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This text is by Johannes Goebel prompted by the discussions on the CRUMB and YASMIN lists about the problem

of conservation and restoration of art and technology- prompted by the publication of Re_Collection: by Richard Rinehart and jon ippolito

Having written my previous contribution regarding media art/time-based art/performing arts in a kind of a fit, I would like to comment and modify and maybe extend a little, also evoked by what Jon and Richard wrote.

I certainly did not want to pose that performing arts institutions are better fit to present or preserve the art at the center of this discussion. From my experience they are not at all a better fit. They have an equally limited focus, which does not encompass "all time-based arts". They are focused on works, which have a "well-defined" beginning and an equally defined end. Their institutional, production and infrastructural framework does not support for instance installations. And they are not focused on documenting either. The moment of the performance, of the shared time between beginning and end and artists and audience is at the heart of their program.

I should not have written that time-based arts fall under performing arts. That is kind of stupid and was meant in a provocative way. On the contrary: I think that performing arts may be seen as a sub-set of time-based arts.

We have taken this perspective for our curatorial perspective, commissioning and programing here at EMPAC--we have a full infrastructure (spaces, venues, technology, team members), which may serve traditional performing arts--but in addition we have an infrastructure, expertise and perspective that supports media/variable-media/installation/interactive/performance/performing arts. [1]

For the fundamental concept for EMPAC (before the building was designed and built), I put the term "time-based arts" at the center for the specification of our program AND the building with its infrastructure--not so much from a theoretical / epistemological / historic / self-justifying perspective, but as territory which could be circumscribed in very simple terms ("any art that moves on a time-line, be it a movie, an interactive installation, net-art, music, dance "). There was certainly more than this simplistic list to it. And it was certainly fed by my experiences at ZKM and before and by my thought that "time" as a constituent part of "media/variable media/interactive" works was often not shaped by artists who entered this realm from the visual arts and by institutions putting such work on than when it came from artists who came from the traditional performing arts towards the electronic media.

So if one / I would say that all art works that need a time-line to evolve, unfold, and be perceived and experienced when they come to an audience or visitor, fall into one big box (you may call it category, paradigm etc.) as opposed to static objects (which would include maybe even sculptures which are mobiles--just to evoke more perspectives). "Time-based" art works need not only the heart-beats (passing time, life) of the visitor who comes to the work, but they need "their own time" to move in time so they can meet the visitor / audiences. This "own time" is shaped (or consciously not shaped) with the same diligence, experience, cultural contextualization etc as any non-time-based material an artist uses.

Static works sit there and can wait until someone comes and invests time to explore them; the time the artists put into this work while making it, is collected or accumulated in the object. The time of making it, is contained in the work, or to use a term from the German philosophy of the 19th century: time in such works is "aufgehoben" in a three-fold sense: it is raised to a different level (picked up)--it is contained, kept in the material--and it disappeared. (I think this is a very nice way of looking at it--independent of once comes from an idealist or materialist position--both 19th century positions were based on this concept, which is at the heart of the steps of thesis ""antithesis--synthesis).

Time-based works contain time also in this way--it may take 37 days or 389 days to make a film or compose a piece of music. But time-based works need time also in a different way--as a condition in which they move and change, without which they cannot "unfold" to be "taken in". And this is not the 37 or 389 days, but the time the work "takes" (or rather: creates).

Time-based works move jointly with the visitor / audience on a shared time-line of changes. This shared time-line moves in parallel (but mostly not in synchronicity as ticking time and experiential time can be absolutely on different terms even though happening at the same time), the one of the work changing over time and the life-time of the audience, have to intersect and meet in "execution", "performance", "interaction" "--be it with a defined beginning and end, be it where the beginning and end are determined by the person meeting (entering) the work which either has been continuously running or which just starts up when I enter or activate it.

By suggesting to put all such work under a common perspective where "unfolding" and "taking in" happens in parallel, means that the craft, thoughts, theories, that the making of, production, creation and that the perception, experience, interpretations and traditions, as well as the documentation, archiving, conservation and preservation have a common ground, which is deeply rooted in highly specific cultures as much as they are rooted deeply in the passing of our life time and the creation within our experiential time.

