Understanding video challenges

  • 2 The expression of time-base media art is often used to define artwork like video-based, computer-ba (...)
  • 3 For further reading see: Gaby Wijers, Control and Preserving of Videotapes, An Introduction to the (...)

6Video was developed mainly during the mid-1960s and started to integrate the arts as an aggravation to the accepted values. As an artistic medium, video needs to be understood with its own specifications. Works of art containing media, such as video, are often designated by time-based media art2; dependent directly on technology and its quick evolution they contribute  to the development of the obsolescence phenomena (Laurenson 2007). Video is an ephemeral medium due to its highly and easy technical reproduction. In addition, because of  its fragility, that makes it physically and chemically unstable, video has a short lifespan3. However, together with these physical features, video has a particular characteristic that makes it unique. To be visualised, it is necessary to use specific playback equipment (the hardware) so that the video signal on the carrier (the software) can be decoded (“The Sustainability of Video Art”, p.14).

Obsolescence: limitation or creative potential?

  • 4 Migration is a conservation strategy proposed by the Variable Media Network Project. For further in (...)
  • 5 For further reading about video migration see The Sustainability of Video Art: preservation of Dutc (...)
  • 6  See Variable Media Network for these three preservation strategies, URL: http://www.variablemedia. (...)
  • 7  See DOCAM, Conservation Guide 2010, URL: http://www.docam.ca/en/conservation-guide.html
  • 8  See Variable Media Network Strategies, URL: http://www.variablemedia.net/e/welcome.html

7In the last 50/60 years, nearly 65 new and different analogue and digital video formats have been introduced in the market (Magalhães 2007 p.5) while the replaced ones are gradually falling into disuse until they will finally become completely extinct. This forces conservators to deal with obsolescence phenomena. To overcome this condition and video’s material aforementioned vulnerability, it is necessary to upgrade the carriers (the physical form in which the video signal is stored), i.e., migrate4 the video to newer formats. Nowadays, this strategy consists mainly in the digitization of the videos, i.e., video transfer from analogue to digital system5. Nevertheless, the obsolescence phenomena are not only related to the video signal transfers but also to upgrade playback and display equipment, especially when it has a strong relationship with the installation’s components and/or meaning. Sometimes, to overcome this situation it is inevitable to induce changes in the artwork’s physical features in order to continue to be exhibited in the future. However, the first strategy to preserve this artwork, where the electronic equipment plays an important role (aesthetic, conceptual or historic) (Laurenson 2005), must be to search for solutions to maintain the original equipment as long as possible. This includes acquiring spare parts of similar equipment; thus in case of damage they can be entirely or partially replaced. In addition, employing common preventive conservation knowledge will always contribute to maximising the equipment’s lifespan. When this is no longer possible, the solutions will be related to equipment changes that will contribute to considerable transformations in the structural features of the artwork. Moreover, there are strategies other than migration that can be evaluated in such cases as emulation (imitating the original look of the piece by completely different means), reinterpretation (reinterpret the work each time it is re-created)6, reconstruction (reproducing the behaviours and effects of a work using few or no components from the original piece)7 and also storage (as these kinds of artworks are most of the time in storage form, especially installations)8. Sometimes, it might be necessary to apply more than one strategy at the same time.

8Knowing the significance and role of the display and playback equipment and its relation to the work’s identity (conceptual, aesthetics and historical criteria) (DOCAM, Conservation Guide 2010) (Laurenson 2005) allows conservators to find the best solutions and to apply the suitable strategies for their case studies, thinking over and weighing the inner values of the artwork. Obviously, the threat of obsolescence forces conservators to work with some limitations in order to keep the integrity and authenticity of the artwork as much as possible. Working together with the artists makes these situations even more challenging, as they tend to find their own solutions to solve the problems addressed, which sometimes are not in accordance to the conservation’s framework of accepted values. To avoid corrupting the artist’s original intent there must be a collaborative and an interactive work between conservators, technicians, curators and especially artists allowing and, most of the time, requiring it to be creative.

The artworks and their historic context

Das Ende des Jahrhunderts

9Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (The End of the Century) (see ills. 1 and 2) is a video installation created by Klaus vom Bruch (b. Cologne, 1952) in 1985. Leaving behind a phase mostly characterized by single channel videos during  the mid- 1970s until the first part of the 1980s , this installation takes us to a period when the artist was starting to explore the three-dimensionality of his artwork.

