Extraits de la conférence
Preserving the Immaterial: A Conference on Variable Media
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
30 et 31 mars 2001
>>Retour au Réseau des médias variables

Vous trouverez ici des extraits des retranscriptions de la conférence Preserving the Immaterial, présentée au Guggenheim Museum de New York. Le discours d'ouverture de Bruce Sterling et l'introduction de Jon Ippolito furent présentées le 30 et les trois cessions le 31 mars 2001.

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« Décomposition numérique »
Discours d’ouverture de Bruce Sterling

Vous vous demandez sans doute pourquoi un auteur de science-fiction comme moi aime tant sympathiser avec des conservateurs de musée. C’est un paradoxe comme celui du titre de la conférence, « La préservation de l’immatériel ». Si c’est immatériel, pourquoi faut-il le préserver? Et si on est futuriste, que fait-on dans un musée?

Mais nulle contradiction ici; c’est parfaitement compréhensible, si on le voit bien. Les futuristes et les antiquaires travaillent tous deux avec la nature du temps. Je voue une allégeance passionnée à mes distingués collègues des musées. Car le futur n’est qu’une sorte de passé qui n’est pas encore arrivée. Et la désuétude n’est que l’innovation à l’envers.

Les conservateurs, les restaurateurs et les archivistes sont beaucoup plus près du futur que la plupart d’entre nous mortels. C’est qu’ils entreposent, cataloguent et préservent – ils touchent physiquement – les objets du passé et présentent ce que les gens du futur verront.

Lorsqu’on fréquente des restaurateurs et des archivistes, alors on découvre ce que fait vraiment le passage du temps. Ces gens ont tout un boulot. Une seule vie humaine permet difficilement de voir la décomposition à l’œuvre, mais, dans un musée, on connaît la puissante armée de ravageurs que commande l’entropie.

Il y a bien sûr les terrifiantes et mythiques menaces habituelles : le feu, le déluge, la tempête, le tremblement de terre, les foules en délire, les bombardements intensifs, les fléaux et les nuées de sauterelles. Les pluies de grenouilles en Égypte. Les collisions d’astéroïdes...

Voir la version intégrale de ce texte.

Cliquez ici pour lire le texte Composer avec l’imprévisible : Le questionnaire sur les médias variables.

Ce texte de Jon Ippolito ne représente pas une retranscription fidèle de sa conférence du 30 mars 2001. Il s'agit plutôt d'une version fortement remaniée, destinée à la publication L'approche des médias variables : La permanence par le changement.

Cette publication est disponible ici.

Thank you Bruce. I have to say I'm a little disappointed in Bruce's pessimistic forecast for digital media. It seems to me that the very fact that the World Wide Web exists should give us hope for a self-sustaining, eternal repository of cultural heritage. And that's why I'm relying on it for my presentation.

The Variable Media Initiative is a radical paradigm for preserving art in new media--What the...? I swear this worked fine this morning. Oh, I see the problem-this is the Lynx browser. My site's not compatible with that particular interface. OK, I'll launch a version in another browser: Whoa, what happened to the images and colors? OK, everything's under control, this is just a different, but equally wrong browser: Opera. My site's not compatible with that. Let's try that again with Amaya. OK, a little better. Isn't there a copy of Netscape on this machine? Here we go-arrgh! No wonder, it's Netscape 3. How about 4...ah, perfect. Well...maybe Bruce has a point. Granted, I deliberately picked some rather esoteric browsers-with the help of Jan Schaumann, the Guggenheim's Webmaster. Yet the vulnerability of Web site display to the nuances of different browser flavors doesn't bode well for the ability of future browsers to re-create the Web we see today.

>> View screenshots of various browsers.
As a matter of fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea for every museum that collects ephemeral media to have a science-fiction writer in residence-preferably a dystopian one, to help them envision the worst-case scenarios that will inevitably befall the media in their collection. Indeed, in some ways new media preservationists and science fiction writers are in the same business. However questionable our goal of forecasting the future, there is no question that this imagining adds great clarity to our understanding of the present.

For this reason, I see the vulnerability of so much art of the past half-century as both a danger and an opportunity. The danger is that we decide to give up on the ephemeral art forms of the twentieth century, withdrawing into our ironclad citadel of durable Paintings and Sculpture, and watching from the ramparts as hapless masterpieces of video and online art are mowed down by the specter of technological obsolescence. The opportunity, on the other hand, is to craft a new collecting paradigm that is as radical as the art it hopes to preserve. The choice is ours: do we jettison our paradigm? Or our art?