This major change started on a larger scale with the recording and playback of visual and acoustic movements. And then with computers as a unified capturing, storing and generating devices for "any" movements our senses can perceive, a new realm (tool, process, condition, culture, tradition) of time-based arts was added. Or maybe: the traditional performing arts as the arts that shaped time were now expanded into new realms. So, should film have been seen as part of performing arts when it was produced or seen as "art"? (In juxtaposition to film that is focused on "documenting", be it a theater or dance performance or the war we pay for or the scientific discovery that opens new perspectives.)

If we see the shaping of time with "media" (any medium, any time, any media) as the common ground of what we might call "time-based arts" (with or without technology), then we can and should "learn" from each other.

Leaving the boxes of our origins in visual arts, performance arts, performing arts and learning from each others origins (histories, categories, theories, practices) in how we deal with this "stuff" which has become permeable and vulnerable through time (vulnerable regarding the work and its material and vulnerable regarding the visitor / audience / spectator by joining the time-lines of what someone else made and which demands chunks of our life-time on its own grounds, and which we put our heart-beats towards by joining its temporal prescriptive movement in time).

I personally see very little professional acceptance and exchange among all "time-based arts" (as I throw them in one bag). We still have the ghettos based on the roots of the individual artist, curator and socio-economic niches. And we always assume we know everything about the field, we are not an expert in--which is now accessible to everyone through computer technology--independent of understanding, wanting to know, digging deep into the context of tools, technology, culture, history, conditions of the "other medium", which we can now shape readily in the technologically unifying tool computer. I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they can do any- and everything. And because we have access to it, we believe we are "up to it".

I wish so much that we can talk across boundaries, at least in the "time-based" arts.

Maybe we can learn from other areas of "time-based" arts. I am sorry that I have not (yet) read up on Media Art Notation, so my comments are more general and based on what I have come across so far.

When electronic music appeared after the second World War, and such music was broadcast and put on media (LPs), it turned out to be a major issue in Germany. The state-authorized collecting society and performing rights organization GEMA had a long history in the first half of the 20th century and its predecessor organizations were driven by Richard Strauss ("Zarathustra and Space Odyssey 2001", just to lead you to the right Strauss, not so much the "Blue Danube and Space Odyssey 2001" Strauss).

This organization was built to ensure that composers (and librettists and song writers etc.) would get their share when their music was performed. A system was developed of how much of the royalties you get: like only for one or two instruments, a small ensemble or a large orchestra. Then the duration of the piece counted. And then how often your works in general are performed or sold--if you had many performances over all you get for a single performance more than some "little" composer who gets only a few performances of her/his music. Or as we say in German: The devil always shits in the same spot.

Now with electronic music, which comes only out of possibly one loudspeaker, it was determined that it counts only as being composed for one instrument--that is you got the smallest amount of royalties possible, independent of how complex the work was and how many different "voices" you had put together. And since this was a traditional performing rights organization based on written notation protecting the rights and economic system of traditional composers, one had to submit a written score of the electronic music so it would be acknowledged and protected as "music". No notation--no royalties.

So composers of electronic music had to create "scores", notations of their music in order to have it protected.

In parallel to this obscene necessity, which resulted in many graphical notations which kind of documented the work, graphical notation came in from another end (Cage, Earle Brown, Haubenstock-Ramati etc.)--and from the electronic music side by for instance Stockhausen, who prepared scores before and while working on his electronic music documenting every detail, which would allow a reconstruction (and has been done with his Studie II from 1954 or so). He did not do so because of GEMA but because of the tradition he stood in and created.

Stockhausen basically took the final step in the history of Western notation: From a symbolic notation that needed to be interpreted and was living at the intersection of written and oral tradition and that had gotten more and more detailed and specific over the course of 800 years to a notation that allowed to re-create the very exact sonic events. This was only possible with machine as the sound producing tool--and the notation turned basically into a construction drawing or flow chart.

