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Smithsonian TBMA Symposia

The Smithsonian Institution's Time-based Media & Digital Art Working Group, in collaboration with many staff across multiple museum units, has hosted a variety of symposia engaging with time-based media art collection, conservation, and exhibition topics.

National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Donald W. Reynolds Center, Washington, DC

As artists continue to push the boundaries of what is possible through digital technology, institutions that acquire software-based artworks take on a daunting task: long-term care of works rooted in short-term technology, and systematic care of works created in idiosyncratic ways. This day-long symposium will bring together artists, conservators, programmers, curators, and technicians. Their presentations will examine the challenges of conserving software-based artworks from a variety of perspectives—by exploring works created from the 1960s to the present, and looking at the ways technology, experiments, and art co-exist. This event’s title, a possibly sacrilegious nod to the seminal late-60s project Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), recognizes that today’s technology-based artworks are not only part of a rich creative legacy, but also call for creative thinking by those tasked with their care for future generations.

The program featured guest speakers:

  • Deena Engel & Mark Hellar: Technical Narratives and Software-Based Artworks;
  • Matthew Kirschenbaum: The Afterlives of AGRIPPA: Preserving a Disappearing Digital Text;
  • Alex Cooper: Acquisition and Conservation of Generative Artworks, National Portrait Gallery;
  • Lincoln Schatz & James Murray: It will fail and become obsolete;
  • Diane Dietrich & Desiree Alexander: The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell University;
  • Aaron Straup, Senior Engineer, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum: Planetary: collecting and preserving code as a living object.

Read TBMA Working Group Member Allison Jessing's blog post on the INCCA-NA Website here.

The talks were recorded and live streamed.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

The Smithsonian's Time-based Media & Digital Art Working Group is actively involved in the study of Digital Repositories. The Working Group convened a roundtable to discuss the status of Digital Repositories in the field of the arts, with specific focus on the technical requirements, standards, and operational protocols in the development of Trusted Digital Repositories.

The full program can be accessed here, featuring guest speakers:

  • Mark Hellar, Hellar Studios LLC;
  • Robin Dale, LYRASIS;
  • Kara Van Malssen, AudioVisual Preservation Solutions;
  • Ben Fido-Radin, Rhizome and MoMA

The Working Group also investigated the state of technical standards in the care of time-based media and digital artworks, with an interview project that can be accessed under the "Interviews" section of this site.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

This discussion of current digital preservation standards and methods asked the questions: What concerns do they raise? What issues do they solve?

The full program can be found here, featuring guests:

  • Bruce Ambacher, Archivist, University of Maryland;
  • Bill Joye, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA;
  • Richard McCoy, Conservator, Indianapolis Museum of Art;
  • Jason Salavon, Artist, University of Chicago.

The proceeding discussion led to the development of The TBMA Working Group's investigation into on Technical Standards for time-based media and digital artworks and the Roundtable on Trusted Digital Repositories.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

The Smithsonian Institution's art museums received grants from the Smithsonian’s Grand Challenge Award program and Collections Care and Preservation Fund to survey the collections and practices in caring for and exhibiting time-based art, conducted by Jeff Martin, an independent time-based art conservator and Working Group member. As part of these surveys, the museums convened a round-table to review initial findings, discuss future plans, and invite outside experts Joanna Philips, time-based art conservator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and artist Jason Salavon, whose work is represented in the National Portrait Gallery's collection, to join in the dialogue.

The full program can be found here, and included:

  • Intro by Gwynne Ryan, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden;
  • Smithsonian TBMA Survey Results by Jeff Martin, Independent Media Arts Preservation Specialist and Smithsonian Contractor;
  • Case Study of "The Cinema Effect" by Sara Gordon, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden;
  • Case Study of Jason Salavon's "The Late Night Triad" by Alex Cooper, National Portrait Gallery;
  • The Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System by Isabel Meyer, OCIO DAMS;
  • Artist, Curator, and Conservator Responses

The talks were recorded and live streamed, and external links to Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

The Lunder Conservation Center of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

The Lunder Conservation Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden coordinated a symposium titled Collaborations in Conserving Time-based Art. It addressed a growing concern within the Smithsonian, and in the field of contemporary art, about the need for preservation strategies for time-based art.

Speakers included:

  • John Hanhardt, Smithsonian American Art Museum;
  • Jill Sterrett, SFMoMA;
  • Glenn Wharton, MoMA;
  • Chris Lacinak, Audiovisual Preservation Solutions;
  • Richard McCoy, Indianapolis Museum of Art;
  • Ivo van Stiphout, Artist/Audiovisual Specialist;
  • Andrew Lampert, Anthology Film Archives;
  • John Passmore, Anthology Film Archives;
  • Anne Collins Goodyear, National Portrait Gallery;
  • John Gerrard, Artist.

During breakout sessions, participants were asked to focus on four specific areas of activity in the time-based art life cycle: Acquisition; Documentation; Installation, Display, and Access; and Preservation.

The full program can be found here.

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