Personally, I vote for the former-and so what you'll see tomorrow is a new paradigm. The Variable Media Initiative encourages artists to define their works in a medium-independent way so that they can be translated into new mediums once their original format is obsolete.
While it is to my knowledge unprecedented among museums and other collecting institutions, the Variable Media Initiative didn't emerge from some art history dissertation or philosopher's musings. It was inspired by the experience of people at work in the front lines of the battle to save art, from Carol Stringari and Paul Kuranko wrestling with fading photographs and skipping videodiscs to Steve Dietz and Benjamin Weil figuring out how to archive ada'web at the Walker. Above all, it is the artists who have shown us the way. In the 1960s and 70s, Conceptual and Process artists like Robert Morris danced, scattered, and bulldozed their way out of the static model of art they had inherited from Abstract Expressionism. Younger artists like John Simon have used digital technologies to create works that live as comfortably on Palm Pilots as on 30-foot videowalls. I'm particularly indebted to my frequent collaborators Keith Frank and Janet Cohen-the former for pushing me to improve the paradigm, the latter for failing in her attempt to persuade me against it. And somewhere in the background is John Cage, the first artist to recognize the value of indeterminacy and hence the patron saint of variable media.
To demonstrate how does the paradigm works, let's start with a quiz: can you spot the artwork in variable media?

Eva Hesse, Expanded Expansion, 1969
  Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #146, 1972

The artists who created these works had a lot in common. Both former painters, Hesse and LeWitt pursued painterly issues in new formats: Hesse made sculptures from latex poured on cheesecloth, LeWitt drew directly on the wall with a blue crayon. Both created expansive works that rebelled against the closed structures of Minimalism. The artists were even the best of friends. Yet one artist's work is now terminally ill--lying in a crate in our warehouse like a patient on life support--while the other guaranteed to last as long as there is wax and white walls. Paradoxically, the artwork that seemed least permanent at the time it was made-since anyone could paint over that wall--has proven to be the true survivor. LeWitt's wall drawings have endured not by being "built to last," but by being variable. For works of this kind, fixity equals death.

In some ways, these two works are beyond the need for the variable media paradigm. We may be too late to save the Hesse, since the artist died without leaving any solution to her work's failing status; and the LeWitt, which is based on repeating a fairly straightforward set of instructions, doesn't really need our help to stay alive. So, for this first conference on variable media, we've chosen eight case studies of works that fall between the extremes represented by Hesse and LeWitt.
These case studies, which we'll examine in detail in tomorrow's sessions, include:
Robert Morris Site, 1964. Performance
Jan Dibbets A White Wall, 1971. Photo collage
Nam June Paik TV Garden, 1974. Video installation Bruce Nauman False Silence, 1975. Audio installation
Meg Webster Stick Spiral, 1986. Installation
Felix Gonzalez-Torres Untitled (Public Opinion), 1991. Interactive Installation
Ken Jacobs Bitemporal Vision: The Sea, 1994. Film performance
Mark Napier Net Flag, 2001. Web site

Unlike the one-size-fits-all fixes that technicians tend to promote for preserving different mediums-recommending, say, that celluloid film always be migrated to DigiBeta-the Variable media initiative asks the artist to play the central role in deciding how their work should evolve over time. This approach reflects our faith that the creativity of artists is more enduring than the creativity of technologists.

To assist in our workshops with artists, we've developed a questionnaire meant to stimulate questions that will help capture their intent. The questionnaire is unusual in several ways. First off, the two links you see on the first screen divide the questions into two fundamental partitions: "In its original version, this artwork could be..." and "In later re-creations, this artwork could be..." So right from the beginnings, there is the assumption that the work cannot survive in its present form. Some thing's gotta give.

Let's look at the way we chose to describe the current state of the artwork.
One of the problems the idea of the questionnaire faced early on was: how do you capture information about media that don't exist yet, about future media? Our first categories were going to be "video installation," we'll have "film," "video," we'll have "computer driven," we'll have "online art." Then I realized, those categories won't hack it -- when you have to add another category in the future, your standards will be useless.