  • 9 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch by Dieter Vermuelen an (...)
  • 10  See Klaus vom Bruch website, URL: http://kvb.com/
  • 11  See the video Azimut on the You Tube website, URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnYL0jjAHlM
  • 12  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

10With Das Ende des Jahrhunderts,Vom Bruch was interested in presenting video in large exhibition spaces9. Placing playback equipment (two U-matic players) and display equipment (two TV sets) on different sides of an exhibition room, the artist decided to play with video signal sending it via antennas (transmitters and receivers). This way the video signal could travel through the space existing between the video equipment, i.e., the space that should be crossed by the viewer. This general idea of sending video through space suggests the concept of television once the video signal is “broadcasted” and also due to the atmosphere created by the antennas. Television is actually a recurrent subject in Vom Bruch’s artwork since the beginning of his career10. The “broadcasted”videos Luftpumpe and Azimut11 are connected. Luftpumpe’s bicycle air pump, identified as an analogy to a locomotive piston12, causes the movement in the satellite dish featuring on Azimut. While the satellite dish is rotating in its own axis, Vom Bruch’s face and torso appear superimposed on it. As a critique to the mass media and technological evolution, the man collides with technology and with the advanced communication systems (Rush 2003 and 2007 p.24).

Fig. 1 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 1 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. .Installation view: steel structure holds the two transmitters fed by the U-matic players at the bottom. Zick Zack Durchs Palais, 1985, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent.

© Dirk Pauwels

Fig. 2 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 2 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the CRTs fed by the receivers. Zick Zack Durchs Palais, 1985, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent.

© Dirk Pauwels

Mon.-Sun.

  • 13 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz about the installati (...)

11With Mon.-Sun.- Monday Through Sunday-, (1996) (see ill. 3) Jonathan Horowitz (b. 1966, Minnesota, U.S.A.) aims to structure time as if it were a calendar13. This idea is supported by the fact that the installation was made in a medium (VHS-Video Home System) that has a specific duration, i.e., like many other technologies sooner or later it will be threatened by obsolescence (Biesenbach 2009).

12Mon.-Sun. is a single video installation where a TV set, a VHS player and seven VHS tapes in a white plastic box are standing freely in a grey metal stand. As sculptural elements the tapes have special spine labels and each one is entitled with a day of the week. The tape entitled Monday will be shown on Mondays, the tape entitled Tuesday will be shown on Tuesdays and so on. For each tape the video on the screen corresponds to a still and silent image - the day of the week written in white letters onto a black background.

13In contrast to recent works in which Horowitz’s art is often compared to the 1960s Pop Art by the way he uses mass media, such as photography and television, to explore current cultural and political realities (Althöfer 2007 p. 294) (“Jonathan Horowitz: And/Or” 2009). Mon.-Sun. does not suggest this idea. Nevertheless, this installation belongs to an aesthetic period in which the artist positioned video equipment from the mid-1990s on metal stands as sculptural elements. This way, the artist presents a video but still reveals a sculptural relevance to the artwork.

Fig. 3 Mon.-Sun. (1996), Jonathan Horowitz

Fig. 3 Mon.-Sun. (1996), Jonathan Horowitz

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view, S.M.A.K., Ghent

© Dirk Pauwels

The Materials: their condition and meaning

Das Ende des Jahrhunderts

  • 14 The Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst was founded in 1975 as the first Belgian museum devoted to contemp (...)
  • 15 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

14Das Ende des Jahrhunderts was especially developed for an exhibition named Zick Zack Durchs Palais included in the OFF Festival in Ghent. This exhibition took place at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst 14 in 1985. Prior to the exhibition, Vom Bruch worked together with the museum staff in order to set up the installation. Both the TV sets (Sony- CVM 1850) and the U-matic players (Sony: VP-2030 and VO-2630) belonged to the museum. However, the last two were chosen not only because they were the best available devices in the museum but also because they were the format the artist worked on at the time15. The two transmitter antennas were German and the receivers were chosen personally by Vom Bruch and were bought in Ghent. The two steel structures that support the electronic devices were built by museum personnel based on a wooden model sent previously by the artist regarding the equipment measurements (see ills. 1 and 2).

  • 16 A Site-specific installation is an artwork designed for a particular location and it has having an (...)
  • 17  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

15Das Ende des Jahrhunderts is also a site-specific installation16. When the heating system  in the exhibition space could not be removed (see ill. 2), the artist decided to include it in the installation by wrapping the two antenna wires around it suggesting an electronic device17.

