Home SEMINARS 2008 Seminar Curriculum du cours / Course description

Curriculum du cours / Course description

Documentation and Conservation of Media Artworks / Documentation et conservation des Arts Médiatiques

Course lecturer : Dr Sylvie Lacerte


ARTH 731/COMS 623 – Winter 2008
Monday: 9:30 – 12:30, Arts W-5

McGill University – Art History and Communication Studies

Course description:

“Documentation and Conservation of Media Artworks” is a course designed in collaboration with members of a major, multidisciplinary and multi-institution research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) under its Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program. Headed by the Fondation Daniel Langlois pour les arts, la science et la technologie, the project is known as DOCAM (Documentation and Preservation of Media Arts Heritage.)
The course will deal with issues and problems confronting those involved in media artworks from curatorial, critical, preservation, documentation, cataloguing and art-historical perspectives. Working with case studies developed within the project, the course will draw on experts in several fields. Questions to be addressed include the integrity of the art work in relation to exhibition technologies, the ethics of “migration” and “emulation” between exhibition media, the technical difficulties of media art preservation, the description and cataloguing of media art works and the place of media art works within museums practices. Students will work on case studies of technologically based artworks, prepare content for the DOCAM website and undertake research on media-based artworks. Open to students in all relevant disciplines.

Please note that this course will take place in English and French. Students are encouraged to speak in the language of their choice. Veuillez noter que le séminaire se déroulera en français et en anglais. Les étudiant(e)s sont encouragé(e)s à parler dans la langue de leur choix.

Main Objective:

The Seminar’s primary objective is to train future museum and art professionals as well as university scholars. The present context is clearly indicating that some of these issues overwhelm many practitioners, including artists, for which they have not been trained or that they have not been faced with, up till recently, in their day-to-day practice. This course will encourage the acquisition of theoretical, practical and methodological tools that will allow the student to analyse the issues related to the documentation and the conservation of media artworks as well as to understand the challenges the museum community is grappling with.

Specific objectives:

The student will be encouraged to develop his/her knowledge as well as his/her analytical and critical outlooks on the authenticity, the integrity and the longevity of technologically based artworks for these works’ reinstallation or reexhibition. The student will also have to delve into the technical difficulties of conservation practices; the documentation; the cataloguing and the terminology of the techniques and issues at hand; and also the space these subjects occupy within the museum community.

Pedagogical tools/ Methodology:

The Seminar will present theoretical lectures, talks by researchers from the DOCAM Alliance, (museum professionals and university scholars), as well as presentations by artists and technologists. A visit to a conservation laboratory, and to the Daniel Langlois Foundation’s Centre for Research and Documentation (CR+D) will be organized.

Student marks for the class will be based on the following:

1. Participation, preparation of questions, and of data sheets for DOCAM’s Tech Watch: 20 %
This mark will reflect students’ participation to the class. The students will be encouraged to participate in the discussions and ask questions to the guest speakers and the course instructor, as well as to follow attentively the issues at hand. The students will have to prepare a weekly comment or question based on the readings for each class. Students will be selected at random after the guest speakers’ presentations. Furthermore, the students will have to write three data sheets during the course of the session, for the DOCAM Techwatch. Students will receive credit on the DOCAM website for materials produced.


2. Ground development on case studies related to the DOCAM issues: 40%
The DOCAM project conducts case studies of media-based artworks on conserving and documenting works of art featuring technological content. A list of case studies will be presented during the first part of the semester, and students will break up into groups to work on a case over the course of the academic term. Students will undertake research on : (a) the history of exhibition of the work; (b) the problems posed in exhibiting the work over time; ( c) challenges in documenting the technological content of the work; d) and other related issues. Groups will be marked according to the quality and extensiveness with which they produce documentation on a work. Each group or student will make a 30-minute oral presentation on his/her/its case studies in the class of April 7th and 14th 2008.


3. Final paper on issues concerning the documentation and preservation of new media art : 40%
Students are required to produce a 20-page essay (approximately 5000 words, double-spaced) dealing with an issue raised in the course. Examples of potential essay topics include the seminar’s weekly subject. The student can also further his/her reflexion on the case study, introduced to the class and transform it into an essay presented theoretical and practical issues. The student may propose others topics for approval by the course instructor. The paper should provide an overview of the issue, examine related studies, which relate to it, and, when appropriate, use a case study to further clarify the issue. These papers are due on April 11th, the last day of class. The written essay must be typewritten, double-spaced and must not go beyond the prescribed length (note: the length does not include preliminary pages and the bibliographical references). The essay must have a title page, a table of contents, an introduction, a core, a conclusion and a bibliography (illustrations and annexes if needed). Students must quote their sources. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. The quality of the language and of the presentation will be taken into account.


Readings will be divided into two categories: core readings and recommended readings. Core readings will be collected in the course pack. Recommended readings will be made available on a consultation basis for students wishing to further investigate certain issues. Various on-line readings will be made available through links from the course website (www.docam.ca).
The course-reading package is available for purchase at Copie Nova, 1015 Sherbrooke St. W.