And coming out of these graphical notations of electronic music on the one side and the free-flowing, less prescriptive graphic notations opening the oddrs to "free" interpretation, there was a great influx in the seventies for analytical and pedagogical purposes. Listening to a piece of music and creating a graphical score, which allowed digging deeper into a work of which no notation in the traditional sense existed.

This by the way is a "great" approach to dive deep into any work of time-based art with students--have them create a graphical notation on a time-line, having them invent their own symbols for specific events--analyze the piece, which unfolds only in time , as an object, frozen in time in a notation. I don't know if this is done in the teaching of time-based, media, interactive arts--this would be a good step to introduce time in these arenas as a fundamental constituent.

I was quite a bit involved with trying to change the stupidity of these rules by GEMA. The next step was reached at the end of the nineties when I had was involved as part of my work at ZKM with a production of the Institute for Music an Acoustics, which was a generative music work with interactive graphics by Kiyoshi Furukawa and and Masaki Fujihata called "Small Fish"

It was published on a CD-ROM (now also available as app--another view on porting works!!) and the music was generated depending on the interaction of the player with the graphics. You cannot publish any media in Germany without GEAM registration. The CD pressing plants did not accept a production by a label without the GEMA seal.

It was totally impossible to get any information from GEMA on how a work would be classified which had not a set number of "voices" and which did not have a defined or undefined duration--but which was generated on the fly. I wanted the best conditions for the composer, to get as much money out of it as possible. It was an impossible process. The system being led ad absurdum. (And I do not know how things evolved over the past 13 years.)

I asked if a printout of the program would be accepted as notation. It was not.

As I mentioned in my first contribution, there are "hundreds" (well, maybe not) of notation systems, which have been evolved over time or have been constructed in the 20th and 21st century . There is so much to be learned from all these approaches--the fundamental difficulties they all share--the different solution they found--and most importantly discussing the questions of individual and local solutions vs. global solutions--and the juxtaposition of needs from an artistic perspective, from an archiving perspective, from a documenting perspective and maybe from a pedagogical perspective.

I think there are so many approaches, which are developed coming from individual or restricted group needs, that aiming for a "universal" solution (be it for a specific area of arts, be it on a national or international level) will not yield any result. Technology allows the creation of many individual niches where everyone dreams of technology supporting a common platform, but the opposite is the case. Maybe the all of us connecting technology does not create a global village, but many, many tiny villages where wheels are re-invented by the day. This should not be discouraging, but encourage looking beyond the rim of our own teacup.

Western traditional music notation as it developed over the past hundreds of years was not meant for reconstruction, but first to support memory and "freeze" things, which get changed and diversify very quickly if passed on in oral tradition (including the political implications of notated, written communication--oral tradition cannot reach beyond a certain geographic area and be kept "under control" at the same time; writing and notation ensure politically desired documentation and distribution and allow the creation of "empires").

Then music notation allowed the speculative construction approach through composition (working on a different time-scale as composition happens in "non-real time", while playing and listening can only happen in "real time"--thinking, sketching, concepts, rules and algorithms, coming up with "ideas" not in the moment of playing, but drawn out over longer periods of times than the final piece would take to be performed and listened to). The notation provided a basis for elaborate ways of interpretation, for bringing the "time-based work" back into time (like the ornaments in baroque music, which were not notated). Musical notation has always been deeply depending on oral tradition surrounding it and books written explaining how it all works.

Until sound recording came around and musical notation turned towards notating more and more details on the one hand (up to notations which needed months to understand leave alone to perform) and on the other graphical notation, which defied the prescriptive way of notation, and rules or guidelines were communicated in written text describing a process and not an outcome to be reached.

It was always understood that any notation of traditional performing arts (including the texts for plays) were not identical with that which was performed.

The notated was always to be interpreted. The difference between notation and interpretation has been at the heart of all performing arts. And we have only documentation of different interpretations and again interpretations of the interpretations (audio, video, notes of choreographers or directors or conductors, books, blogs, mash-ups etc.)

Notation--so far--has never existed in a space that was unambiguous, detached from cultural context, oral traditions or written comments.