  • 18  Idem

16Nowadays, the two Sony TVs, originally used for Das Ende des Jahrhunderts, are missing from the museum collection and only one of the two U-matic players was available in the beginning of this study. As for the steel structures, the artist mentioned that they should not be allowed to rust, as he does not like the “nostalgic feeling” rust evokes18.

Mon.-Sun.

  • 19 For instance:  Jonathan Horowitz Show (2000): Gavin Brown’s Enterprise website, see, URL: http://ww (...)
  • 20 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz by Dieter Vermeulen (...)
  • 21  Idem
  • 22  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2008

17Mon.-Sun. presents consumer video equipment from the mid-1990s. By consumer equipment the artist means simple TV sets like the ones he used to complete the installation and that were available in normal stores at that time. Although, Mon. - Sun. is not really related to television, such as other works from the same period19, it is important for the artist  that it is exhibited with t the same equipment and not with professional monitors20. Subsequent to this idea, the VHS format is just as important as the other sculptural elements in the installation since, at the time, it was the common household format. An image recorded in VHS presents analogue artefacts, which the artist describes as a moving image21. For Horowitz, this will increase the viewer’s feelings towards a real time experience when placed in front of the installation22. Among the three TV’s (Sony KV-21M3B) and the three VHS (JVC HR-J260) owned by the museum that can be used to exhibit this artwork, only one of is still working. The metal stand and the plastic box are as important as the electronic equipment and should be preserved like any other art object, which means that they should not be replaced.

Decision-making: conservation and re-installation considerations

Das Ende des Jahrhunderts

  • 23 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

18The artist mentioned that, although it is a site-specific installation, the work could be presented in other spaces  if  the minimal specifications are assured. The steel structures have to be built up vertically and be placed in opposite sides of a room, thus, the viewer can walk between them23. The artist also mentioned that the installation should be exhibited in the same room as other artworks, such as photographic exhibitions; bearing in mind the technical drawings made for Das Ende des Jahrhunderts, also acquired by the museum, which form part of the artwork (see ill. 4).

Fig. 4 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 4 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: technical drawings detail, Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent

© Ana Ribeiro

  • 24 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010
  • 25  Cathode-ray tube (CRT) consists of a vacuum tube in which images are produced when a moving electr (...)
  • 26 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

19From the artist point of view, migration is the strategy that better suits Das Ende des Jahrhunderts even when it threatens its original “look and feel”, the term related to more intangible aspects (Laurenson 2007). Emulation is not a valid option because it would completely manipulate the installation’s functionality compromising its conceptual integrity. The idea of falsifying his artwork is not appealing to the artist once he thinks that it is not an honest solution to the viewer24. In this installation, this applies not only to the U-matic players but also to the cathode ray tube (CRT) 25 TVs. He thinks it is wrong to hide the newer devices with the sole purpose of pretending that the original damaged U-matic players are still functioning. This also works for CRTs as, for example, in his opinion flat screens should not replace the interior structure of CRTs, as the final result will not be perfect. The artist states that migration can be made bearing in mind the history of the work - using formats from the period in which the installation was accomplished, like VHS and other different CRTs-, or can also be achieved thinking in current or future technology. During the interview, Vom Bruch suggested Barco monitors to replace the TV sets used in 1985. These monitors allow a bigger correlation between the two video images due to its thinner casing. These were Vom Bruch’s first choice back in 1985, but, since he had no budget to buy them, he used the ones available at the museum. Regarding the players, Vom Bruch thinks in the future they should be placed higher in the steel structure26 and not where they are currently displayed - at the lowest part. This way the idea of verticality would be more emphasized. In the last statements, Vom Bruch made suggestions based on his initial thoughts about how the installation’s presentation should have been. This is a sensitive matter because these unavoidable replacements give artists the opportunity to show their works of art the way they wanted initially. Nevertheless, one should not forget that the decisions made during the making process are part of the history of the artwork, too.

  • 27  Idem.
  • 28  For further reading on this subject see: Cornélia Weyer, “Les Cas de Joseph Beuys”, Conservation e (...)
  • 29 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010
  • 30  There are two standard aspect ratios: 4:3 and 16:9. Aspect ratio is the relationship between the w (...)