Outline/Plan ——————————————————————————–

January 7 Introduction to the DOCAM project and the Variable Media Initiative

Sylvie Lacerte and Alain Depocas


• Besser, Howard, “The Longevity of Electronic Art: submitted to International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meetings, 2001.” Pittsburg: Archives & Museum Informatics; Milano: Politecnico di Milano, 2001.

Web Site : http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/~howard/Papers/elect-art-longevity.html

Recommended Readings:

Permanence through change: the variable media approach. Alain Depocas, Jon Ippolito and Caitlin Jones, eds. Montréal: Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology; New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2003. [ref. May 22, 2003].

Web Site : https://www.variablemedia.net/e/preserving/html/var_pub_index.html

• DOCAM. Documentation et Conservation du patrimoine des arts médiatiques

Web site : http://www.docam.ca

re: place 2007; second international conference on the histories of media, art, science and technology.

Web site : http://www.mediaarthistory.org

• Media Matters: Collaborating Towards the Care of Time-Based Media Works of Art.

Web site : http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/majorprojects/mediamatters/

• INCCA: International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art.
Web site : http://www.incca.org


January 14 History of technology and presentation of DOCAM’s Timeline

Will Straw, McGill University
- PowerPoint of the presentation


• Straw, Will. « Embedded Memories, » 3-15, in Residual Media. Charles Acland, ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

• Van Dijck, José. “From Shoebox to Digital Memory Machine,” 148-69, in Mediated Memories in the Digital Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.


January 21 Curating media art, documenting installation and participation

Jean Gagnon, director of the Daniel Langlois Foundation

• Graham, Beryl, « Redefining Digital Art: Disrupting Borders », 93-111, in Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse. Fiona Cameron and Sarah Kenderline, ed. Boston, MIT Press, 2007.

• Paul, Christiane. “The Myth of Immateriality: Presenting and Preserving New Media,” 251-74, in MediaArtsHistories. Oliver Grau, ed. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

“exchange pieces” and “exchange pieces and time structures” (Discussion threads) New-Media-Curating Archive October 2007. CRUMB (Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss), October 2007.

Web site :http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind0710&L=new-media-curating

Recommended Readings:

• Gagnon, Jean. “Media Arts at the National Gallery of Canada (1991-1998).” Curating New Media/La Mise en Espace des Arts Médiatiques. Conference organized by Sarah Cook and Nina Czegledy. Ottawa, Canada, 2001.

Web Site : http://www.crumbweb.org/getPresentation.php?presID=19&op=4.

•Van Wegen, D.H. “Between Fetish and Score: The Position of the Curator of Contemporary Art.” 201-209, in Modern art: who cares?. Ijsbrand Hummelen and Dionne Sillé, Eds. Amsterdam: The Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art: Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999.


January 28 History of technology – Part 2

Jonathan Sterne, McGill University


• Akrich, Madeleine. « The De-Scription of Technical Objects. » 205-24, in Shaping Technology, Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. Wiebe Bijker and J. Law, eds. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992.

• Mumford, Lewis. « Objectives » 3-7, in Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1934.

• Sobchack, Vivian. “Nostalgia for a Digital Object: Regrets on the Quickening of Quicktime,” 305-29, in Memory Bytes: History, Technology and Digital Culture. Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil, Eds. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.


February 4 Historiography and theory of documentation and conservation of media art

Sylvie Lacerte


• Lee, Pamela. “Introduction: Eros and Technics and Civilization,” 4-34, in Chronophobia: on time in the arts of the 1960s. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.

• Lacerte, Sylvie. “E.A.T., Experiments in Art Technology.” Observatoire Leonardo des arts et des technosciences (OLATS), 2002.

Web site : http://archive.olats.org/pionniers/pp/eat/eat.php.

• Lacerte, Sylvie. 9 Evenings and Experiments in Art and Technology: A gap to fill in art history’s recent chronicles. Montréal: Fondation Daniel Langlois, 2005.

Web site: http://fondation-langlois.org/html/e/page.php?NumPage=1716.

Recommended Readings:

• Dyson, Frances. “And then it was now.” Montréal: Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, 2006. https://www.fondation-langlois.org/flash/e/index.php?NumPage=1875. [16 October 2006]. Lee, Pamela


February 11 Metadata and Thesaurus

James Turner, EBSI, Université de Montréal


• Borgman, Christine L. “Access to Information,” 53-80, in From Gutenberg to the global information infrastructure: access to information in the networked world. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

• Rinehart, Richard. “The media art notation system: documenting and preserving digital/media art.” Leonardo 40: 2 (2007), 181-187.

Recommended Readings:

• Baca, Martha, ed. Introduction to Metadata: pathways to digital information. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 1998.

Web site: http://www.getty.edu/research/institute/standards/intrometadata/index.html.

• “Glossary,” Capturing Unstable Media.

Web site: http://capturing.projects.v2.nl/glossary.htm

• “Glossary,” 130-37, in Permanence through change: the variable media approach. Alain Depocas, Jon Ippolito and Caitlin Jones, eds. Montréal: Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology; New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2003.