Computer technology by definition is happening on a finite state machine (independent of how much random you put into it, or algorithms which may have never the same outputs as results, or sensor input, fluctuating data sources etc.), it has to be non-ambiguous in each one of its states (however fast they fly by). The symbolic notation in computer land is absolutely different from traditional notations to communicate performing arts. It's different--not better or worse. It has a different set of restrictions and potential.

Even though we have an "interpreter" in computer land, this is different from an interpreter who moves from one natural language to another, or from interpreting let's say a notated piece of art, which is meant to be put on a time-line, to be performed, to share shaped time between everyone involved. The computer interpreter serves the execution; human interpreting and interpretation is based on non-identical and not non-ambiguous conditions, frameworks and desires.

So we are now in a situation where the exact repetition of how something was created (as program, algorithm, sensor network, neural network, world-wide network etc.) is technically feasible on a theoretical level, but impossible on a practical level. Everything is deader than we would like to believe it to be if one does not have the resources to port the code, operating system, make clones, program emulators etc.

One can print out the numbers, preserve the drawings of the chip architecture, print out everything--move that which functions in time (the computer) into objects, which are frozen out of time and which would allow a reconstruction--if one wants to, if one has the resources, if one has the power over resources. Diderot's encyclopedia was such a project. But his encyclopedia as a book and the objects and processes he described were within the time scales of human experiential time, as opposed to electric and electronic processes in machines and computers, which we cannot experience, see, observe because they are so lightening fast.

All this led me to the proposal that maybe we can only document time-based art as we encounter it and not as the work as it is created / executed. Since the conditions of computers are so extremely complex and rigid at the same time, and the smallest change in a line of code of an operating system can make a digital time-based work of art to become non-executable--meaning: it cannot be brought back into the conditions of our life and heart-beats as it was created by the author / artist / programmer/ etc.

And as I indicated in my previous contribution, I personally think this has now moved back into the realm of where keeping such programs, work, digital environment alive by porting it to new systems, is a matter of power and economics--and individual engagement finding ways to maybe keep things (really: things) functioning.

Kind of a Fahrenheit 451 scenario: we will keep the books (media art, data) in the underground because we believe in them--the global powers who have the capacity to determine which traditions and specific works get ported and "saved" will gain more and more power because the technology enables exactly that power structure. And the same technology allows "us" to port things from one generation of technology to the other--as a sort of underground. Because even the institutions which were founded in the 19th century as repository for "real things" are now confronted with these "non-things" like computer-based works, which either do not fit their current mind-set or, if as many now do set out to preserve these works, the change of technology blows their budgets to maintain obsolete technology or to keep up with the change of the technology and port the works to the ever new environments. This is no reason to not do this. I only suggest to see the relativity of all this and to see as clearly as possible that there might be an inherent contradiction between the goals and the means--or more radically: the inherent quality of time-based arts to be preserved in a frozen state.

So we have the new monks and monasteries living in the cloud or in bunkers established by those in power over machines and funds who determine what gets ported (copied, adapted etc.). Was the church the power to knowledge and non-oral tradition of knowledge in the Western medieval age, did the kings and the likes take over part of this starting in the renaissance, and did the age of enlightenment allow individuals to add their potentially heretic views to the corpus of non-oral tradition, resulting in the 20th century for "anyone" being able to put "things" into the public realm (mimeographing, faxing, copy machines etc.)--maybe with digital technology we are now back to the old structure of the medieval ages where the determination of what gets passed on is in the hand of the super-structures (companies, governments).

Johann Sebastian Bach's work was basically "lost" for the 50+ years after his death--only very few specialists new about his music. He then was re-discovered my Mendelssohn in the first half of the 19th century--and then the manuscripts and copies surfaced and now some of us think that Bach is one of the most important creator of music in our culture.

Had Bach's work been interactive works based on computer technology and would have no one looked after it for 50 to 70 years, we would have no idea his works ever existed (but maybe for someone in the "underground" who had ported it from one generation of systems to the next).

If the documentation (which can be video, audio, essays, texts, theses--whatever format will be widely available because it is also needed by the super-structures to keep their "stuff" available in some form) can survive is then the next question. But that is a general question of our culture.

