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     Video Art / Media Art Preservation:  Studies and Suggestions
                     THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK

Moral and copyright questions

As far as we understand Guggenheim tries to “solve” or get an answer to some of the questions raised by Gaby Vijers from Montevideo through the questionnaire to the artists.

We think you should compare the reflections/questions and the questionnaire with Montevideo’s reflections and “Criteria for Archiving Formats”. Especially their moral and copyright reflections because they affect the relationship between artist and museum.

 In RHIZOME DIGEST: April 13, 2001, Marisa S. Olson comments (among other things) this when she states (and I quote): “The aim of the conference was to outline a strategy for proceeding, both with the museum’s initiative and with developing a larger conservatory gameplan. Yet, putting good intentions aside, the issues and strategies unearthed were quite problematic. At stake is the relationship of the artist to both curators and audience members.”

 She ends her contribution with the following comments to the questionnaire: “The relevant questions, however, simply pertain to the “behaviours relevant to the work”, which are being interpreted in the present context, and there seems to be no indication that the museum is able to predict the future. –To know how a flat plasma screen will hold or re-interpret a work created for a 1970’s television or a 1990’s desktop monitor. At present, then, it appears invariably inevitable that the artist’s intentions must then expire with the variable media in which they created their work. .. an unfortunate (im)material reality.”

 Another contribution in RHIZOME DIGEST is even more critical. Philip Galanter writes: “A big point was made about respecting and understanding the artists intent, but from many artists I spoke with “off camera” at the conference there was a great deal of scepticism.”.  He goes on to maintain that “Rather than giving artists more control over how their work is presented in the future, the Variable Media initiative (whether this is the intent or the unintended result) makes the artist complicit in protecting the financial interests of those more interested in art as profit returning investment than art as art. Any meagre insulation left between the artistic process and the market process is removed.”

 Well – we think it is a bit too hard to express it that way, but of course the artist has to ask as he goes on: “Many legitimately ask, therefore, not only what is being offered, but what will be taken away, and who is really being served?”.

In RHIZOME DIGEST: 4.20.2001 Jon Ippolito from Guggenheim remarks to Marisa Olson’s comments that the artist’s intentions must expire with the variable media in which they created their work, that “… “original” artistic intent, in the narrow sense Maria seems to define it, expires the moment an artist hangs a painting in a gallery or uploads HTML to a public url. Any artist who’s responsible tries to direct a viewer’s experience, but any artist who’s realistic knows you can’t keep people from misreading the work in some way. … Artistic intent is a construct inferred by a viewer.”

 Ippolito then points out that “some constructs, however, are more informed than others. When artists fill out a variable media questionnaire …. It is true that they may choose to grant the collecting institution an unprecedented kind of authority. But not filling one out endows the institution with far greater authority, because then there’s no document future critics can dig out to decide whether a given interpretation is good or bad. And make no mistake about it, museums will reinterpret works of art – sometimes consciously, sometimes not, but usually to the detriment of all but the most conservative elements of an artwork. … “

 “And of course”, he states, “if an artist working in ephemeral media doesn’t want their work to vary at all, the variable media paradigm is the only current proposal to allow enforcement of such an expiration date.”

 To Philip’s concern that the variable media model simply guaranteed a “profit returning investment” for museums, Ippolito consents that “No collecting institution will ever be entirely insulated from market pressures, so artists are right to be skeptical of museum’s interest – to a point.” But he believes, “that a museum that is committed to collecting ephemeral works according to a variable media paradigm represents the best strategy for preserving art the way artists meant it to be seen. By disentangling artistic value from exchange value, the variable media paradigm helps museums do what they’re supposed to do: keep art alive.”

  and this, I think, could be seen as an answer to the moral and copyright question mentioned by me above.