Instead, we decided to talk about the artwork as a dynamic medium. What are the behaviors of that artwork? After a lot of wrangling, the behaviors that we considered important were: installed, performed, interactive, reproduced, duplicated, encoded, and networked. These categories are driven from the bottom up, by looking at artworks and asking: what are the pertinent questions? ...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
How about the "variable" part of variable media? Artistic media may be in a state of flux, bit at least we can measure its rate of flow. That's basically what you see here in the "can vary" pull-down menus: They are rating the variability of the artworks. Somewhat, greatly, not at all. Presumably some artists would go though and pick "not at all." Some are rigid, some are flexible. The more flexible your description, the more likely your artwork is to be propelled into the future, maybe not in the exact form as present, but in a recognizable form. For example, the plug-in for an artwork might be Quick Time, but it doesn't have to be Quick Time. An artist can say, I don't care what the plug-in is, make it whatever plug-in you want.
As the bifurcation of questions on the first screen implied, there will be an unavoidable variation in the artwork when it is re-created in the future, even knowing all the facts gathered about the present state of the artwork. What the artist can do, however, is to choose the best directions for this slippage to take place. That's what these strategy tabs found under the "later re-creations" link, are for. These are different strategies for recreating the work, or preserving the work for the future: in the future the work can be stored, emulated, migrated, or reinterpreted.
Should dedicated hardware such as a computer be stored? Well, that's something a lot of museums are thinking of doing now. I think it's dumb. But it's something that if you have storage space and you live out in a state where there's lots of low cost storage, it's an option for you. Obviously the hardware itself is going to become obsolete, and eventually you are not going to be able to find parts for it. So it's a limited solution at best. How about mass-produced items that go obsolete: should we store quantities of any products in advance of going out of production? We did this at the Guggenheim with Public Opinion, these black licorice candies, and we had boxes and boxes of them surrounding my office. I will never eat licorice again. But there are definite advantages to that approach, because it turns out that candy manufacturers change their labels constantly, in an attempt to lure you with some new product. But it also has the disadvantage of going stale.
Emulation means not storing digital files on disk or physical artifacts in the warehouse, but creating a visual facsimile of them. It looks the same, feels the same, experientially is the same, but it's in a totally different medium. This is a possible solution to obsolete hardware: should the effective obsolete hardware be executed on different equipment such as the samples of Pong running on Windows 95? Obsolete mass produced items: should we custom-make a facsimile of obsolete products? Are we going to take those Dan Flavin light bulbs and get his former assistant Stephen Morse to custom-make a fluorescent light bulb that's pink and eight feet long? Even though part of the motive, the impulse behind Flavin's work, was to deliberately choose something that you could find at Home Depot for three bucks and install it? Or do I custom print candy wrappers so that you can re-create Felix Gonzalez-Torres candy that no longer exists?
Let's go on to other strategy solutions. The premise behind this is not that it's either/or, but that someone can say: I prefer this, but I also think this other option is acceptable. "Migrated" data is from an old version and into a new version, making whatever modifications are necessary. But it's not necessarily as extreme as emulation; it is not going to a totally different medium. You're upgrading it from Netscape 3 to Netscape 4 or 6, or something like that. Obsolete hardware can also be updated, as can candies and fluorescent tubes; however, the further you go in the future away from the original equipment, the less clear it becomes what you should migrated this equipment to, and the mere interpretation is required on the re-creator's part. Which brings us to the last strategy for variable media preservation.
"Reinterpretation" is the most radical of these strategies. With hardware, the question becomes: should obsolete hardware be replaced by different apparatus with the same social or metaphoric function? There are quite a few artists, performers, and choreographers who do this themselves in the case of performance. Others might not. I was informed recently that the Samuel Beckett estate is extremely stringent about performances, and will shut down a show that changes a line from the play, or that has cast a male role with a female actor. In other cases, obsolete mass-produced items, or out of date products, can likewise be replaced with their functional and metaphorical equivalent.

It's impossible to capture every decision artists might make about their work, especially about its translation into mediums that don't even exist yet. Nevertheless, the results of a questionnaire like this can serve as an "aesthetic constitution" to guide the curators and technicians charged with re-creating the work in the future.

