Obsolete equipment

The conservation of audio and video equipment for audiovisual art

The custodianship of audiovisual works of art requires an (pro) active conservation policy. Both analogue and digital formats are highly susceptible to deterioration, making migration to new formats necessary. The sustainability of audiovisual works is not only threatened by the chemical composition of the data carrier, but equally by the rapid pace of technological development, which brings with it an ever-shorter lifecycle of both audio and video equipment: these components are becoming obsolete. The first phase of the project ‘Obsolete equipment’ will focus on video-based works and the second phase on computer-based works. The Kröller-Müller Museum is participating in this research project for which it will perform two case studies.







Christiaan Bastiaans, Straggling, 1995 in the exhibition Club Mama Gemütlich (Photo: Evelyne Snijders/KMM, 7 November 2009)

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For the first phase of this a video-based work by Christiaan Bastiaans has been selected: Straggling, 1995. This piece is on display until February 21st 2010 in Christiaan Bastiaans’ solo exhibition: Club Mama Gemütlich. The installation consists of five larger than life-size, self-made synthetic coats, which hang on a kind of coat hangers made of PVC tubing; one entirely transparent overall, the pockets filled with items including medication, 10 mini audio speakers and 3 pocket-sized video monitors. The tiny video images are conspicuous among the large, abstract garments of transparent and semi-transparent synthetic material: they are the only elements with colour and radiate light. Because they are relatively small in relation to the total installation, the public is drawn to them out of curiosity. Only then is it possible to hear the audio clearly.

When the work was made, in the mid nineteen nineties, the equipment used was the top of the range in video: the Casio LCD colour TV EV-500 pocket-sized monitors and the mini speakers, Monacor SP 45/8. Because this equipment is an essential aspect of the installation and simultaneously interwoven with the character of the era in which it was made, namely long before the i-Pod, importance is attached to investigating the possibilities of conserving the function of this equipment in its original form in the installation. How should we deal with the intrinsically obsolete equipment in this work of art? The technical possibilities for good practice and a good conservation strategy form an important component of this research, as does an interview with the artist.


















Detail of the installation Straggling: Casio LCD color TV EV-500 pocket-sized monitor and a Monacor SP 45/8 audio speaker (photo: Evelyne Snijders/KMM, 7 November 2009)

For the second phase of the project, in conjunction with the University of Amsterdam, the Kröller-Müller Museum will study the conservation problems of a computer-based work by Jenny Holzer: Selections from the Survival Series, 1983. This is an electronic LED sign with red diodes showing a continuous stream of a three-minute long text. This work is already nearly 30 years old and showing signs of malfunction. Here again, research will be carried out into the production process and software of the device, as well as the technical possibilities of conserving the work for the future.

‘Obsolete equipment’ is a research project initiated by PACKED in collaboration with the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk). The Dutch partners in the project are the Kröller-Müller Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Van Abbemuseum and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage via NIMk, and the Flemish partners are the MuHKA and S.M.A.K. via PACKED.

Project coordination: PACKED - NIMk
Duration: Jul 1, 2009 - Jun 30, 2011