20The artist claims that, in case of migration, the old players and TVs should be placed next to the structure as “trash” calling this solution “Joseph Beuys’s way” of dealing with the problem27. With this idea, Vom Bruch indirectly made a reference to a conservation case on Joseph Beuys’s Infiltration Homogène pour Piano à Queue, which belongs to Centre Pompidou collection (Paris)28. In this case, Beuys asked for a new piano felt cover to replace the damaged one. The old cover should also be hung right next to the piano. In Das Ende des Jahrhunderts, the old equipment would recreate the work’s history. As for the TVs, replacement for flat screens is a possibility, but the artist showed his concern as a physical characteristic of his artwork would be lost, the volume of the CRT casing. As a solution to this issue, the artist suggested that the museum could build black steel boxes so the initial volume of a CRT casing could be simulated29. Another concern about the display equipment would be the aspect ratio since the videos were made in 4:3 ratio30. As analogue television signal is being gradually replaced by high definition television signal, it will become harder and harder to find 4:3 aspect ratio LCD open frame monitors especially regarding the necessary dimensions to fit the steel structure.

21After the interview, it was possible to understand how Das Ende des Jahrhunderts’s concept is connected with its functionality and how important it is for Vom Bruch to know that everything is not being hidden from the audience. This way, the artist’s suggestion to update the equipment seems to be the best solution as the work’s original concept (sending video signal through a large space) will be preserved even if the installation’s visual appearance (aesthetic and historic integrity) would be affected.

  • 31  This exhibition shows eleven installations from the S.M.A.K.’s collection. In a room entitled Insi (...)

22Some months ago, this artwork was re-installed at the S.M.A.K. for the exhibition entitled Inside Installations 31(see ills. 4 -7). It took an incredible effort to find TV sets similar to the original ones The best solution available was to use two Sony monitors (Sony PVM-2530 25 Triniton monitor). These monitors were used because the artist showed the original TV sets had no special meaning for the artwork concept features. and their style was close to the artist’s first idea of connecting the two videos since the monitor casing is so small. A similar U-matic deck replaced the one that was missing. Nevertheless, for a six-month exhibition it is not possible to know for how long this equipment will function. The question arises: how many times is it going to be necessary to repair or replace the broken devices with new ones? It is important to be aware of the costs for the museum to exhibit the artwork in its original formats. From this point on, migration will need to be carefully considered.

Fig. 5 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 5 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the two transmitters fed by the U-matic players at the bottom. Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent

Credits : © Ana Ribeiro

Fig. 6 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 6 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the CRTs fed by the receivers.Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent

Credits : © Ana Ribeiro

Fig. 7 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Fig. 7 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch

Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: technical drawings, Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent

Credits : © Ana Ribeiro

Mon.-Sun.

  • 32 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010

23For Mon.-Sun. to be exhibited as long as possible using its original equipment, it is essential to buy spare parts for each one of the devices (TV and VHS player). Nowadays, it is still possible to find consumer equipment like the one used by the artist in the 1990s, as this equipment is quite cheap and is available second hand. This means that in the near future the re-installation of Mon.-Sun. will be an easy task. However, once this will no longer be possible emulation may be the solution, as the artist pointed out. This is the best option for the installation’s conservation because this way it will be possible to respect the equipments aesthetics which are contemporaryto the object32.

  • 33 Idem
  • 34 Idem, Ib.

24Nevertheless, as it is likely to happen in Das Ende des Jahrhunderts,by emulating the CRTs in Mon.-Sun. the 4:3 aspect ratio will raise problems as well (see description of the Decision-making: conservation and re-installation considerations for Das Ende das Jahrhunderts). For Horowitz, it is important that the video is presented in its original aspect ratio, i.e., 4:3, demanding a LCD with the same aspect to replace the internal structure of the CRT. In opposition to Vom Bruch’s intention, (changing the internal structure of a CRT is never done perfectly), Horowitz thinks that emulation has to be done the best way available at the time it is necessary. He is aware of the obsolescence threat in the case of 4:3 LCDs, the loss of features, which can only be accomplished by CRTs, and other issues raised by their emulation. However the aesthetics of the work  are too  important for him to consider migration. Changing the aspect ratio to 16:9 is an option that the artist has not considered, at least until now. However, Horowitz mentioned he should be the one to make this decision when he thinks it is necessary or appropriate to present the artwork33. Again, the player’s emulation involves a new and updated device (for example, DVD), which will be hidden in order for the original VHS player to be exhibited. The new device will feed the CRT or the emulated CRT, depending on the evolution state of the artwork’s conservation The damaged player, being he sculptural elementof the artwork, will be falsified by the implementation of a light in its interior intended to make it look as if it was working. To emulate the VHS player it will be necessary to update the carriers as well, i.e., to transfer the video signal from the VHS tapes to another video format. This needs to be done in such a way that it will allow analogue artefacts to be seen in order to preserve the proper aesthetics from VHS recording, a (format linked to the artist’s aesthetic period)34. For the same reason, digital artefacts must be avoided at all cost.In this case, not only emulation will be necessary to preserve the installation in the future but migration will be applied as well.