Of course, the artist has the option to preclude any variation from the original form of their work. This is fine, but for ephemeral media gives the work an inherent expiration date. However, those artists, and those institutions, who accept the concept of an artwork that can change may find a number of their time-honored assumptions changing along with it. They may cease to view preservation-the conservator's job, as independent from presentation-the curator's job. They may begin to view an artwork not as a singular object but as a series of events. Not as a stony artifact-for stone is brittle-but as a stream of water, which endures by variability.
Water is also the subject of our final presentation tonight: a live film excerpt of Bitemporal Vision: The Sea by Ken Jacobs. A central figure in American avant-garde film, Ken has been tremendously influential both as an artist and as a teacher (most recently as Distinguished Professor of Cinema at SUNY-Binghamton). I like to think of him as the Cezanne of cinema: with the help of an apparatus he'll describe for you, Ken manages to push and pull the picture plane of the silver screen into an extraordinary visual experience for which I know no precedent. Yet, as we'll see in our workshops tomorrow, the world of film preservation has yet to come up with a method for preserving this remarkable hybrid of film and performance.

Ken is going to perform an excerpt live, then replay a video taken here tonight--both to explain how he achieves these remarkable effects, and to demonstrate the compromises inherent in translating this work onto a conventional format.
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Étude de cas : Ken Jacobs, Bitemporal Vision: The Sea, 1994

Jon Gartenberg : Ken, vous avez récemment approuvé une version PAL de Tom Tom the Pipers Son que sort en vidéo Pip Chodorov en Europe et vous avez créé une nouvelle œuvre en format numérique, Flo Rounds a Corner. Quelles sont vos réflexions à propos du travail faisant appel au film, à la vidéo, et au format numérique, et vos réflexions au sujet de ces médiums quant à la présentation et à la préservation?

Ken Jacobs: Bien, je n’avais jamais songé à sortir Tom Tom the Pipers Son en vidéo. Ce n’était pas catholique du tout. Cette œuvre porte sur le film même. Comment pouvait-elle être transposée en vidéo? Et Pip est venu de Paris et a entrepris de me faire fléchir. Au bout du compte j’ai dit : « Essayons et nous verrons ». Je ne voulais pas trop m’engager. Finalement, le résultat était intéressant. J’aimais beaucoup ce que je voyais à l’écran. Il a fallu que je modifie ma réceptivité par rapport aux attentes. Mais voilà que la vidéo existe – Pip a fait un excellent travail – et j’ai fini par l’accepter. C’était bizarre de la visionner dans un silence complet, même sinistre. Alors, j’ai ajouté du son à la version vidéo. Au début et à la fin de l’œuvre, on entend le projecteur. À la fin, on entend le craquement du projecteur et puis « clic » la lumière apparaît...

Voir la version intégrale de ce texte.

Étude de cas : Nam June Paik, TV Garden, 1974

John Hanhardt : Un des aspects que je veux aborder au sujet de TV Garden est le nombre de chaînes vidéo dans l’œuvre. Lors de son installation aux musées Whitney et Guggenheim, tous les moniteurs présentaient une seule et même chaîne de vidéo, mais il y a eu des cas où deux chaînes étaient utilisées, par exemple en Nouvelle-Zélande.

Stephen Vitiello : C’est juste.

J.H. : Je crois que le choix des chaînes a beaucoup à voir avec l’impact de l’œuvre – et c’est d’ailleurs l’opinion de Nam June. Stephen a mentionné le son, qui est à l’évidence un élément clé de Global Groove, la vidéo présentée sur les moniteurs de TV Garden. Ainsi, TV Garden est une célébration de l’avenir de la télévision, de son essor et de sa propagation – sur les plans visuel et sonore – dans un jardin. La nature et la technologie, la propagation et la croissance, inondent l’œuvre. Illustrant ces idées, essentielles pour comprendre la position de Nam June à l’égard du médium de la télévision, TV Garden est une œuvre marquante, ayant beaucoup d’ascendant sur d’autres artistes se penchant sur ce médium en tant que forme d’art. Cela dit, si on se propose de présenter TV Garden dans un lieu plus grand que les précédents, on pourrait ajouter d’autres chaînes pour créer un impact et établir de multiples points de vue pour le public...

Voir la version intégrale de ce texte.

JOHN HANHARDT: Thank you, Jon. Just picking up on what Jon has said, in focusing this first session on the reproducible media - on photography, audiotape, film, and video - I just want to say that in choosing these individual projects that we're gonna be discussing, I think they become exemplary instances of the challenges we face. And this workshop that we had on this issue was an extraordinary experience. And I hope that we can convey a sense of what that meant to each of us. And as I introduce each of the participants in this morning's discussion, I'm gonna introduce everybody in order of presentations...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JON IPPOLITO: A White Wall is a work on board, twelve photographs, about six inches, wide apiece, square, in two rows, that originally ranged in a continuous gradient from white to black. The way they were created is that the artist, who is well known as a conceptual photographer, active in the seventies - this is a work from 1971 - shot a white wall with a little letter, the number "1" there, with his exposure setting of the camera set wide open, at say, two seconds. So the camera let in a lot of light and got a perfectly white photograph as a result.