If we regard variable media / new media / digital etc. art works as being part of time-based art as I described it, then it is all about creating the work and experiencing it and making it accessible as long as we can (or as long as anyone wants to experience it). And we should look at each others experience and background to keep this art alive and to embrace its potential by not limiting ourselves to the institutions who do or do not support it, but by "just doing it" - whatever that might be: creating new works, visiting museums which show such work or performing arts centers which might include some such works or ideas or writing books about it and creating a systematic frame-work for all those who like to think and live in such frame-works.

And then things disappear, works cannot be performed /executed anymore, specific hardware is not available, old operating systems don't run on new chips, someone writes an emulator which goes away if she/he does not find a successor to her/his mission--indeed that has been true for ever in the performing arts, which now may apply equally to tall time-based arts.

That is no consolation--no consolation is needed. This is a fundamental condition of time-based works. I invite you coming from the visual art side over to the music or theater or dance side. Change and disappearance is the condition. And culture and history is the container, the ever changing container shaped by those in power and those not in power, the silo, the sieve, which allow us as living beings to find meaning in what we do and live as part of our societies and groups and friends and foes.

The counter point that is dearly needed for me at this point: Let us support the creation of new works. Let us find a balance between creation and documentation, between experience and reflection, between theory and practice. Let us not get sucked up by the pressure to build our own monuments or mausoleums (can't see the mausoleum once I am stored in such a thing). And the living exchange on all this will keep our culture and that what we are interested in alive. [2]

Maybe discussion about the difference between notation and a record of how a computer-based artwork can be "captured", "documented" or "re-created" could be valuable. Maybe "notation" is not the appropriate term, concept or frame of reference? Are we looking for construction plans or flow charts or general programming abstractions, which are not operating system or programming language bound? Or is there an approach that maybe does not allow to re-program, re-construct and re-vive the work, but that allows to re-imagine the work?

Johannes Goebel

1. From an institutional perspective we have difficulties with the format of longer-term exhibitions like a museum--not so much because we cannot deal with it, but because of our location and context. We do not have much foot-traffic, where people come by like at a gallery or in part of the city with quite a few galleries in one sector. We are not at the heart of a campus that has an emphasis on humanities and arts. We are not a museum with many exhibitions or exhibited art works where one can stroll through and if one piece is of no interest one moves on to another. We have public spaces we can and do use for more exhibition-like works--but dedicating one or more of the large studios to exhibitions over an extended period of time is not of very much value, since the most people come to the opening and maybe the following weekend--and then again no foot-traffic after that "

As a consequence we do such exhibitions (installations etc.) mostly only for the opening and maybe the following weekend. But that is just as fine, because nothing speaks against an "exhibition" (meaning works which don't have a defined beginning and end like performing arts events) being up for just a couple of days. The work is the same if the exhibition is up for short or long--and integrating performing arts, we know that in that realm one or two performances, which run of say an hour each, can require as much work as an exhibition, which stays up for weeks. This is an interesting point for further discussion: the different relationships of "work", "money" of traditional performing arts, exhibitions and "time-based" arts in general.)

2. More from the outside:

A great variety of time-based arts in cultures other than our Western culture have disappeared over the past 200 years and are still disappearing as a result from colonization to "world-economics". We are not aware of all that, which has disappeared. How could we.

I did an extended project to capture a specific highly complex style of music for the Balinese shadow play (which is disappearing now that the musician I-Wayan Loceng has died several years ago--we did the project while he was still alive). We developed computer-based capturing technology to record the details of this music like no microphone or film could capture. Musicologists had notated Balinese music before--with Western notation or just with numbers denoting which pitch was played, both forcing the actual music into a notational system with its inherent cultural implications. I developed a different notation ("neutral" but "playable") which in conjunction with the audio recording and MIDI-transcription would allow to get as close as possible to this music. But it is all abstraction in the literal sense: removed from its actual context. Highly interesting--but not the same. And it will allow us to listen and analyze the music--and maybe play it again--but in a different interpretation.