Symposium: Archiving the Arts – addressing preservation in the creative process

Between Earth & Sky: Cordoban Ceilings, installation: video/web/projections, 2003, by Peter D'Agostino,
Saturday, 13 October 2012

Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center ***

(*** corrected venue)

The Association of Moving Image Archivists Student Chapter at New York University and Independent Media Arts Preservation (IMAP) present this symposium concerning preventive preservation, the creative process, and where the two concepts intersect. The event is part of New York Archives Week, organized by the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York.

The prospectus for the symposium notes that “unlike corporate or policy-based content, independent media art evolves and is often born from fleeting processes, creative approaches, and undocumented methods. Its unique development deserves to be addressed by both its makers and those who fight for its welfare after creation.

“Our primary goal is to straddle an antiquated divide. Instead of finite responsibilities dictated by title, archivists and artists must learn to work collaboratively in the complex independent media environment.”

Registration: $15, students $9, seating is extremely limited. Register online. Information: Kathryn Gronsbell via, Jeff Martin via

*** The symposium has changed its venue to: Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street, New York, NY. Updates and the 2012 program are available at the AtA website or #ata12 on Twitter.

Symposium sessions include:

Preventive Preservation solutions, moderated by Seth Anderson, Digital Preservation Consultant, AudioVisual

Collaborative Curation: Designing for Preservation, Ben Fino-Radin, Digital Conservator, Rhizome at the New Museum: In the collection and preservation of born-digital works, often the most effective methods of preservation are enabled by decisions made by the artist during the creative process. Born-digital works from the collection of the Rhizome ArtBase were designed in a manner that affords effective and unobtrusive collection and preservation, as well as new modes of institutional collaboration with the creators of web platforms employed by artists.

Partnering to Promote Best Practices to Preserve Independent Media Art, Michele L. Wozny, PEAR Writing Studios: Media artists and artist-run centers across Canada are figuring out how to develop partnerships between funders, archives, distributors, and collectors to promote long-term access and to stimulate the preservation of independent media artworks. This session explores a life-cycle model that involves AMAAS (Alberta Media Art Alliance Society), AFA (Alberta Foundation for the Arts), and the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

ArtLog: an online participative archive facilitating artists to self document their artistic process, Yvonne Desmond, Dublin Institute for Technology: The elements of artistic process and the possibilities for documentation. The development of the archive is also a means of averting the loss of trace evidence of artistic process inherent in the mass adoption of technology.

Technically Speaking: The Archivist, the Artist, and the Digital Realm, Architecting the World’s First Fine Art Digital Conservation Repository at the Museum of Modern Art, Kara Van Malssen, Senior Consultant, AudioVisual Preservation Solutions: Digital artworks often having multiple operating systems, software, libraries, programming languages, and various types of hardware. Artists write custom software, create custom hardware, and use ephemeral online data sources. Even seemingly simple works, such as single channel video, depend on specific video and audio codecs for playback. Recognizing the requirements associated with the long-term conservation of these works, the Museum of Modern Art is developing a flexible, dedicated environment for digital collections management, the first of its kind in the world.

Intangible Interactivity: Tracing the History of an Art/Tech Program 1979-Present, Matt Epler and Kate Watson, Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), Tisch School of the Arts, NYU: A summary of efforts to archive thesis projects at the nation’s pioneering program in technology and media art. Housing almost every imaginable format of media, the collection represents a unique look at how technology has developed alongside culture and economy in the past 3+ decades, with an emphasis on experimentation and alternative use.

Audiovisual Documentation of Transitory Works, moderated by Erica Titkemeyer – Moving Image Archiving & Preservation, NYU

Archives and the afterlife of ephemeral works of art, Megan McShea, Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art: Traces of ephemeral arts sometimes surface in surprising ways in the archival repository. McShea shares examples of archival audiovisual media and other documentation of ephemeral art forms from the pre-digital era, and uses those examples to discuss the variety and qualities of art documentation that may exist for artworks that no longer exist, at least in the form in which they were initially presented. How can creators and keepers of these records, including artists and other documentarians, ensure it persists?

Creating Something Out of Nothing – documenting the short-lived on a shoestring, Paul Bryan, photographer, videographer, artist, art-studio owner; Jason Flowers, photographer, videographer, sound artist; Holly Stevens, art historian, archivist: A discussion of practical solutions for identifying and preserving transitory, interactive, ephemeral or site-specific works of art.

Capturing a New York Minute, Aliee Chan/Bettina Katie Warshaw-Writers/Performers: The cast and creative partners of the Fringe NYC 2012 show Aliee & Bettina’s (sort of) Grown-Up Sleepover discuss the climate of off-off Broadway theater in relation to preservation and the idea of ‘the archive’ in the performance community.

Before I Got My Eye Put Out: The Cynthia Maughan Archive, Jonathan Furmanski, Associate Conservator for audiovisual materials at the Getty Research Institute: Between 1973 and 1980 Cynthia Maughan (b. 1949) created more than 300 short video works. She appeared in several high profile exhibitions of the 1970s, but only a few of her works exist outside her personal archive now housed at the Getty Research Institute. An examination of this remarkable and quirky artist introduces topics ranging from tape degradation, transfer techniques, cataloging and metadata protocols for digital access to file based video storage, the mourning rituals of small twigs, explaining incarceration to cats, and the probability of miniature skeletons made from toothpicks.

Practicing Preservation For and With Video Artists, Desiree Leary , Media Art Collection Manager at Electronic Arts Intermix: For four decades Electronic Arts Intermix has fostered the creation, exhibition, distribution, and preservation of media art. EAI has preserved several key works of media art including the works of Carolee Schneemann, Lawrence Weiner, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, and Joan Jonas. This presentation discusses EAI’s preservation practices and projects, which include restoring the work of Tony Ramos, revising EAI’s Media Art Resource Guide, helping artists become more aware of best preservation practices.

An Artist’s Perspective, Peter d’Agostino, professor of film and media arts, Temple University, Philadelphia: Explores the process of creating new work and reviews exhibition, distribution, and archival preservation methodologies. D’Agostino reviews projects from the 1970s to 2010s including: The Walk Series (1973-74) video ’documentation/performances’ of walks in San Francisco; CHUNG: Still Another Meaning (1977) a photo/text/video installation; coming & going: PARIS [Metro], a film/video/text installation (1978); and video/web projects (1973- 2012).

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