Then systematically, over time, in each successive shot, he reduced the exposure time to one second, half second, quarter second, eighth of a second, sixteenth of a second and so on, each time letting in less light, thereby creating a darker image, until it went to black.

The results of this systematic approach to photography in the original version of this piece created an even gradient, a very beautifully, smoothly varying spectrum from white to black through all the grays in between. But when we brought the artist to a warehouse to show him what the work looked like now, he was aghast. It looked like this - basically, a row of nearly white photographs, followed by a row of nearly black photographs.

The contrast of the prints had increased dramatically over time. There were also discolorations due to the glue that was used to affix the photographs to board. And in essence, he said, "This is no longer my work."...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JON IPPOLITO: Do you wanna go into the Bruce Nauman piece, then?

CAROL STRINGARI: Sure. The next work we're gonna look at is a conceptual work which belongs to the Panza Collection. We have a very large and wonderful collection of conceptual art. And this is Bruce Nauman's False Silence. It was done in 1975. And essentially, what the museum owns is a certificate and a drawing, which you're looking at here on the screen, of the physical construction of the installation, which has specific dimensions, parameters.

It's a long corridor, with two triangular rooms off of it. And it has an audio component to it. I'm trained as --I wouldn't say a classical restorer, but I am a paintings conservator- so I'm starting to deal with new media from a preservation standpoint. I think most museums don't have a conservation specialist looking at new media. I think the Tate Gallery is leading this. They actually have a conservator in house who works on this.

We, luckily, have Paul Kuranko, who is our media arts specialist. The restoration of the audiotape, which we own for this work, is played into the corridor- You can see on the left, there's a notation. Actually, the work was requested for loan. And Paul and I went over what exactly we needed to do to get this ready for loan. And of course, you think: Oh, it's a conceptual piece; it has a certificate; we send them the certificate, they figure it out and, you know, that's it...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JON GARTENBERG: Thank you, John Hanhardt. Ken, the first thing I just wanted to say is it's been a real privilege and challenge working with you over the last few months, for myself, to try to more fully appreciate the experience of your work. And I'd just like to preface everything that we talk about now by saying that as a human being, I am sure I'm experiencing that I'm moving through three dimensional space; and as a film spectator, I had a clear understanding that, since I was age five, seeing my first Charlie Chaplin film, that films were two dimensions with the illusion of the third.

But I have this very unsettled feeling that you're projecting me into another dimension, and I'm not quite sure where I stand in that dimension right now.

KEN JACOBS: The queasy dimension.

GARTENBERG: Yes, the queasy dimension. (Laughter) Your Nervous System performances are so paradigmatic of two aspects of this issue of your creation and the preservation. One is the physical materiality of what you're working with, and the other is the performative.

So these are the questions that I asked myself: What does it mean to preserve a Ken Jacobs film? What is one preserving? Is one preserving the physical film stock? The performative aspects of the projection? The external projection of your inner nervous system sensibility? The spectator's own appropriated experience of your spatial and temporal manipulations? ...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JOHN HANHARDT: But we're now going to talk about Nam June Paik's TV Garden. In 1982, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where I was curator of film and video, I organized a Nam June Paik retrospective, and last year curated The Worlds of Nam June Paik, here at the Guggenheim. So I've been privileged to know this artist for many years. And in organizing these exhibitions, became very close to him, conversant with his thinking, ideas, and ways of working.

And I cite this because we've been talking about the artist. But it's also, throughout this history, curators, people who have been identified with or worked with a number of artists, who have had first-hand experience with realizing it and seeing it installed. So how do we preserve those experiences in a way to inform future exhibition and presentation of work? ...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.

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Étude de cas : Meg Webster, Stick Spiral, 1986

Carol Stringari : La documentation que nous avons sur votre travail consiste en quelques croquis et communications entre les commissaires et vous. Aujourd’hui, est-ce que vous reviendriez en arrière pour rédiger un scénario?

Meg Webster : En fait, je devrais revenir en arrière, réfléchir à ce que nous avons appris et faire des ajouts à la boîte. Lorsque je vends une œuvre, je place toute la documentation dans une boîte bien confectionnée qui sert en quelque sorte de description pour chaque pièce. J’y ajouterais maintenant une vidéo — les photographies ont toujours fait partie de la documentation — mais une vidéo ferait certainement partie du dossier si je devais créer une autre boîte.

