Emulation in Theory and Practice
19 March to 16 May 2004
Solomon R. Guggenheim
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York City
This exhibition tests the promise of an experimental
treatment--emulation--for rescuing new media art from the ravages of time. Seeing Double features a series of original art installations
paired with their emulated versions. This exhibition offers a unique opportunity
for both art experts and the public to compare both versions directly and decide
for themselves whether the re-creations capture the spirit of the originals.
This exhibition is organized by the Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum in partnership with the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art,
Science, and Technology.
This exhibition is generously supported by the
Daniel Langlois Foundation.
The preservation of contemporary artworks
presents a challenge to museums like the Guggenheim, which are confronted with
technological obsolescence, deterioration of materials, and varied installation
requirements. One strategy for replicating ephemeral or obsolete media that is
gathering interest is emulation. To emulate a work is
to devise a way of imitating the original look of the piece by different means.
The term can be applied generally to any refabrication of an artwork's
components, as is the case with the refabrications and reconfigurations that are
essential to the preservation of Conceptual, Minimal, and performative art. In
the digital media realm, however, emulation has a specific definition. An
emulator is a computer program that "fools" the original code into assuming that
it is still running on its original equipment, thus enabling software from an
out-of-date computer to run on a contemporary one.
Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice pairs
artworks in endangered mediums side by side with their re-created doubles--and
sometimes triples--in newer mediums, offering visitors a unique opportunity to
judge whether the emulated works capture the spirit of the originals.
While making that judgment, bear in mind
that emulation is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, rarely pure and never simple.
Artists such as Cory Arcangel, jodi, and Robert Morris may choose emulation in
combination with other preservation strategies, such as storing obsolete
equipment or recording staged performances. When manipulation of hardware is
critical to the artwork, as with the electronic sculptures by Nam June Paik or
John F. Simon, Jr., emulation may not be as appropriate for the short term as
migrating the original components to their up-to-date equivalents. And even in
cases where emulation is the ideal solution, as in works by Mary Flanagan or
Grahame Weinbren and Roberta Friedman, practical logistics and cultural factors
may force artists to augment pure emulation with creative solutions of their
These compromises do not refute the value of emulation for
re-creating ephemeral artworks, but they do suggest that the intent of the
artist may be a better guide than a one-size-fits-all technical solution. For
this reason, the Variable Media
-- a consortium of museums and archives cofounded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
, New York,
and The Daniel Langlois Foundation for
Art, Science, and Technology
, Montreal--is taking pains, through case
studies such as these, to document how artists and their associates regard the
long-term preservation of their work.
The following variable media terms describe
some of the stages a work may undergo in the preservation process:
ORIGINAL: Material, hardware, or software used in the first
incarnation of the work.
STORED: Material, hardware,
or software that has been warehoused for future use as long as it remains
MIGRATED: Material, hardware, or software
upgraded to its contemporary equivalent, often sacrificing the exact look or
form of the original.
EMULATED: Material or hardware
rebuilt to imitate the impression conveyed by the original work, or software run
in a special programming environment that imitates the original one.
Cory Arcangel, I Shot Andy Warhol
, 2002. Installation view of Digital
Media, American Museum of the Moving Image, New York, November 2002. Photo by
Wendy Moger-Bross, courtesy American Museum of the Moving Image, New York.
Cory Arcangel / BEIGE (b. 1978)
I Shot Andy Warhol
2002, Sony Trinitron
television (ca. 1990), Nintendo Entertainment System, reprogrammed videogame
cartridge, and light gun
2004, Sony Trinitron television (ca. 1990),
Nintendo Entertainment System, reprogrammed videogame cartridge, and light
Courtesy of the artist
To hack the
Nintendo game cartridge, Arcangel pried off the chip corresponding to the game
graphics, rewrote its programming to include new game characters, and soldered
it back onto the original cartridge. Arcangel left unchanged the chip that
controlled the logic of the game itself, as well as the light gun used to
interact with it.
The impact of Arcangel's
original intervention--hacking an obsolete game cartridge at the level of
hardware-- would be lost in an emulated version. In the short term, storage of
the original equipment--with potential migration of the television--is the ideal
option for preserving this piece of technological nostalgia.