Understanding the artist’s interviews and their weight as documentation for future preservation

Das Ende des Jahrhunderts

25It is already clear that Klaus vom Bruch does not attach value to the original display and playback equipment used in 1985, but he cherishes aesthetical aspects. In opposition to Horowitz, Klaus vom Bruch is an artist who has worked with video since the beginning of his career showing the relevance of the equipments’ functionality among other features of the artwork. Nevertheless, the artist seems to be concerned about the installation’s historical meaning, as he suggested preserving the non-functioning and old equipment next to the updated one. This proposes a feeling of respect for the artwork’s historic context where technological evolution takes part. Nevertheless, he does not like the idea of the structures being rusty because he interprets that as a feeling of “nostalgia”. On the one hand, the artist easily includes the damaged equipment next to the updated installation, thus re-creating the work by adding a new element - the 1980s’ “memory”. On the other hand, he rejects the feeling of “nostalgia” that he believes the rusty steel gives to the installation. These two ideas pass on a contradictory feeling. However, it is important to understand that the artist suggested the idea of the old equipment as a “memory” of Das Ende des Jahrhunderts in 1985 not as an imposition, but as something that he thinks is more interesting to apply to his installation than emulation.

  • 35 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

26During the interview, Vom Bruch seemed to be conside conservation solutions for this particular installation for the first time. Many times he it was felt that he is in doubt in regards to the ideas or if the same ideas were open to discussion. . When confronted with the idea of his installation surviving simply as a document (for instance in the form of photographs), the “memory” of the artwork’s physical form, he considered that it was a possibility since many of his installations from that same period survived by those means35. Vom Bruch claimed to be an experimentalist when dealing with his artworks. When he did not like the final result, he destroyed them. Consequently, this period is probably/ possibly not so important to the artist, since it was a in this period when he first began to experiment with three-dimensional objects. Nevertheless, Vom Bruch showed great concern regarding video conservation and particularly his artwork’s future presentation.

Mon.-Sun.

  • 36 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010

27Several documents from the artist, such as e-mails (correspondence between the artist and museum staff) and interviews, were used as significant working tools for Mon.-Sun.’s conservation study. Recently, Horowitz was interviewed for the installation’s conservation but it was equally possible to access the interview about the same artwork’s conservation made by Glenn Wharton (Museum of Modern Art, New York - MoMA), in 2008. Comparing the two interviews, it was very easy to understand that the artist did not change his ideas about the installation’s conservation. Although facing some difficulties on future emulation, in particular finding 4:3 ratio LCDs to emulate the right CRTs, he never showed an interest in simply migrating the equipment or ceasing to present the artwork. Horowitz is aware of the possible limitations of emulation in these cases, but it is still important for him to preserve the originals or at least to keep similar equipment. It is also important that emulation should be carried out in the best way available. The artist expects that it will always be a way of keeping the CRTs because technology is always evolving and maybe one day it will be possible to project the image inside the CRTs casings, as he suggested36.

Conclusion

28When Das Ende des Jahrhunderts and Mon.-Sun. were incorporated to the S.M.A.K. collection, the conservation issues raised by these kinds of artworks were not discussed or even being addressed. Nowadays, to be able to exhibit these two installations in the future, conservators have to find the most suitable solutions bearing in mind the market possibilities while respecting their authenticity.

29The biggest problem raised by these two installations is related to their original aspect of video ratio, 4:3 ratio. It is not only important to keep that original feature avoiding image distortions, but it is also relevant because 4:3 aspect ratio is linked to a technological period. In the future, with the rise of digital television (associated to 16:9 aspect ratio), the production of old CRTs and 4:3 flat screens will fade eventually making the preservation of this artwork a very difficult task. It will be difficult to find 4:3 aspect ratio LCD open frame monitors to fill a CRT casing or to fit Das Ende des Jahrhunderts’s steel structures. This will require a great effort from conservators and other stakeholders to find solutions that will allow Das Ende des Jahrhunderts and Mon.-Sun. to present the right display equipment. In this case, Jonathan Horowitz’s faith in technological evolution and on conservators’ abilities to always apply the best solution available allows creativity in the conservation field. Why should conservators and technicians not work together in order to find a way to project Mon.-Sun. images inside the CRT casing as the artist suggested? These situations support conservation treatments accepted as part of the creative process that starts earlier with the artist and follows the artwork through its life even out of the studio.