CS : Vous feriez une vidéo de l’installation, à titre d’exigence définitive?

MW : Non, ce ne serait pas une exigence définitive, mais j’enregistrerais ce qui s’est passé. Je m’intéresse davantage à la manière dont Stick Spiral pourrait être montée à l’avenir, à la manière dont l’œuvre pourrait changer et à ce que les changements ajouteraient à l’œuvre...

Voir la version intégrale de ce texte.

Étude de cas : Meg Webster, Stick Spiral, 1986

Carol Stringari : La documentation que nous avons sur votre travail consiste en quelques croquis et communications entre les commissaires et vous. Aujourd’hui, est-ce que vous reviendriez en arrière pour rédiger un scénario?

Meg Webster : En fait, je devrais revenir en arrière, réfléchir à ce que nous avons appris et faire des ajouts à la boîte. Lorsque je vends une œuvre, je place toute la documentation dans une boîte bien confectionnée qui sert en quelque sorte de description pour chaque pièce. J’y ajouterais maintenant une vidéo — les photographies ont toujours fait partie de la documentation — mais une vidéo ferait certainement partie du dossier si je devais créer une autre boîte.

CS : Vous feriez une vidéo de l’installation, à titre d’exigence définitive?

MW : Non, ce ne serait pas une exigence définitive, mais j’enregistrerais ce qui s’est passé. Je m’intéresse davantage à la manière dont Stick Spiral pourrait être montée à l’avenir, à la manière dont l’œuvre pourrait changer et à ce que les changements ajouteraient à l’œuvre...

Voir la version intégrale de ce texte.

CAROL STRINGARI: What we're gonna look at here is an installation entitled Stick Spiral. It was first conceived in 1986 by Meg Webster, who's sitting at my left. And you can see it as it was presented in the Material Imagination show here at the Guggenheim. And what I'm gonna do is try and evoke a description of how Meg feels about the piece. Because as we spoke about this morning with Nam June Paik, there's an incredible amount of variability, and yet there are some fixed aspects of the work that are really important. So we're gonna try and define those now.

In terms of Jon's questionnaire and his strategy towards preserving the work - which of course, we don't store those sticks of the spiral - what is it that you would want us to store in our archives?

MEG WEBSTER: That's a good question. Do we have a picture of its first incarnation? Yeah. There were five works in a long space. And all were meant to be attended to with the body. You looked across a volume of water, you went into some air. And in this case, case you went into some sticks or branches, actually. And they were gathered from an estate where someone had done some pruning, taken down some saplings and so forth. And that's why they look the way they do. I was just basically making forms out of the material that I found nearby...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JON GARTENBERG: Thank you, Jon. I just wanted to start with a quick preamble, in terms of talking with Jon Ippolito about this whole issue of preservation of film, particularly of experimental and independent artists such as Ken. When Jon and I started to talk about this, we subsumed all of this work under the category of reproducible media. What struck me about that is that this description is really insufficient to describe the enterprise of artists such as Ken, next to me.

Because I believe that they are very significantly also concerned about the performance aspects, and the way that these films are presented, the environments that they're presented in. And without going into a lot of details, from my own decades of experience preserving experimental filmmakers' works and independent artists' works, the whole issue of dealing with the different versions, the different iterations of what it is that they created, beyond the issue of the film stock, it is: What version of what showing at what time is it that we're trying to account for?

And I think no one is more wonderfully paradigmatic of this example and engaged in this process than Ken Jacobs. So I thought we would start this afternoon by asking Ken a couple questions about the issues of the projection space and the projection environment. And I thought, Ken, maybe the first place we could start was with maybe if we talked a little bit about your shadow plays.

KEN JACOBS: Shadow plays need standard proscenium stages, they need darkness. And they're actually, for some years now, 3-D shadows. They're shadows that loom from the screen, come out into the audience, and they're lots of fun for me to do. I don't get a chance to do them as often as I'd like. I must say, you put me in mind about the environment. A little story? Ok? ...

