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Documenting New Media Art: Caitlin Jones presentation
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Documenting New Media Art: Caitlin Jones presentation

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Speakers:>  Caitlin Jones

This workshop, funded by the ACE North East Inspiring Internationalists project, was aimed at contemporary art curators, and built upon work on collecting and archiving to take the issues wider into documenting art including live, performative and new media works. In the first presentation, Caitlin presents a range of examples and resources for current practice.

Caitlin Jones: presentation

Hello. Thank you Sarah for that introduction, thanks to CRUMB for inviting me here, and thanks to Arts Council England North East for funding me to come here.

I want to start off by laying out the theme behind what I want to talk about today. We talk about documentation - I always get really excited about the theoretical implications of documenting artworks and the relationship between our documents and the art. You can get into a really interesting theoretical discussion but I would like to not do that today. What I am trying to do instead is to give some practical guides, practical information Ė of course the theoretical always comes into it but thatís not going to be my focus. My focus today is on models that do exist for documenting time based performance art.

That said, Iím going to start off with an actual document of an early artwork. This is, as you can probably read, John Cage Variation VII, performed in 1966 as part of the famous 9 Evenings of Science and Engineering, organized by E.A.T. which was Experiments in Art and Technology, and it was a huge event at The Armory in New York City. It brought together ten artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer and John Cage, and thirty engineers from Bell Labs, a technology think tank in New Jersey. It was very prolific in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. So this is an incredibly important event in the history of art and in particular the history of new media art. And, thankfully, the event was extremely well documented by the organizers and by the artists. As you can see here, not only does it show the set up, and the close up with Cage, but also the audience. Iíll stop it here, but also there were a lot of photos taken, I could go through hundreds of them. Thereís a lot of the original equipment that was used in performances that has survived. All of this is part of the E.A.T. Collection ( that is at the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology ( Itís in Montreal.

So, Iíll propose the first question, why do we document? And why do we have to spend all this time and effort in documentation? I think this example provides a really clear answer, because it provides all of us with a unique perspective on the history of art, that is far beyond just an image in a text-book, and a word, or an anecdotal evidence of what happened. It gives us a sense of what it was like to be there.

But thereís also another answer that comes more from a conservation perspective. Documentation provides us with an insight into how we might recreate or rehabilitate certain works in the future. I call it the conservation perspective: what I need to know to reinstall, or re-perform, or preserve a work into the future. In this case, they have also preserved diagrams. This is the diagram for all the sound inputs, outputs, speakers, the set up of the stage, just little things that make you understand how it works. These are extremely valuable documents if you would want to re-perform the work, and, conveniently enough, last Saturday night this work was re-performed ( for the first time since this event, and it was at BALTIC (; it was redone by Atau Tanaka, who is the Chair of Digital Media at Newcastle University, and Newcastle based experimental music ensemble Ben Ponton and Mark Warren, and Iím sure other people were involved too. So here, based on those documents, they recreated this work. They based it on the photos, and on the process diagrams. Looking at the film and listening to the audio, looking at these diagrams, looking at pages of notes from Cage himself, they recreated his work. And they recreated it in what was possibly a - I hesitate to have to use this word - but maybe a more authentic way than if they hadnít have the documents, if they had just done it by anecdotal sources.

To answer my first question then, thatís why do we do it. The next question is who should do it and who is it for? Whether you are an artist, or freelance curator, or coming from an institutional perspective, which I think most people here are from, everyone has a vested interest in documentation. And everybody has a different perspective on what makes good documentation, depending on where youíre coming from. So, how Iíll proceed with this workshop is by giving you a whole bunch of examples of the different ways people document their artwork and/or their exhibitions. And Iím going to start with the artist Cory Arcangel (, someone I work with quite often. He is probably most famous for his hacks of Nintendo games, but Iím going to show you a range of his works and you can see his relationship to his own documentation, if I can get this to work. This is his preview DVD where he uses iDVD that comes with your Mac computer and the Ďthemesí that come with it. He uses a readymade Ďthemeí style, and this is his video game work, this is probably his most famous work. Itís called Super Mario Clouds and itís a half of a Nintendo game system where he takes out the character and just has this. I think there was recently a big exhibition of his in Sunderland at NGCA (, some of you may have seen it. This is one form of documentation and this style of documentation is essentially what the work is. You would see exactly the same thing. And then he also includes some installation shots so this is what the work looked like, a close up of what the actual Nintendo game cartridge looks like, the various ways the work has been installed. This is a form of documentation that we are all, I think, extremely familiar with.