When I was growing up my favorite
light-gun game was Hogan's Alley. I met a guy who was involved in the
development of this technology in Chicago, Steve Boyer, and he told me that the
light gun has a photocell that can tell the difference between light and dark.
When you hit the trigger, everything on the screen goes black except what you're
supposed to shoot, which stays white. (He said when light guns first came out,
they hadn't quite got it right; you used to be able to point at a light bulb and
win the game.)
When he told me that, I realized that you could change all
the colors around and it wouldn't affect the gameplay, so I immediately had to
make a light-gun game.
The first part of the game is a typical shooting
gallery. I left the machine code almost completely unchanged, but switched all
the graphics on the chip. The characters are now the Pope, Flava Flav, and
Colonel Sanders; you have to shoot the Warhols.
For me the whole point of
the work was the hardware intervention, the fact that I slaved over this
ridiculous 6502 Nintendo language. If I hadn't been able to make a cartridge
that ran the original code, I wouldn't have made the work.
everything in an emulator on a contemporary PC before I made the cartridge. It
would have been next to impossible to write it without the emulator.
I'm a little wary of emulating it in a gallery, because the public doesn't
necessarily understand an emulator. The reason I make works based on game
consoles is that all you have to do is see the cartridge to understand what
happened. (Of course, I'm influenced by Nam June Paik's experiments with magnets
In thirty years a laptop running that game is going to mean
nothing to the public. So I want I Shot Andy Warhol to
be exhibited with a real light gun, the Nintendo, and preferably a period TV
In fifty years if you searched the world over and there were no
Nintendos, you could emulate it, but I wouldn't want a gallery to go out and
spend $18,000 to rebuild light guns. I would want someone at home to be able to
download and play around with the source code on his or her own
Other people have already been porting my work to other
versions. Somebody wrote me and was like, "Hey I got it to work on a Gameboy
emulating the Nintendo," and I was like, "Cool." Because I also participate in
behind-the-scenes emulation culture. Everything I learned about programming
comes from homebrew culture, and it's important for me to give the code away so
someone else could learn from it.
New York City, January 30, 2004
Mary Flanagan, [phage]
Mary Flanagan (b. 1969)
1998, Macromedia Director code, Windows
2004, Macromedia Director code, Windows XP
Director code, Windows 98 emulator on Macintosh OSX . Courtesy of the
Flanagan originally intended [phage]
to be downloaded and run on individual users' hard
drives. The version shown here mines data copied in 1998 from Flanagan's own
hard drive, running on a PC under the Windows 98 operating
To migrate the original [phage]
program to a contemporary PC, Flanagan downloaded the
program, installed it under Windows XP, and set it loose on data in her current
hard drive. Although [phage]
is compatible with this
new configuration, the faster processor of the contemporary PC accelerates the
tempo at which images and text snippets fly past the screen.
cannot run on a Macintosh under normal
circumstances, for this exhibition Flanagan installed a commercial Windows
emulator, Virtual PC, on a contemporary Macintosh, which permitted her to
download and run [phage]
on an iMac. Ironically,
because emulators often slow down processor speed, the pacing of the Macintosh
emulation is closer to the original than the pacing of the Windows XP version.
program takes bits and pieces of data from a user's hard drive, mixing HTML with
e-mail, Help files with business letters, a user's digital snapshots with banner
ads and Internet detritus downloaded while browsing. The work blends the
generally unquestioned categories of public and private embedded into the
operating system's file hierarchies. In the way that an artist like Rachel
Whiteread pays attention to the forgotten spaces of the physical world, so [phage] provides a feminist visualization of the systems that
software engineers and hardware manufacturers have created for us to relate to
our digital experiences.
The project has been compared by users to the
way we dream, or the workings of the unconscious. An acquaintance ran [phage] on a computer he had been using for a number of
years. One of the snippets of text brought up in the mix of content from the
hard drive was an email a friend sent him four years earlier, the last
communication the two had had due to an argument. This person became very upset
that the program could cull truly personal material and remind him of past
events in his life he would rather have forgotten.
The software runs on
current Windows computers, but to test emulation as strategy for future
re-creations, we ran [phage] on a Macintosh using a
Windows emulator. The speed of the moving bits is a bit slow, but this makes the
emulated version seem more meditative.