Read more about this in the full conference transcript.
JON IPPOLITO: One of the possibilities, when we talk about moving to the digital realm in terms of performance, is a performance that doesn't take place in one room, either for the viewers or even the performers. And one of our respondents today, Tiffany Ludwig, has worked with an artist who was mentioned earlier - Jack Waters, mentioned by Jon Gartenberg - to produce an online performance. Tiffany, if you wanna talk us through, just quickly, how that works and how it is different from the performance, even in the wide variety that we've just talked about in physical space.

TIFFANY LUDWIG: Ok, I think Jon's gonna pull it up on the screen here, also. This is Jack Waters' piece, Superschmoozio. And this screen capture was presented at the Kitchen in January. And what you're seeing here are avatars in the Palace, which is a graphical chat environment online. Each of the avatars you're looking at is in a different place around the country or the globe.

Superschmoozio is a piece about kissing up in the art market, and schmoozing your way through the art world. And it was originally conceived as a video game with a theatrical concept, where the players would have characters that they would embody. And instead of punching or stabbing to knock down your opponent, you would try to draw them to you by kissing and making sucking sounds and talking about your artwork. (Laughter)

Jack's background is in dance and choreography, so it's interesting; this work probably links most of the variable media descriptions that Jon's been talking about in his dropdown chart, because performance and networked art combine so many aspects of the temporal and the impermanent...

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JON IPPOLITO: So you see a wide span of works that fit in the category of performative, from literal performances, such as Robert Morris', through ephemeral installations, film, and even in the online world. Any other questions from respondents about some of the things that we've talked about?

SUSAN HAPGOOD: I had some questions for Meg Webster and for Robert Morris. In particular, Robert Morris, you seem to have an attitude that no matter how hard we try to do the best thing, or to try to recreate, or to reconstruct something, that basically, you're never going to be able to do it to your satisfaction. And you seem to have a certain acceptance of the fact that that's just the way it is. And I'm just wondering how comfortable you feel with some of the initial discussions of this whole initiative, allowing the museum to say what's authentic or not later on, according to these plans. Is that still part of the initiative, or no? When something's recreated, say, after your death, according to instructions, are you comfortable that they will be able to say whether it's ok or whether it's the real thing?

ROBERT MORRIS: No. (Laughter) But I don't think you have a choice.

HAPGOOD: So you are resolved to the fact that history's gonna do what it will with you, and that's just the way it's gonna be?

MORRIS: Sure. I mean, you put up a fight. But...

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Étude de cas : Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Public Opinion), 1991

Andrea Rosen : Nous parlions récemment de la différence entre le droit et la responsabilité, c’est-à-dire le droit d’un propriétaire et la responsabilité d’un propriétaire. Un propriétaire a-t-il la responsabilité de reproduire une œuvre, ou est-ce simplement son droit de le faire?

Pour Felix, il s’agissait d’une question importante, qui était au cœur même de son travail. À l’encontre d’œuvres pour lesquelles il faut se pencher sur la notion de permanence aux fins d’une présentation future, la notion de permanence est intrinsèque au travail de Felix. Une des questions essentielles sur le contenu conceptuel des œuvres de Felix est notre obsession pour la permanence, notre obsession pour la matérialisation de l’œuvre. Et c’est ce qui est si intéressant avec l’initiative des médias variables. Nous est-il possible de nous éloigner de l’obsession d’entreposer et de préserver, de nous éloigner du « monument »? Felix était très conscient de ces aspects...

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Étude de cas : Mark Napier, net.flag, 2002

Jon Ippolito : Dans le cadre du processus de commission pour net.flag, vous avez parlé avec enthousiasme de la manière de convertir votre œuvre en un nouveau média lorsque sa technologie actuelle sera devenue obsolète. Et pourtant le paradigme des médias variables va à l’encontre de la formation spécifique à un médium que les artistes reçoivent généralement. J’imagine aisément que nombre d’artistes se sentent menacés par le fait que quelqu’un puisse re-créer leur œuvre après leur décès. Pourquoi ne vous sentez-vous pas menacé par cette idée?

Mark Napier : J’ai travaillé pendant 15 ans en développement de logiciels et j’ai constaté pendant ces années l’apparition et la disparition d’un grand nombre de logiciels : applications, systèmes d’exploitation, langages et normes. J’ai conçu beaucoup de codes qui ont été mis au rebut après quelques années, ayant été réécrits dans un nouveau langage destiné à une nouvelle plate-forme. À maints égards, je trouve cela encourageant. Les produits logiciels peuvent toujours être améliorés et modifiés. Il n’y a pas de produit définitif. Cela favorise l’expérimentation et la croissance...