30As to Klaus vom Bruch, in opposition to Horowitz, it is extremely important that the functionality in Das Ende des Jahrhunderts can be maintained since its original concept - sending video signal - will be preserved too. Upgrading the electronic equipment means losing some of its “look and feel” that is related to the environment created by the original equipment from the 1980s but not the artwork’s functionality. Vom Bruch’s interest in exhibiting the non-functioning and replaced equipment next to the migrated installation, like in Joseph Beuys’s case, raises important questions linked to the notion of authenticity (qtd. in Macedo 2008 p.354). How should the old equipment relate to other installation components after being replaced? How should this new relation be interpreted? It is true that this attitude of maintaining the old equipment as a memory is somehow related to Das Ende des Jahrhunderts meaning - man colliding with technology. In this case, technological evolution is forcing the changes needed to exhibit the artwork in its fully functioning format. In addition, the artist suggests this idea to avoid emulation as an honest gesture to the viewer. This is interesting in a time when conservators start to question themselves about their role regarding the viewer’s education on the conservation of contemporary art. Should the viewer’s experience be forgotten when applying conservation strategies such as migration or emulation? The changes introduced in works of art by those treatments will be part of a new phase of their growing life. This is something that artists probably do not foresee during the creation process of the artwork. In this matter, the audience probably should be presented with information about these transformations in order to understand the processes the works of art may be subjected to  before they are exhibited. During one expert meeting organized by PACKED, it was suggested that Klaus vom Bruch should be asked to make his own documentary film since he  showedinterest in maintaining the installation’s memories. This, along with the old equipment positioned as “trash”, will be an extension of the artwork and a re-creation process.

31The ideas addressed before contribute to the enrichment ofDas Ende des Jahrhunderts and Mon.-Sun. within the S.M.A.K. collection. These two cases make us re-consider where the artwork’s creative process ends or if it ends at all. The inevitable changes might make re-creation part of the artwork’s life. This includes conservation processes, especially with the artists’ participation. It is something that, along with other features, such as the vulnerability of materials, characterises video art or video art installations.

  • 37  For further reading on this subject see, Renée van de Vall, Painful Decisions: Philosophical Consi (...)
  • 38  Idem

32During this study, essential documentation was produced aiming to allow the introduction of necessary changes when there is no other option left. Documentation, developed as a working tool in contemporary art conservation, producesmodifications in the works of art that allowthem to live and grow within a museum collection. However, this is not a simple matter and it is important to understand that these inevitable transformations introduce new values in the conservation field in opposition to traditional ones. Accepting conservation as part of the creative process of an artwork does not mean that the conservator’s “pain”37 is gone. Gains and losses will always be involved during the decision-making process within these conservation treatments. As addressed by Renée van de Vall, it is always necessary to make compromises and accept loss as part of a treatment38.

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Bibliography

Althöfer, H. (2007). “The Tradition of Modern Art: The Myth of Everyday Life”, Art of the Twentieth Century, 1946-1968, The Birth of Contemporary Art, V. Terraroli (ed). Milano, Skira editore, 2007

Biesenbach, K. (2010). “Jonathan Horowitz: Measuring Time with Text”, P.S.1 Newspaper, Spring 2009, viewed 26 June 2010, source, http://www.ps1.org/newspaper/view/article/111

DOCAM website (2010), viewed 2 May 2010, source, www.docam.ca/

Electronic Arts Intermix website (1997-2010), viewed 30 June 2010, source, http://www.eai.org/index.htm

Gavin Browns’ Enterprise website, viewed 25 June 2010, source, http://www.gavinbrown.biz/

Jonathan Horowitz: And/Or (2009), viewed 26 June 2010, source, MoMA PS1 website, http://www.ps1.org/exhibitions/view/213

Kitnick, A. (2009). “Styles of Radical Will”, P.S.1 Newspaper, Spring 2009, viewed 27 June 2010, source, http://www.ps1.org/newspaper/view/article/110

Laurenson, P. (2006). “Authenticity, Change and Loss in the Conservation of Time-Based Media Installations”, Tate papers, Autumn 2006, viewed 17 June 2010, source, http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/tatepapers/06autumn/laurenson.htm