Then I want to show you quickly a performance, as he also does a lot of performances. I am going to show you a recent performance of his at The Watermill Center ( benefit in the Hamptonís in New York State Ė a very blue-chip art event. Coryís performance was at the end of the evening, he wanted to DJ a song. And I donít know if anybody here watched The Sopranos, do you get The Sopranos here? I didnít watch it but, apparently, at the very last episode of The Sopranos ever, the family is sitting around the table and this song is playing, I think itís a Journey song (Donít Stop Believing). And all of a sudden it just cuts out, the show goes to black, and so you never really know what happens to the characters, the mafia family. To make a long story short, Cory played this song, cut it off exactly as it ends, heís got the dregs, the hangers-on, last few people at the party, drunk, and dancing on the dance floor, and then he cuts the song and they just stand there not really knowing whatís happening. Except for this guy who is second to the left or the right, heís like, ďOh! I. . .Ē He understands it. This is a performance but only these people right here experienced his performance. After looking at the documentation Cory decided, okay well, forget it that is not a performance anymore, this is a single channel video of a performance. So, this is an instance where performance documentation has become the work of art. And Iím not going to play the whole song. . .

Now Iím going to show you one more performance piece. It is called Glockenspiel. . . Bruce Springsteenís Born to Run Glockenspiel Addendum ( in which Cory takes the entire album of Bruce Springsteenís Born to Run which has a few tracks of glockenspiel parts on them, and makes glockenspiel parts for the rest of the tracks on the album. It exists as a multiple, he actually pressed new records with only his glockenspiel part on it. But he also does performance - this is at the Museum of Modern Art ( in New York City. This is the official documentation of the piece, but one of the things I wanted to show you with this piece of documentation is how they framed it. In fact you barely see Cory performing the work because they havenít really paid attention to where the camera set up is; basically he performs and you see his arm throughout the rest of the performance. But, luckily, lots of people were there, so there is a number of videos of him playing at that same performance, that have just been uploaded to YouTube ( This particular one is a different version from PERFORMA thatís also on YouTube, this is from a different time that he performed it. I wanted to use this point to say how important various perspectives, and various people documenting an artwork, can be, because youíll miss something and someone else luckily can capture it for you. In fact, there are about six different versions of different iterations of the performance of this same piece, that are up on YouTube. One is uploaded by a festival in New York City, but the other ones were uploaded by random fans.

Another artist I want to talk about a little bit is Lynn Hershman ( who also had a show recently in Manchester. She is a very important early media artist, and this is the work that she did in 1973 called Dante Hotel; in which she rented a room at a cheap hotel in San Francisco and turned it into an art installation. There is her entering this room. She set up these dolls in this bed so that it looked like someone might be sleeping there. Kind of a creepy, creepy setup. These are all her photographs, and is part of her archive. Basically you would go to this hotel, you would ask for the key from the front door person, you would go up to this room and you would either look or sit or you could rearrange the furniture and people wrote things on the walls. All these images exist in her personal archive, until recently, when she hooked up with Stanford University, with researchers at Stanford University in California to reanimate and provide a new point of access into her archive, and the resulting project is called Life Squared ( Basically what her feeling was on the piece, was that Ďthis documentation is very important to me, and if it sits in an archive in Stanford or wherever, in my basement, no oneís going to see it, so I would like to figure out new ways of giving people access to the workí. Iím not a huge fan of Second Life aesthetics, I find this really kind of a weird thing, but they recreated the plan of the hotel, all the rooms, her room. They have imported all the documents and added the architecture. You can see they have reconstructed the room in a similar public space - although I guess Second Life isnít theoretically a public space, as you have to register to get into it, but itís still a fairly open platform to reanimate the archive.

Iím going to talk about one last artist before I move on to some institutional examples. Iím going to talk about Marina Abramovic who I think is probably one of the more famous performance artists and documented her work very heavily. Montevideo has the biggest collection of Abramovicís work (, and she had considerably different versions of her work. Many of the works were performed numerous times so there are multiple versions of key works. She has re-performed her own work ten years later. She did her art classes, taught her students to re-perform her own work based on her instructions, and based on documentations; sheís someone who is very actively involved in this project, and in this process, and very conscious of the relationship between the document and her work. What I really want to talk about is a project, a performance she did in New York City in 2005, called Seven Easy Pieces ( She took she took five historical works, one by Valie Export, Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Gina Pane, and one of her own works and a new work. For these six historical pieces she recreated them based on the documentation that was available. The first work she did was Joseph Beuysís How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, which I think youíve all seen before. Itís this work, this image where he is covered in gold leaf holding a dead hare. He has a piece of felt on one shoe and a piece of iron on another shoe and he walked around in the gallery space. And you will notice, when I Google-imaged this - I just discovered this today - that the first image that comes up is Marinaís re-performance of How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. She spoke to the wife of Beuys - but mostly it was from the documents. She read about the felt on one shoe and the nail on the other shoe; and from looking at pictures too, she recreated his piece. For the Bruce Nauman piece that she re-created, called Body Pressure, in which she presses up against a pane of glass, all she had to go on was the set of instructions which are here: Ďpress as much of the front surface of your body, palms in or out, left or right cheek against the wall as possible. Press very hard and concentrate!í And this was what she had to go on, similarly for other pieces as well.