See this article in .pdf file available at variablemedia.net


February 18 Conservation case studies – discussion of oral presentations and final papers

Sylvie Lacerte


• Durand, Anita (2006) Perpétuer l’instant? Ou quelle conservation-restauration pour les œuvres impermanentes et/ou performatives?, Mémoire de fin d’études, Diplôme d’études supérieures en conservation-restauration d’œuvres peintes, École Supérieure d’Avignon. (Available at the Daniel Langlois Foundation’s CR+D)

• Dimitrovsky, Isaac. “Final report, Erl-King project.” Variable media network. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Montréal: Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, 2004.

Web site: https://www.variablemedia.net/e/seeingdouble/report.html.

• Kuchembuck, Andrea, and Lawrence Bird. “Greg Lynn’s Embryological House: Case study in the preservation of digital architecture.” A case-study by the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Montreal: DOCAM Research Output, 2007.


February 25 Reading Week


March 3 Archiving media art

Vincent Bonin – at the CR+D (Daniel Langlois Foundation)

• Bartlett, Nancy Ruth. “Past imperfect (l’imparfait): mediating meaning in archives of art,” 121-33, in Archives, documentation, and institutions of social memory: essays from the Sawyer Seminar. Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, Eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

• Gitelman, Lisa. “New Media Bodies,” 89-121, in Always Already New: media, history and the data of culture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006.

Recommended Readings:

• Buskirk, Martha. “Medium and Materiality,” The contingent object of contemporary art, Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2003, p. 107-158.

• Gratton, Johnnie. “Du documentaire au documontage: Vingt ans après de Sophie Calle.” Intermédialités (2006), 167-79.


March 10 Acquisition, Cataloguing and Conservation of Digital Files

Karen Potje, head conservator

Howard Shubert, curator, prints and paper, Canadian Centre for Architecture


• Lynn, Greg. Predator: Greg Lynn FORM – USA. Seoul: DAMDI Publishing Co., Ltd., 2006. (Selection: p. 116-27)

• “Greg Lynn,” 90-101, in Architectures non-standard. Frédéric Migayrou, éd. Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 2003.

• “Embryonic Houses.”

Web site: http://www.glform.com/embryonic/embryonic.htm.

• “Studio Lynn.” University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Institute of Architecture.

Web site: http://dieangewandte.at/archlynn/.

• “Greg Lynn FORM.” Archilab 1999.

Web site: http://www.archilab.org/public/1999/ftar02en.htm.

Recommended Readings:

• Lynn, Greg. Animate Form. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005.

• Lynn, Greg. Folds, Bodies, & Blobs: collected essays. Brussels: La Lettre Volée, 1998.

• Waters, John K. Blobitecture: Waveform Architecture and Digital Design. Rockport Publishers, 2005.

• “Simply Maya User Community.” VBulletin

Web site: http://forum.simplymaya.com/


March 17 Cataloguing case studies at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Anne-Marie Zeppetelli, archivist and registrar, MACM


• Weidner, Tina, Pip Laurenson, et al. “Carlos Garaicoa Case Study.” Tate Online. London: Tate Research, 2003.

Web site: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/majorprojects/garaicoa.

• Houde, Bernadette. “‘Archiving the Vibe’ Ethnographic Strategies for Archiving New Media Art.” 2006 DOCAM Winter Seminar: Students Essays. Montreal: DOCAM Pedagogical Activities, 2006.

See this article in .pdf file

• MacDonald, Corina. “Scoring the Work: Documenting Performance and Practice.” Unpublished manuscript.

Recommended Readings:

• Laurenson, Pip. “Developing strategies for the conservation of installations incorporating time-based media with reference to Gary Hill’s Between cinema and a hard place.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 40: 3 (Fall/Winter 2001), 259-266.


March 20 Visit to the conservation lab at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Richard Gagnier, chief conservator, MBAM

Recommended Readings:

• Laurenson, Pip. “Authenticity, Change and Loss in the Conservation of Time-based Media Installations,” Tate Papers, 2006.

Web site: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/tatepapers/06autumn/laurenson.htm.


March 31 Artist – Technologist Collaboration

Alexandre Castonguay, artist

Mathieu Bouchard, programmer


• Castonguay, Alexandre. “Open Source, Open Centres.” Medium 2.1: 5 (29 April 2003),

Web siote: http://www.m-cult.net/mediumu/article.html?id=199〈=en&issue_nr=2.1&issueId=5.

•  Depocas, Alain. “Mutation as a conservation factor: the case of works with technological elements.” Espace sculpture 71 (Spring 2005), 12-16.

• Olson, Michael G. “Robert Creeley’s computer files: a collaborative approach to link access with preservation,” 127-133, in Preservation of electronic records: new knowledge and decision making: postprints of a conference, symposium 2003. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 2004.

• Tribe, Mark, and Reena Jana. Art des nouveaux médias. Köln: Taschen, 2006, 13-16, 24-25.

Recommended Readings:

• Sperlinger, Mike. “The Many Mona Lisas: An Interview with Malcolm Le Grice.” London: Keep Moving Images. [2005]

Web site: http://kmi.lux.org.uk/casestudies/manymona.htm.


April 7 Student Presentations – End of term


April 14 Hand out of final paper