Contemporary artworks that include video, film, slide, audio, or computer-based technologies are referred to as time-based media works because they have duration as a dimension and unfold to the viewer over time. Collecting, preserving, and exhibiting these technology-based artworks pose complex technical and ethical challenges to conservators.
Instability and change are inherent to these artworks, since artist-selected equipment and technologies fail and become obsolete. Moreover, many time-based media artworks are allographic by nature; rather than being composed of a unique original, they exist only when they are installed, so every iteration can be considered a different representation of the artwork. To preserve the fragile identity of time-based media artworks, conservators must proactively manage the degree of change that may be introduced to each.
To provide the necessary and best care for the prestigious media artworks in its custody, including key pieces by Vito Acconci, Tacita Dean, Bruce Nauman,Nam June Paik, Pipilotti Rist, and Bill Viola, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has become one of the first museums in the world to dedicate conservation staff to the care of its media art collection.
With this groundbreaking dedication, the Guggenheim is at the forefront of developing and establishing new practices for the conservation of time-based media art internationally.
New Infrastructure for Media Conservation
The Development of a New Conservation Specialty
Managing Inherent Change
Joanna Phillips, Associate Conservator of Contemporary Art, focuses on the conservation of time-based media art. Photo: Jeffrey Warda