Why Iím showing you this piece is just another way to relate to documentation, but this was an exhibition based on documentation. It wouldnít have been possible without the documentation of those previous works. And what resulted from these performances were photographs taken by the museum in high definition format which are now part of the Guggenheimís archives; there was no other taking of photographs allowed in the building, and the photographs that were taken are now for sale at Sean Kelly Gallery ( They are definitely objects. The other outcome was a film by Babette Mangolte (, a fairly famous filmmaker who did a lot of early performance documentation for people like Robert Morris, or Robert Rauschenberg, and the film has been touring the festival circuit. (Iíve been showing you all these things on YouTube and Flickr, but you cannot get access to this film that way). So, different artists and different people have very different relationships to their documentation, and obviously, in this case the documentation was created not for dissemination and education, but as an object and commodity in a certain sense.

Thatís where Iím going to leave off with the artistsí documentation and I know there is a number of artists in this room who Iím sure have some interesting things to tell us and share about, and weíll leave that for the discussion period and maybe the last hour or so. Everybody can talk about it a little further then.

What Iím going to talk about now is a number of institutional models for documentation that exists out there. The first one Iím going to start with is the Langlois Foundation. I am just going to go back to that 9 Evenings example. The Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology is a funding organization but also an archive, a research and documentation centre. In addition to having this collection 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, they also have the archive of the American Video Artists - I guess theyíre European but they live in America now - Woody and Steina Vasulka; a number of Canadian media art organisations; and then they have a vast resource of media art books. They also fund artists in residences of which Iíve been one, and the woman Clarisse Bardiot who took the archive at E.A.T., which was basically just film and these documents, and they funded her to put it all in this useable format. I think itís arguably usable, but itís good that you can see film of, for example, Robert Rauschenbergís great piece called Open Score, this tennis match ( This film is from the same set of documentation of 9 evenings I showed you before. You know, until very recently in the last few years, everybody knew about this event, everybody talked about this event, but very few have had the opportunity to actually see this event. Iíve been studying this since 1993 and I just saw it six months ago. It is very exciting to have access to all this documentation. So they have the film and the photos, they also have the actual tennis rackets that were used with the tuners on them still. Theyíre not a collecting institution other than they are an archive Ė theyíre not collecting works of art, but they are interested in gathering as much information about specific things and objects as they possibly can. They are working on a massive new project right now, and I think a lot of these links Iím showing you are in your handout.

This is a massive project they are working on called DOCAM ( which is a multi-institutional program that was funded by the Canadian Government to look at issues of cataloguing, conservation, documentation, and education. As you can see this is their front page, they are very good at documenting their activities. They have events all the time on their website and then they are always updating with live streaming, and transcripts of conferences. They have subgroups: the cataloging research committee, conservation research committee and documentation research committee. The documentation committee is talking here, brainstorming on what kinds of documentation they are looking for: interviews with artists, interviews with collaborators, interviews with curators, models, 3D, 3D models, production documentation, lists of materials, technical specifications, equipment manuals for the kind of projector that was used, lists of technicians who worked on it, lists of people who service these kinds of documents, technical schematics, electrical cabling, lighting, and then installation plans, elevations. This is the kind of really, really complete list of the kinds of documentation that we should be looking for as institutions. Because, you just never know. In forty years time, the most seemingly uninteresting detail becomes very interesting. So reviews, interviews with personnel, interviews with people who saw the exhibition, and then cataloguing documentation. I use this list for myself personally all the time.