Laurenson, P. (2007). About Time-based Media Conservation Website, viewed 2 May 2010, source Tate Time-based Media Conservation, http://www.tate.org.uk/conservation/time/about.htm

Laurenson, P. (2005). “The Management of Display Equipment in Time-based Media Installations”, Tate Papers,Spring 2005, viewed 17 June 2010, source: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/tatepapers/05spring/laurenson.htm

Laurenson, P. (2007). About Time-based Media Conservation, viewed 2 May 2010,source, Tate Time-based Media Conservation Website: http://tate.org.uk/conservation/time/about.htm,

Macedo, Rita A. S. P. (2008). Desafios da Arte Contemporânea à Conservação e Restauro, Documentar a Arte Portuguesa dos anos 60/70,  Lisboa, PhD dissertation in Conservation and Restoration, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Magalhães, A. (2007). “Filmes e vídeos de artistas: Características gerais dos suportes e problemas de conservação relacionados” [“Time based media art: overview on the carriers and their specific conservation problems”], Preservação da Arte Contemporânea: Boletim Associação Portuguesa de Historiadores de Arte, nº 5, Dezembro 2007, viewed 18 June 2010, source, http://www.apha.pt/boletim/boletim5/pdf/2-AndreiaMagalhaes.pdf

PACKED website (2010), viewed 20 March 2010, source, http://www.packed.be/en/

Rush, M. (2003 and 2007). Video Art, revisited edition. London, Thames&Hudsen

S.M.A.K. website, viewed 5 May 2010, source, http://www.smak.be

Tate website, viewed 5 May 2010, source, http://tate.org.uk/

The Sustainability of Video Art: preservation of Dutch video art collections, p.14, viewed 18 June, 2010, http://www.sbmk.nl/pubs/detail/id/1

Variable Media Network website, viewed 18 June 2010, http://www.variablemedia.net/e/welcome.html

You Tube website (2010), viewed 5 May 2010, source, http://www.youtube.com/

WIJERS, G. Control and Preserving of Videotapes, An Introduction to the Handling, Storage and Conservation of Analogue and Digital Videotapes, 2003, viewed 16 June 2010, source, www.eai.org/resourceguide/collection/singlechannel/pdf/wijers_control.pdf

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Notes

1 This project is being developed by the Belgian organization PACKED (Platform for the Archiving and Preservation of Audiovisual Arts) in collaboration with S.M.A.K. and others Belgian and international institutions. For further reading see, URL: http://www.packed.be/en/projects/readmore/obsolete_apparatuur/

2 The expression of time-base media art is often used to define artwork like video-based, computer-based and internet-based art and artwork where 35mm film slides are used. Other broader terms like variable media or even media art can also be used to denominate this artwork. For further reading see Time-base Media Conservation website, URL: http://www.tate.org.uk/conservation/time/about.htm

3 For further reading see: Gaby Wijers, Control and Preserving of Videotapes, An Introduction to the Handling, Storage and Conservation of Analogue and Digital Videotapes, URL: www.eai.org/resourceguide/collection/singlechannel/pdf/wijers_control.pdf, 2003 and Pip Laurenson, The Mortal Image”-The Conservation of Video Installation, in Material Matters, Jackie Heuman (ed), London, Tate Gallery, 1999, p. 112

4 Migration is a conservation strategy proposed by the Variable Media Network Project. For further information see Variable Media Network Strategies, URL: http://www.variablemedia.net/e/welcome.html

5 For further reading about video migration see The Sustainability of Video Art: preservation of Dutch video art collections, op cit, pp.12-18, 25-30, and Pip Laurenson, op cit, 1999 p.112.

6  See Variable Media Network for these three preservation strategies, URL: http://www.variablemedia.net/e/welcome.html

7  See DOCAM, Conservation Guide 2010, URL: http://www.docam.ca/en/conservation-guide.html

8  See Variable Media Network Strategies, URL: http://www.variablemedia.net/e/welcome.html

9 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch by Dieter Vermuelen and Ana Ribeiro, Den Haag, (1 May 2010)

10  See Klaus vom Bruch website, URL: http://kvb.com/

11  See the video Azimut on the You Tube website, URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnYL0jjAHlM

12  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

13 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz about the installation Mon.-Sun.. Interview by Glenn Wharton and Erica Papernik in New York (10 June 2008)