This emulation process made me
consider how the work migrates through machines. The key to the work is the
content dredged by the program; showing the work in its "original" form would
mean supplying content from that original era. I can see versioning the software
so that content is preserved along with each version. New versions of the work
could change to function with faster processors and grab larger pieces of
New York City, February 7, 2004
jodi, JET SET WILLY Variations
jodi (Joan Heemskirk [b. 1968] and Dirk
Paesmans [b. 1965])
JET SET WILLY
2002, interactive BASIC software code, ZX
Spectrum computer, and audiocassette player. Courtesy of the
2002, interactive BASIC software code, ZX Spectrum emulator, and
Windows XP. Courtesy of the artists
All Wrongs Reversed © 1982
recording of 10 Programs Written in BASIC © 1984.
Courtesy of the artists
The artist duo jodi
based their JET SET WILLY Variations
on a game from the
1980s created for the now obsolete ZX Spectrum computer. One version in this
gallery displays the JET SET WILLY Variations on this antiquated
The artists originally hoped that an existing emulator for the
ZX Spectrum would enable them to reprogram the original Jet Set Willy code using
a contemporary PC. However, since the emulator faithfully mimicked the input
keystrokes of the ZX Spectrum, whereby each BASIC command has its own
idiosyncratic key combination, it was nearly impossible to write code on a
contemporary PC, whose keys are not marked with the commands corresponding to
the Spectrum's unique keyboard configuration.
To circumvent this problem,
jodi used the Spectrum hardware emulator to access and change the byte code
underlying the Jet Set Willy game, resulting in a version of the game with
altered colors and sounds. By recording this hacked version on an audiocassette,
jodi had the ability to port the game back onto the original
Because the only keys required to play
the game are the left arrow, right arrow, and space bar, the keyboard mismatch
that impeded the artists from using the emulator to reprogram the game does not
impede viewers from using the emulator to play it. The emulated game is seen
here on a contemporary computer running Windows XP.
Another of jodi's
works for the vintage and emulated ZX Spectrum is 10 Programs
Written in BASIC © 1984
, which permits viewers to edit and run simple
BASIC programs that paint black-and-white patterns on the screen. In a move
reminiscent of Robert Morris's decision to film his live performances as
documentation, jodi produced a video screen capture of someone interacting with
10 Programs on the vintage Spectrum. Although the resulting DVD All Wrongs Reversed © 1982
is not interactive, it can be
stored or migrated in video format and mimics the visual properties of the
Spectrum screen better than the emulated version running on a contemporary PC.
Our new home in the Netherlands used to
be a house in the 1980s, then turned into a kindergarten, and we are in the
process of turning it back into a house. That's a bit like what we've done in
our JET SET WILLY Variations, except that our house
doesn't have sixty rooms like the Jet Set Willy game does.
working with the Jet Set Willy game two years ago. We had no nostalgic feeling
for the ZX Spectrum machine except from a retro point of view; in the '80s I did
not have a computer and neither did Dirk. We were interested in old forgotten
computer languages, and this was one of the first for home users. When we first
played around with Jet Set Willy on a ZX emulator, it was hard to reprogram the
code. On the vintage Spectrum, every key has four or five functions. To type a
command like GOTO, you have to hit the right key combination; you can't just
type G-O-T-O. On the PC keyboard it is very difficult to relocate these multiple
So instead of using the emulator to write the source code, we
used the emulator to access the machine code. I modified the game's graphics and
sound by poking through the Jet Set Willy program byte by byte.
emulator you can play the game OK, because all you need is the left and right
arrows, plus the spacebar to jump. But you don't get in contact with the
original hardware. You have no idea that the game once ran off
Another difference is the screen resolution. The ZX works with
a TV signal, so the screen is fed by antenna cable. A line is not a line. A
piece of red on an LCD display is just straight, one color, but on a TV it's
totally lively. Even if you put a white against a black, the TV tube cannot hold
the line, and it bleeds or bows. The Spectrum loads from a cassette, and if you
unplug the electricity everything is gone--like a performance. So for another
Spectrum-based work, 10 Programs Written in BASIC ©
1984, we made a DVD recording, All Wrongs Reversed ©
1982. Of course you don't see the cassette or the TV or the computer--you
see someone coding and typing and having a simple result. But making a DVD was a
way to record the original action. jodi (Joan Heemskirk)
Netherlands, February 17, 2004
Robert Morris and Carolee
Schneemann performing Site
at Stage 73, Surplus Dance
Theater, New York, 1964. Photo by Peter Moore.