To move to another example then. One of the other things that I said the Daniel Langlois Foundation does, is that they fund other institutionsí work, and one of the other institutions that they funded is V2ís (, Capturing Unstable Media ( V2, in Rotterdam, is a media arts organization, they run the DEAF Festival ( which is every two years in Rotterdam, and they have an extensive archive. Once again theyíre not a collecting institution per se, but they did an incredible amount of research into what it meant to capture events. Because we all go to festivals, like AV Festival ( or Transmediale (, all these festivals sort of happen in moments in time; and they may never end up in any collection, so what kind of documentation can you do at these kinds of events. Iíve shown you the summary of research results which, I think, is actually very worthwhile reading. But I will just talk really briefly about some of the key points that they make. The first one is the importance of capturing context, capturing a larger field in which the event is happening. So if you are capturing at an event, if itís happening at DEAF, then maybe you want to save DEAF paraphernalia, or various simple things like posters and flyers and programs and things like that, because the feeling is that this was the forum, how the work was received at the time. In terms of capturing the artworks themselves they outline the importance of capturing preliminary documents, what they refer to as R and D. Context, contents, documentation list, the R and D process - which is I think something we could talk about later - how important is it to capture an artistís process drawing, or the B-roll film from the video art piece, is it that what you are understanding of the way that piece exists now, or is that something that should not be seen, we should only always ever see the final product of things? Then they give hints as how to document implementation, configuration, installation of artwork, specific guidelines for accounting for all the different people who work on the work of art. Too often we only ever hear the name of the artist when in fact there were numerous technicians and numerous installation people, numerous computer programmers, all the people who are really important to possibly talk to in the future or have acknowledgement on these kinds of projects.

A very important part of this project was the Capturing Unstable Media Conceptual Model (CMCM, to download at Basically itís a data structure for how you access this kind of information in the future. Because itís all very well and good to capture all this information, but then how are you going to make it accessible to people, how are people going to search for it?

These two projects, the Variable Media Foundation and the V2 are very much interested in documentation solely. They donít collect physical artworks, they collect the information about artworks. Iím going to look at a few instances, institutional instances, the Guggenheim, and the Tate in particular, who approach the documentation in terms of using it as conservation material for actual artworks. One that Iím particularly fond of because Iíve worked for it for years, is the Variable Media Network ( which was a network of museums and organizations funded by the Langlois Foundation. Basically it looked to artists to describe their works, not according to the medium but by the way the artwork behaved - looking at the artist to give us clues to how the artwork should be preserved in the future. For example, one of our case studies that we worked on was Nam June Paikís TV Garden ( > case studies > past > Nam June Paik, TV Garden, 1974) which you can see here. Itís a huge installation of office plants and televisions and itís a very complicated installation. So, for example, one of the questions we asked about was the monitors. Thereís about seventy or eighty monitors in this installation. I mean, that number can vary but on average seventy or eighty monitors of different sizes. As we all know, getting CRT monitors is harder and harder to find, and so we asked Paik what is it about these monitors that you like, weíre going to have to buy new ones, can we buy flat screen monitors? And he said, ďNo, no, no, no, no, noĒ. Because whatís very important to him is the depth, the sculptural element of it, and for him the sort of sacred television, in the time that the television really took over in our world, it was this square monitor. He doesnít care that in sixty years itís going to look really retro and dated, that shape is important to him. Thatís an important thing to know about, and thatís something you donít necessarily get to when you just document there were six thirty inch CRT monitors, or ten forty inch CRT monitors. You need to dig a little deeper. You need to document a little bit further. What weíve ended up doing a lot: most of the monitors still run, but in the ones that donít, they are often buying LCD monitors, they take out the tubes from the CRT monitor, take a flat screen and just stick it inside the casing of the CRT monitor, and thatís how those works will continue to exist over time.

So, the Variable Media Network did a bunch of case studies, and we created a questionnaire. To me, what is really useful is creating one specific type of documentation and that is related to the artist, interviewing artists in a way of finding out deeper information about art. Another example is from when I was working at the Langlois Foundation as a researcher in residence last year I worked with the art of David Rokeby ( In particular I worked on his piece called the Giver of Names (; which is an interactive installation. There is a pile of toys on the ground and a plinth, and a camera, and you go and put the toys on the plinth, and the camera looks at it, and the computer processes it. David has a computer program that processes it and then it, the computer, gives it a description. And it speaks that description into the installation space. Itís a very complicated piece, it has multiple elements and, once again, itís this idea of asking questions about technical details in a way that will elicit a deeper response. In this instance, I asked him about light bulbs. Should this room be in a light space, should it be in a dark space, what are your preferences? And this was the response that I got (plays response.). From an image alone you would see this is a dark space, and so you would just put it in a dark space, and never know why that space. But David said, I donít care, light or dark, or red, or in this instance it was blue, as long as these objects are luminous.

