Sustaining Media Art Collections: A New Focus in Conservation
Panel:Panel C: Through the Conservator's Eye: Collecting, Preserving and Displaying Media Art
Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, Soros Auditorium
Over the course of the last decade, the field of art conservation has gradually developed new methodologies and practices to extend its professional mission to the care of technology-based contemporary art. To this end, graduate programs in art conservation now offer media art curricula, while PhD theses and research projects regularly explore developments in media art preservation. In recent years, a growing number of major museums have created positions for conservators who specialize in the care of video, film, sound and computer-based artworks. This paper discusses the critical role that museums play in pioneering and advancing time-based media conservation as a field, through their investment in new conservation research, the development of standards and best practices, their commitment to educational initiatives and through offering mentoring programs for emerging media conservators. Recent developments at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum include the launch of a media conservation lab, the systematized assessment of equipment significance, standardized quality control of moving image and sound content and the implementation of a new documentation system that reflects the allographic nature of media artworks. The collection context provides conservators with an ideal environment for long-term monitoring of change that media artworks may – or may not – undergo in response to contemporary technological developments, different exhibition venues, curatorial and exhibition design concepts, technicians’ equipment preferences or artist-driven upgrades. Capturing an artwork’s identity is fundamental to developing a preservation strategy that allows authentic re-installation of the work in the future.
Joanna Phillips is the Associate Conservator of Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim Museum and focuses on the conservation of time-based media artworks. At the Guggenheim, Phillips has launched the first media art conservation lab in a US museum, and is developing and implementing new strategies for the preservation, reinstallation, and documentation of media artworks. One of her latest publications is the “Compendium of Image Errors in Analogue Video”, a first-of-its kind reference work for conservators and curators who are in charge of video art collections. As a committee member of the Electronic Media Group of the American Institute for Conservation, Phillips is a founding co-organizer and co-programmer of EMG’s educational workshop series “TechFocus”.
Prior to her Guggenheim appointment, Phillips specialized in the conservation of contemporary art at the Swiss Institute for Art Research in Zürich and explored the challenges of media art conservation as a conservation researcher in the Swiss project AktiveArchive. Phillips holds an MA in paintings conservation from the Hochschule für Bildenden Künste, Dresden, Germany