Robert Morris (b. 1931)
1964, live performance with Robert Morris
and Carolee Schneemann
1993, restaged and filmed with Andrew Ludke and
Sarah Tomlinson, directed by Babette Mangolte. 16-mm film transferred to video.
Courtesy of the artist and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New
Morris was an active participant in the
Judson Dance Theater, whose members explored the artistic potential of
task-oriented movements. He choreographed and performed Site
onstage in front of a live audience with artist Carolee
Morris's restaging of Site
three decades later aimed to emulate as closely as
possible the look, age, and movements of the original dancers. Although it
functions at a level removed from the live restaging, the film (transferred to
video) represents a version of the work that can be stored and migrated rather
The impetus for making a film version of
Site, a performance from 1964, originally came from
Rosalind Krauss, who curated my 1994 Guggenheim retrospective. She thought it
would be an interesting idea to have these performances shown along with other
works from the same period.
Unlike the staging of the original
performance, the remake took hours and hours of rehearsing and waiting. The
whole process of filmmaking is just so utterly boring--for me it was anyway. So
the pleasure comes at the very end when you see it all together.
suppose we could have just restaged the performances, but somehow that did not
happen; it was transmuted into a film instead. And the space of film is
obviously very different than performance space. The same kinds of movements are
going on, but your focus is extremely controlled by the filmmaker.
when I did the piece in '64, one sheet of plywood lasted for several
performances, but we had to use a dozen sheets to get this film made. They make
plywood in such a lousy way now, it doesn't have the same snap, it doesn't have
the same look.
Certainly, a great deal of this film, maybe the whole
thing, is more about [director] Babette Mangolte than me, than Morris. But I've
come to accept that. It has also become a record in perpetuity of that
performance--the only one, other than my notes. So if anyone wanted to restage
the performances, they would be able to consult the film. I don't think that I
would do it, but someone might want to.
New York City, March 31, 2001
1965 (1988). Photo by David Heald.
Nam June Paik (b. 1932)
1965, altered RCA
1989, altered Samsung television with signal amplifiers.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Purchased with funds contributed by the
International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Ann Ames,
Edythe Broad, Henry Buhl, Elaine Terner Cooper, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Harry
David, Gail May Engelberg, Ronnie Heyman, Dakis Joannou, Cindy Johnson, Barbara
Lane, Linda Macklowe, Peter Norton, Willem Peppler, Denise Rich, Simonetta
Seragnoli, David Teiger, Ginny Williams, and Elliot K. Wolk,
Paik first experimented with rewiring
television sets in 1963 for his seminal exhibition Exposition of Music--
Electronic Television at Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany. In 1965 Paik
created another manipulated television, TV Crown
adding a second electromagnetic "yoke" and feeding audio signals into both yokes
to modulate the electron beam, thereby painting the screen with mesmerizing
To re-create TV Crown
for Paik's 2000 Guggenheim retrospective, the
artist's long-time collaborator Jung Sung Lee performed the same manipulation
with a contemporary television set to produce a result comparable to the
original. This re-creation is more a migration to new hardware than an emulation
of old hardware; however, if flat screens replace cathode-ray tubes in the
future, the day will come when an off-theshelf TV set will no longer permit such
manipulation. At that point, storing or custom-fabricating cathode-ray tubes
("hardware-for-hardware" emulation) would be the only option to preserve the
My experimental TV is
like nature, which is beautiful,
not because it changes b e a u t i f u l l y,
but simply because it c h a n g e s.
My experimental TV is the first ART (?), in which the "perfect crime" is
possible................... I had put just a diode into opposite direction, and
got a "waving" negative Television[....]
My TV is NOT the expression of my personality, but merely
a "PHYSICAL MUSIC"
In usual compositions, we have first the approximate vision of the
completed work, (the pre-imaged ideal, or "IDEA" in the sense of Plato).