The Tate (, San Francisco MOMA (, MOMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York (, and the Kramlich Collection, they are a couple, Pam and Richard Kramlich, who are major media art collectors in California, who started a foundation called the New Art Trust ( The New Art Trust is a promised gift to these three institutions together which is an unusual thing to do, for three institutions to share artworks in their collection. What they did is, the three groups sat their conservation department, registrar department and archives together and established sort of rules and ways to document the works in their collection. This is definitely more on the museum side of documentation, but I think itís just an interesting and very thorough example. This is their loan process diagram ( 'Create works, create a list', it goes on and on and on. Thereís a section for creating a budget, this is for when the borrower asks for, this is how they consider whether they are going to lend it to somebody or not, and you can see it goes on and on and on. This is a photo standing in the installation, and thereís the installation documentation. These are what museums are looking to document at the time of loaning a work, so the description of the work, exhibition format, what format is the tape, or media, or slide based works. Are the slides mounted, equipment list, list items, description, name, model, suppliers, details. There is very detailed information on the installation space: Whereís the entrance and exit, how does the public move through the space, where is the equipmentís position, how many screens, what size is the image? These are all the kinds of things theyíre looking to document when lending a work. Like I said, this is not necessarily too applicable for simply documenting works, but itís good to know in a major institution exactly what kinds of things that they are looking for. Compared to the Variable Media examples of digging a little deeper as to why some of these decisions are made Ė this checklist doesnít get to any of that at all, this just gets to which projector are you using, which monitor are you using, how big is the screen, all for one specific installation.

The last project I want to talk about and we will return to it a few times, this is a major European initiative called Inside Installations (, and itís organized by INCCA ( which is the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art, and, it is a joint venture, I think that there are something like twenty organizations. The Tate is a major partner, S.M.A.K. in Ghent (, numerous German institutions, the Stedelijk in Amsterdam ( - itís a huge project. Iíll show you briefly some of the work thatís come out of it, and once again this is something that I think is best looked at in detail later. These are all the case studies that have been done, and here is a Tate example, because theyíve done this very complete work by Bruce Nauman called Mapping the Studio ( which is also in the collection of the Centre Pompidou ( and the Kunstmuseum Basel ( On this page they have images, and interviews with Nauman, who is notoriously difficult to interview, so they are very lucky, interviews with his studio assistants, and his notes. This is a piece that uses a Parker projector, and there was very specific registration on them. The images flipped and flapped at certain times, and there were laser discs, still. These are his notes, time code, and all sort of material. This is an amazing resource for people just to look at an example of how narrowly you can get at the information, how you can make it available to people in a really engaging format.

This is another section of the Inside Installations project, that was pulled together by the people from Montevideo (, and what they have done here (, which I think is really interesting, is they basically tell you everything you would possibly want to know about videotaping and installation, like, how to do it. For preproduction: defining your budget, the writerís script, preparing your shoot, on the shoot, how to set up your camera, how to set up white balance, focus, looking at exposure. This is a very useful and handy resource to have. They have post production for editing, and then, Iíll show you this because I think itís very funny, they have their case studies, so they go through this whole thing about how to really document your artwork well, and then the clips that they have available on the web are these teeny, tiny low resolution videos. But anyway, an excellent resource.

So, how to document a work of art we can talk about further. And one other thing I want to bring up before we split up into groups is once you documented it, what are you going to do with it? Where are you going to put it, and how are people going to access it? Which is obviously a very big issue. As weíve seen, a lot of the things I showed you today, especially from the artists who obviously donít have specific institutional support, are using things like You Tube and Flickr; and those are proprietary formats which raise huge issues, but theyíre also highly accessible. To go back to the Cory Arcangel example, this is Performa, which is a pretty major festival in New York City, Performa 07 ( They are a very large performance art festival and they just started Flickr and YouTubes site where they show the documentation of a lot of the performances that happened. So this is an instance of an institution even using YouTube as a means to disseminate what was happening. And then also, Simonís here from FACT ( and I wanted to show FACTís website, because a number of years ago I went up to Liverpool, and FACT had this amazing collection of the Video Positive Festival (,events/reset,1). It had been there for years and years, and they finally decided Ďwe need to do something with ití. Maybe Simon, you can talk about it a little bit in your group, the processes you went through, and what it meant to try to dig it up, what did you do. Weíve talked mostly about creating documents, but what do you do when you inherit a whole bunch of documents? And how do you make that accessible for people? One last resource that I want to touch on is Electronic Arts Intermix ( the single channel video distribution hub in New York, which has recently put online this really great resource guide (, a guide for exhibition, things you need to know to exhibit media art, but also things you need to know of basic guidelines for the preservation of media art. And here they have a whole list of formats that are used, basic preservation things for all kinds of tape formats and DVD formats and itís a very useful resource. But, once again, Iím not just going to walk you through a website, I think that itís much better for us to start talking to each other, so we can go back to this later. At this point I think we should break into our groups, and as youíll see, you have A, B or C designations on your name tag.



  media art


  Caitlin Jones