Time Based Media artworks

I’m apart of an international museum photographer’s forum and there is this discussion on how to preserve, document and manage time based media artworks.

I thought the whole discussion is very pertinent to our current circumstances. It gives a small glimpse of what art institutions have to consider when buying, preserving, conserving and displaying artworks.

This is an extract of one the photographer’s at MOMA:

“[…] If you are migrating work off of original masters (betacam tapes, hard drives, etc) many places like to take photographs of the original hard drive as a record of where the data came from.

Finally, consider what rights you have and try to understand (and document) the artist’s intent. When you acquire such work, the rights in terms of what you are and are not allowed to do should be spelled out. You also need to understand what is integral to the work and what is incidental? Are you allowed to make copies for preservation? Are you allowed to make copies for display? Can only the original video tape be used for display performance (an artist might see the deterioration of a video tape as part of the art, others might only think the moving picture is the work and doesn’t matter if it’s from tape or a digital copy)? If the work was acquired with equipment like a monitor, must you always use that specific monitor (and if it breaks it’s gone)? Can you replace it with an identical one with the same model number? Could you replace it with a similar looking monitor? Could you completely change the context and project it onto a wall or present it on a webpage? If the artist is fine with adapting the work to be displayed in any format, you have rights to display work in any format you see fit?

I’m a little curious specifically with video based work, when such work is being published in printed material (eg: exhibition catalogs) how are people providing such files. We lean towards basically screenshotting (or pulling keyframes using ffmpeg), but for older standard-definition video the publishers complain about the low resolution. We have photographed monitors with it, and I’ve even done some experimenting of how one might make a virtual screen (enlarging the screen shot and blending it with a high resolution image of a gray monitor so you can see the RGB components of each pixel) philosophically it’s problematic so I haven’t really gone down that route, but it’s tempting when printers expect a 50 megapixel image of a video that is only 640×480 (or 0.3 megapixels).”

If you are interested in knowing more about Media Conservation:

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