Then, the working process means the torturing endeavor to approach to
this ideal "IDEA." But in the experimental TV, the thing is completely
revised. Usually I don't, or cannot have any pre-imaged VISION before
working. First I seek the "WAY," of which I cannot for[e]see where it
leads to. The "WAY," ,,,,, that means, to study the circuit, to try various
"FEED BACKS," to cut some places and feed the different waves there,
to change the phase of waves etc.[....]Anyway, what I need is
approximately the same kind of "IDEA" which American Ad Agency used
to use,.,.,., just a way or a key to something NEW. This "modern" (?)
usage of "IDEA" has not much to do with "TRUTH," "ETERNITY,"
"CONSUMMATION," "ideal IDEA," which Plato--Hegel ascribed to this
celebrated classical terminology.
INDETERMINISM and VARIABILITY is the very UNDERDEVELOPED
parameter in the optical art, although this has been the central problem
in music for the last ten years[....]I utilized intensely the livetransmission
of normal program, which is the most variable optical and
semantical event, in 1960s. The beauty of distorted Kennedy is
different from the beauty of football hero[....]There are as many sorts of
TV circuits, as French cheese-sorts. F.i. Some old models of 1952 do
certain kind of variation, which new models with automatic frequency
control cannot do.
Excerpts from "Afterlude to the Exposition of Experimental Television,"
The Fluxus Newspaper (New York), June 1964.
John F. Simon,
Jr.Color Panel v1.0.1
, 2004. C code, altered Apple
PowerBook G3 laptop, and acrylic.Color Panel v1.0
1999. C code, altered Apple PowerBook 280c laptop, and acrylic.
the artist and Sandra Gering Gallery.
John F. Simon, Jr. (b. 1963)
v1.0, 1999. C code, altered Apple PowerBook 280c laptop, and acrylic.
Edition 1/2. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Purchased with fund
contributed by the Young Collectors Council 99.5273.
Color Panel v1.0, 1999. C code, altered Apple PowerBook 280c
laptop, and acrylic. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Sandra
Color Panel v1.0.1, 2004. C
code, altered Apple PowerBook G3 laptop, and acrylic. Re-creation by the artist.
Courtesy of the artist and Sandra Gering Gallery.
Simon created the original Color Panel v1.0
by stripping the casing off a 1994 Apple PowerBook 280c and embedding the screen
in a white acrylic frame. His custom software, based on five interrelated cycles
of moving blocks of color, runs on the PowerBook hard drive, which is embedded
into the back of the frame. Since the program has entirely random elements,
Simon and the variable media team decided to install another Color Panel v1.0
from the original edition to serve as a
control for the experiment, so that viewers could distinguish discrepancies in
color and imagery introduced by the new hardware from discrepancies already
inherent in different sculptures from the original edition.
For this exhibition Simon created Color Panel
, an experimental version to test the possibility of running his
custom software on newer hardware, in this case a 1998 Apple PowerBook G3. The
original code ran too fast on the newer processor, however, so Simon introduced
"waitstates" --commands to slow down the code--to reproduce the pacing of the
original program more accurately. Technically, this alteration makes the
recreation a migration rather than emulation, although most of the code is
untouched in this preservation strategy.
I was thinking about color contrasts in
Josef Albers's Homage to the Square, a series of paintings with three or four
nested squares, which depends on the relationship of the colors and what's
surrounding what. In Color Panel v1.0, a digital
sculpture made from an Apple 280c PowerBook, I wanted that kind of idea to work
Since these laptop components won't last forever, the first
thing you'd want to do is exhaust all supplies of 280cs; you want any
re-creation to be as close as possible. But at some point, we're not going to be
able to get them. Then you have to make a decision whether you go to, say, a
14-inch LCD panel, or whether you're going to allow someone who owns the
sculpture to refabricate the display.
I wouldn't want a new version shown
with the keyboard and everything; I'd expect the screen to be isolated. On the
other hand, the reason the circuit board is in the original has as much to do
with the way the 280c was designed as the fact that I like the way it looks. But
that synthesis is hard to get all the time.
Rather than trying to
customize a screen to look like the original, my idea would be: What's available
that, in some way, is in the same spirit? Maybe in the secondhand computer
market, there's a screen with similar size that you can get to run for another
fifty years. Maybe you'll have the possibility in fifty years to get an amazing
organic LED, you know? The essential nature of the piece is the way the software
runs. The code can live on all kinds of things.
