e-Installation – Synesthetic Documentation of Media Art

Ausgezeichneter Ort 2015

e-Installation – Telepresence and VR-based Documentation of Media Art

Time- and space-based art (henceforth referred to as ‘media art’) has existed since the early 1960s. However, compared to traditional genres such as painting or sculpting, the life of a work media is very short: the technology that many pieces need in order to properly operate is also the cause of their caducity.

Museums are faced every day with the inexorable decline of these works of art. Media art pieces do not only require constant maintenance but they also take up too much exhibition space. As a result, they are often dismantled for maintenance and repair, or they remain in the museum depot for long periods of time. When this happens, these works are no longer accessible to curators, art historians, students and the interested public. In this case, a good documentation is the only way to ensure that this kind of art can be examined and re-installed.

Figure: Telepresence-based experience of a virtualized media art installation. Artwork-motive: Dancing on Tables / Tischtänzer (1988-1993), Stephan von Huene. Source: Lehrstuhl für Intelligente Sensor-Aktor-Systeme (ISAS)

Traditional documentation methods such as video or photography cannot reproduce the synaesthetic experience level that works of media require. Curators and art historians can only speculate on the full aesthetic impact of an artwork that is no longer being exhibited.

In the near future, art restorers will not be able to repair these kinds of art pieces in accordance with satisfying material-based authenticity criteria. The reason for this is the obsolescence of historic technical components that are no longer being produced, such as CRT TVs and projectors.

Given this scenario of jeopardised cultural heritage, there is an urgent need for a new kind of documentation that allows, as good as possible, a realistic representation of all synaesthesia levels implied in a media artwork. Such documentation is necessary to protect and preserve the meanings that might otherwise be lost along with the material work itself.

Through VR- and telepresence-based documentations we can offer a realistic insight into works of media art that are no longer performable or rarely exhibited. The insight provided would be independent from the works' physical location, and to the benefit of both professionals (curators, art restorers and art historians) and the general public. Moreover, it should be a long-term solution to archive and pass down the milestones of media art when the original works can no longer be repaired. This means that crucial issues for long-term archiving should be taken into account ab initio. 

In the project ‘e-Installation’ we – i.e. the ZAK | Center for Cultural and General Studies and the Intelligent Sensor-Actor-Systems Laboratory (ISAS) at the KIT – use advanced 3D modelling, VR and telepresence technologies to make a significant contribution in this regard.

Telepresence can be described as “the extension of a person’s sensing and manipulation capability to a remote location” (Sheridan 1989). According to this definition, a carefully designed telepresence system would allow the access to and interaction with virtualized works of media art, in particular with those that are temporarily not available to the public, or those whose continuity cannot be guaranteed through current curatorial and conservation practice.

For further Information about the e-Installation method see our paper:
Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, Florian Faion, Antonio Zea, Uwe D. Hanebeck, Caroline Y. Robertson-von Trotha (2014): e-Installation: Synesthetic Documentation of Media Art via Telepresence Technologies.

Co-Operating Partners and Initiators

ZAK | Zentrum für Angewandte Kulturwissenschaft und Studium Generale am KIT

Prof. Dr. Caroline Y. Robertson von Trotha
Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, PhD

Lehrstuhl für Intelligente Sensor-Aktor-Systeme (ISAS) am KIT

Prof. Dr. Uwe Hanebeck
Florian Faion, PhD
Antonio Zea

Participating Museums, Artists and Conservators

ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe

Prof. Dr. hc. mult. Peter Weibel
Dr. Bernhard Serexhe

Ludwig Múzeum Budapest

Béla Kónya, Head of Conservation and Collection Care

Stephan von Huene, Artist's State
Dr. Petra Kipphoff von Huene
Prof. Werner Lorke, iO Interdisziplinäre Objekte (Frankfurt)

Artists and Art Conservators

Marc Lee, 10.000 moving cities – same but different (2012/2015)

Mercedes Morita, Research fellow (11/01/2015-01/28/2016), Laboratorio de Ablación, Limpieza y Restauración con Láser, Centro de Investigaciones Ópticas (CONICET-La Plata-CIC).

If you are interested in knowing more about or becoming part of our project you can contact us: e-installation@forschung.kit.edu


Banner picture: Tanja Meißner / PKM