14 The Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst was founded in 1975 as the first Belgian museum devoted to contemporary art. It was located in the Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent. The museum was re-named Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in 1999 and was re-located to a new building. For more details see, URL: http://www.smak.be/info_geschiedenis.php?la=en

15 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

16 A Site-specific installation is an artwork designed for a particular location and it has having an interrelationship with the location. For further reading on this subject see, URL: http://www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=276

17  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

18  Idem

19 For instance:  Jonathan Horowitz Show (2000): Gavin Brown’s Enterprise website, see, URL: http://www.gavinbrown.biz/artists2/horowitzpics/horowitzpic15.html,

20 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz by Dieter Vermeulen and Emanuel Lorrain in New York (7 May 2010).

21  Idem

22  Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2008

23 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

24 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010

25  Cathode-ray tube (CRT) consists of a vacuum tube in which images are produced when a moving electron beam strikes a phosphorescent surface. It is a technology used in electronic devices such as monitors and television sets (TVs). This is a technology that is being rapidly replaced by flat screens, LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and Plasma. Flat screens use a different technology, fixed-pixel arrays based on rows and columns of individual picture elements that turn on and off to produce patterns of light. For further information see, URL: http://www.eai.org/resourceguide/collection/installation/equiptech.html

26 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

27  Idem.

28  For further reading on this subject see: Cornélia Weyer, “Les Cas de Joseph Beuys”, Conservation et Restauration des Oeuvres d’Art Contemporain, Paris, École Nationale du Patrimoine, 1994, pp.76-87.

29 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

30  There are two standard aspect ratios: 4:3 and 16:9. Aspect ratio is the relationship between the width of the image and its height. An aspect ratio of 4:3 means that the image presents four units wide for every three units of height. 4:3 ratio is commonly used on standard TVs, but with HDTV (High Definition Television) the standard is 16:9 ratio. For further information see, URL: http://www.eai.org/resourceguide/collection/installation/equiptech.html

31  This exhibition shows eleven installations from the S.M.A.K.’s collection. In a room entitled Inside Installations room where the subject of installation documentation and preservation is presented to the viewer. For further information see, URL: http://www.smak.be/tentoonstelling.php?la=en&y=&tid=&t=&id=495

32 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010

33 Idem

34 Idem, Ib.

35 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Klaus vom Bruch, op. cit, 2010

36 Information taken from the unpublished artist interview with Jonathan Horowitz, op. cit, 2010

37  For further reading on this subject see, Renée van de Vall, Painful Decisions: Philosophical Considerations on a Decision-making Model, in Modern art: who cares?, Hummelenh, I., Sillé D. (ed.); Amsterdam, Archetype Publications, 2005, pp. 196-200

38  Idem

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. .Installation view: steel structure holds the two transmitters fed by the U-matic players at the bottom. Zick Zack Durchs Palais, 1985, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent.
Credits © Dirk Pauwels
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 104k
Title Fig. 2 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the CRTs fed by the receivers. Zick Zack Durchs Palais, 1985, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent.
Credits © Dirk Pauwels
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 120k
Title Fig. 3 Mon.-Sun. (1996), Jonathan Horowitz
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Credits © Dirk Pauwels
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 64k
Title Fig. 4 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: technical drawings detail, Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Credits © Ana Ribeiro
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 32k
Title Fig. 5 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the two transmitters fed by the U-matic players at the bottom. Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Credits Credits : © Ana Ribeiro
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 100k
Title Fig. 6 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: steel structure holds the CRTs fed by the receivers.Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Credits Credits : © Ana Ribeiro
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 108k
Title Fig. 7 Das Ende des Jahrhunderts (1985), Klaus vom Bruch
Caption Collection S.M.A.K. Installation view: technical drawings, Inside Installations, 2010, S.M.A.K., Ghent
Credits Credits : © Ana Ribeiro
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/1975/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 98k
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References

Electronic reference

Ana Ribeiro, « Living and Growing Within a Museum: re-creating video art for preservation », CeROArt [Online], EGG 1 | 2010, Online since 06 June 2011, connection on 23 November 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/1975

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About the author

Ana Ribeiro

Ana Ribeiro obtained a BA in Conservation and Restoration from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in 2008. In 2008/2009, she started an MA in Conservation and Restoration in the same University. During her Master’s, Ribeiro was an Erasmus student at Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen in textiles conservation (2009) and she was also an intern at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), in Ghent, where she worked with video art installations (2009/2010). acr17334@gmail.com

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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