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JON IPPOLITO: So what you see here is a view of the piece installed at the Guggenheim on the ramps upstairs. I think what I'm going to do, perhaps, is to ask my colleague Nancy Spector to describe the conditions under which this piece was acquired by the Guggenheim; and then maybein the midst of a dialogue that she has with Andrea Rosen about the artist's intent for this work, I'll sort of jump in with some issues regarding its vulnerability to obsolescence. But first, a little background on the artist, and this piece in particular.

NANCY SPECTOR: This piece came into the collection, actually, in 1991, when Felix made it. I believe we had a grant from the Bessie Adler Foundation, and selected the work and presented it to the trustees, et cetera, without really at that time thinking through the implications of storage and replenishment and refabrication to anywhere near the extent that we're doing now. In 1995, the Guggenheim presented a survey of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' work that filled half of the museum. And at that time, we installed this work for the first time, along with a number of his other replenishable works.

Just a little background on the artist. His practice was an incredibly generous one. He invented these forms of candy spills and paper stacks that to some extent emulated Minimalist sculpture, but were entirely mutable, in that they are replenishable. Viewers are invited to take pieces of candy from the candy spills or sheets of paper from the paper stacks. The sheets of paper are often photographic works or text based pieces. And the owner of the work is responsible for replenishing it during the run of an exhibition.

The piece may exist in more examples than one...

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JON IPPOLITO: We'll now move on to a case of an artist who's very much alive - at least he was last time I checked, (Laughter) although he's been in so many shows lately it wouldn't be surprising if he expired here at the table. But we've got another hour; if you can last, that would be great. Mark Napier, a work called Net Flag. And again, although it is a work in process, Mark's done a lot of work with us already on imagining its variable media aspects, which is an exceptional opportunity, working with someone who not only is still alive, not only has just made a work, but is in the process of making it.

And Mark, I'm gonna sort of hand over the keyboard here, so that you can give us a quick demo of what the work will look like, and then we talk about some of the preservation aspects after.

MARK NAPIER: Ok, first of all, this is not the final piece. I'm probably gonna say that about ten times. This is a demo that's a little bit rough still, and doesn't show all the features. The main purpose of it is to demonstrate the interface and the thinking behind the piece.

Net Flag asks the question: What would a flag for the Internet look like? We think of the Internet as a territory. We describe it using words like space, and we talk about navigating or browsing or going to sites, as if they are physical spaces. And certainly, the countries that are behind a lot of the sites, or countries that are behind some of the infrastructure of the Internet, want to impose control over the Internet, and also want to impose some of their laws on the Internet. There is often the question of how are laws distributed across this now murky territory that's been created by this common shared global infrastructure.

So Net Flag starts with the premise that we're going to attempt to, or that we want to create a flag to define this new territory, and then asks the question what should that look like? ...

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ANDREA ROSEN: I think Benjamin's also talking about the intrinsic dilemma, in contemporary art, which is this: Art at its basis is about our desire to have something that sustains itself longer than we do. I've spent a lot of time thinking about why, for instance, we think fine art is more meaningful than fashion or film or, you know, the sort of commercial? And I think it's about this obsession that we have with a sense that the permanent object is actually somehow representing us in the future, and that we devalue the transient gesture.

And it's very intrinsic to Felix's work, as well. Past his death, the primary writing about his work doesn't even address the idea that all of these pieces can be regenerated; they only talk about the loss, the death, the transient moment of an image. He uses very transient images - you know, footprints in the snow and birds in the sky as a sense of loss, of what we can't hold onto. In fact, what Felix was interested in, and- and what I'm interested in, (Laughs) is this idea that those existed and changed and mutated the surface of, you know, either the universal mind or experience that goes on to other experience.

And I think that what Benjamin was also talking about is why we think that the transient gesture is less imperative or less transformative than holding onto the object.

BENJAMIN WEIL: In a lot of things that we've been looking at today, the whole notion of process is way more important in how it triggers thought, and how it adapts itself. When artists made a deliberate choice to use off the shelf products rather than creating their own, I think that they engaged the obligation to think along the lines of the effect it had on their work, and the instability of the medium that they were using.

It was interesting to see, for instance, the Nam June Paik exhibition staged here at the Guggenheim, and this whole discussion about, do we use vintage televisions, or do we just go to the store and buy new televisions? To me, it made completely sense to buy new ones because, I mean, why fetishize the television as object? It's not very interesting. And it's not what the point of the work is...

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