Emulations, it seems to
me, just keep adding shells and shells of programming over time. I just think
that's too much overhead, and then it's not efficient. If you go to the source
code and recompile it, you're closer to the machine. You can control more things
at more levels. It doesn't bother me if variations start to occur among the
numbered editions of this piece because different ones get upgraded at different
times. A Color Panel with the version number 1.5 would indicate a feature
change, but if the re-creation was a direct port--same features, same speed,
same color depth--the version would be something like Color
Panel 1.0.1. Code by its nature modifies and propagates.
Simon, Jr., New York City, 2002
The Erl King
Final report, Erl-King project. Isaac Dimitrovsky, April 1, 2004:
Grahame Weinbren and Roberta
The Erl King
code, SMC-70 computer, storage cp/m operating system, custom-built video
switcher, three laser disc players, Carroll touch screen, one CRT viewing
monitor, one CRT touch-screen monitor, and three laser discs.
code, PASCAL code, Sony Desktop computer (specs to come), Linux operating
system, viewing monitor, touch-screen monitor, and Elo touch screen. Courtesy of
the artist, promised gift to Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New
Specific features of the Sony SMC-70
computer contributed to what artists like Weinbren and Friedman could achieve in
the emerging medium of interactive cinema. The computer takes input from the
infrared bezel touch screen and signals the laser disc players to find and play
video and audio segments. The RGB overlay system enables text and simple
graphics to appear on the input screen but not the public viewing
To control these various components and present a seamless
interactive narrative, the artists and their collaborators wrote a custom PASCAL
program, loaded at runtime into the computer's cache disk, that provides
potential pathways through the video. Due to its unique syntax and complexity,
this code merits historical interest beyond its function in The Erl King
; indeed, Weinbren and Friedman intended to share
the program with other artists to help them create their own interactive video
The artists worked together with
the Guggenheim's variable media team and consultant Jeff Rothenberg to digitize
the video and audio, and software engineer Isaac Dimitrovsky programmed a new
interpreter for the original PASCAL code. When the PASCAL code sends a command
to load audio, video, text, or graphics files from their original storage
devices, the interpreter emulates the function of the video switcher, the
graphics cache, and the laser disc players to ensure that video and sound clips
play at the right times.
This re-creation is not emulation in the deepest
sense, for the interpreter mimics only the PASCAL program's calls to hardware
peripherals, and not the entire computer on which it runs. Nevertheless, the old
code still calls the shots--quite literally--while the new code replaces
obsolete hardware so that The Erl King
can function in
its intended way.
Roberta Friedman and I began The Erl King in 1982. The idea was that it would be seamless
and cinematic, and that the viewer could interrupt the flow at any moment. It
was based on a connection, pointed out to me by film scholar Noll Brinckmann,
between two famous nineteenth-century texts, Goethe's "Erlkönig" and one of the
dreams analyzed by Sigmund Freud.
One thing often overlooked about Freud
is his gift for visualization. His descriptions of dreams often create precise,
memorable images. An example is the dream of the burning child. A sleeping
father dreams that his dead child taps him on the shoulder and whispers,
"Father, don't you see I'm burning?" He wakes up and runs into the next room to
find his child's body in flames. This intense, cinematic moment haunted me for
years. Goethe's "Erlkönig" is another father and son story. They are riding
together "through the night and the wind" and a supernatural creature keeps
appearing and urges the child to leave his father and join him. When the boy
asks his dad for confirmation-- "Father, don't you see the Erl King?" (a
counterpart to the burning child's plea)--the father refuses to acknowledge the
reality of his son's fear. The way these texts echoed in the deepest regions of
my own psychology prompted me to begin to imagine a film with the two elements
at its base. I became aware of the possibility of combining interactivity with
the moving image in 1981, and Roberta and I reconceived the project as a work of
We started by shooting a performance of the Schubert
arrangement of "Erlkönig" set among palm tress and caged live chickens, and an
enactment of the burning child scenario set in Anna Freud's bedroom. Then we
picked up elements of these scenes and made them into repeating motifs.
Interactivity makes it possible to forge any number of connections. By pointing
at the screen, you glide from Schubert to gospel music to improvised trombone to
New Wave performance, from Sigmund Freud to Jacques Lacan, from stock car racing
to abandoned, wrecked cars decorated with lines from Goethe, from a
chicken-plucking machine to a Chinese chef to chickens dyed red, green, and
blue. The breakthrough technology of the laser disc is that it allows the
sequencing of images to be determined at the time of presentation, rather than
fixed during the production process as would be the case with a film or
videotape. This in turn means that a system can be set up so that the viewer can
determine the sequence. In this way it is random access, not digital technology,
that animates and releases the Erl King.
Most of the equipment that runs
The Erl King is now twenty years out of date. If the
piece is to last into the future, it will have to lose its dependence on
dinosaur machinery (and today's hot devices are always the dinosaurs of
tomorrow). In some cases the apparatus that runs a piece is an indispensable
part of the work, but for The Erl King it is
irrelevant. The apparatus is no more than what makes the interactivity possible,
so a digital version of the piece, whatever equipment it runs on, will be
exactly the same piece. But it is necessary that the computer code and video
precisely match the original, and for that reason we decided to write a computer
program that interprets the original computer program for a contemporary
computer environment. All hardware is emulated, i.e., the video players and the
switcher are now digital devices, parts of a computer program. Thus, The Erl King has been transformed from analog to
Grahame Weinbren, New York City, February 2004
of Art: Emulation As a Preservation Strategy
Peter B. Lewis
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th
New York City
8 May 2004
course of the Seeing Double
exhibition, the Guggenheim
plans to survey artists, preservation experts, and the general public to assess
the success or failure of the re-creations on view. "Echoes of Art," a symposium
offered in conjunction with the exhibition, divulges the results of this survey
to stimulate a discussion about the role of emulation in keeping digital culture
alive. Artists, programmers, conservators, curators, gamers, and intellectual
property experts debate the merits of this approach and place the issues of
technological obsolescence in a cultural context. The participants reflect on
emulation's value for the case studies in the exhibition, its possible
application to preserving other aspects of endangered culture, and the role of
emulation and technological nostalgia in contemporary gaming and art.
The symposium is free with the purchase of museum admission.
symposium is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the
Peter B. Lewis Theater
Saturday 8 May 2004
Welcome 9:45 - 10:00 am
Hanhardt, Senior Curator of Film and Media Arts, Guggenheim
Jean Gagnon, Executive Director, Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology
Morning Session 10 am - noon
Bullet or Shot in the Dark? Emulation As Preservation Strategy"
programmers, and conservators in this session begin by reviewing the elaborate
process required to emulate The Erl King (1982-85) by
Grahame Weinbren and Roberta Friedman. This case study serves as a point of
departure for examining such questions as how the technique of emulation can be
applied to software, hardware, or ephemeral materials. Panelists also attempt to
draw lessons about which artworks lend themselves to emulation, and which to
storage, migration, or re-interpretation.
Dimitrovsky, programmer, New York
Roberta Friedman, artist, New York
Rothenberg, computer scientist, RAND
Grahame Weinbren, artist, New
Variable Media Specialist, Guggenheim
Pip Laurenson, Sculpture Conservator
for Electronic Media and Kinetic Arts, Tate Gallery, London
Head of Conservation, San Francisco Museum of Modern
Carol Stringari, Senior Conservator for Exhibitions,
Lunch and Exhibition Viewing noon - 1:30
Emulation Performance 1:30 - 2:00
jodi (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans), artists, The
Afternoon Session 2:00 - 4:00
"Generation Emulation: Games, Art, and Technological
This session takes a broader look at the impact of emulation
culture. Participants compare the strategies available to artists for
resurrecting obsolete technologies and analyze the Seeing
Double survey for signs of consensus from the experts and the lay public
on the success of emulation. Participants also examine the retro aesthetic
motivating emulation among players of computer games and creators of game
"mods," speculating to what extent emulation will become part of everyday life
in an increasingly technological future.
artist, New York
Mary Flanagan, artist, New York
John F. Simon, Jr.,
artist, New York
Tilman Baumgaertel, writer and critic,
Joan Heemskerk, artist, The Netherlands
Francis Hwang, artist and Director of Technology, Rhizome.org, New
Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts, Whitney Museum of
Jon Ippolito, Associate Curator of Media Arts,
Guggenheim and artist, Still Water for networked art and culture, University of