Much of the artwork that rose to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century took on novel forms—such as installation, performance, event, video, film, earthwork, and intermedia works with interactive and networked components—that pose a new set of questions about what art actually is, both physically and conceptually. For conservators, this raises an existential challenge when considering what elements of these artworks can and should be preserved.
This provocative volume revisits the traditional notions of conservation and museum collecting that developed over the centuries to suit a conception of art as static, fixed, and permanent objects. Conservators and museums increasingly struggle with issues of conservation for works created from the mid-twentieth to the twenty-first century that are unstable over time. The contributors ask what it means to conserve artworks that fundamentally address and embody the notion of change and, through this questioning, guide us to reevaluate the meaning of art, of objects, and of materiality itself. Object—Event—Performance considers a selection of post-1960s artworks that have all been chosen for their instability, changeability, performance elements, and processes that pose questions about their relationship to conservation practices. This volume will be a welcome resource on contemporary conservation for art historians, scholars of dance and theater studies, curators, and conservators.
Esseys by Hanna B. Higgins, Hanna B. Hölling, Gregory Zinman, Andrea Gyorody, Alison D’Amato, Megan Metcalf, Rebecca Uchill, Susanne Neubauer, Beryl Graham and Johannes M. Hedinger.
— Joyce Tsai, University of Iowa
— Rebecca Schneider, Brown University
Bard Graduate Center, 2021
2020 Landscape: Institute for Land and Environmental Art
What is landscape? And what is art in the landscape? In recent years, the notion of the landscape has experienced a major shift in the context of visual arts.
Landscape is the first in the new series that offers a discursive and practical contestation with the topic of artistic engagement with landscape. The book entails several contributions by established scholars of Land art and Environmental art, along with quotations of canonical writings on landscape and examples of artistic interventions. The project builds on a rich tradition of landscape writings and simultaneously attempts at a reorientation of the category of Land art. Landscape accompanies the outdoor biennial Art Safiental and the international summer school Alps Art Academy in the Swiss Alps that explore art in the peripheral, rural and alpine regions. A detailed, visually compelling catalog of artistic projects conducted during the 2016 and 2018 biennials can be found in the final part of the book.
Editors: Johannes M. Hedinger, Hanna B. Hölling
Series: Documents of Land and Environmental Art, volume 1
Essays by: Aufdi Aufdermauer, Delphine Chapuis Schmitz, William L. Fox, Johannes M. Hedinger, Hanna B. Hölling, Mattli Hunger, Sibylle Omlin, Janis Osolin, Lukas Ott, Jano Felice Pajarola, Jolanda Rechsteiner, Emily Eliza Scott, Chris Taylor, Lucie Tuma
English and German, 288 pages, 114 images
Publication date: 2020
ISBN: 978 3 909090 94 5
Order: Vexer Verlag, St. Gallen/Berlin
2019 The Explicit Material: Inquiries on the Intersection of Curatorial and Conservation Cultures. Leiden and Boston: Brill
2017 Paik’s Virtual Archive: Time, Change, and Materiality in Media Art. Oakland: University of California Press.Books Monographs
Paik’s Virtual Archive contemplates the identity of multimedia artworks by reconsidering the role of conservation in our understanding of what the artwork is and how it functions within and beyond a specific historical moment. Using examples of works by Nam June Paik (1932–2006), the hugely influential Korean American artist who is considered the progenitor of video art, Hölling explores the relation between the artworks’ concept and material, theories of musical performance and performativity, and the Bergsonian concept of duration—and the parts these elements play in the conceptualization of multimedia artworks. In this book, Hölling combines her astute assessment of artistic technologies with ideas from art theory, philosophy, and aesthetics to probe questions related to materials and materiality not just in Paik’s work but in contemporary art in general. Ultimately, she proposes that the archive—the physical and virtual realm that encompasses all that is known about an artwork—is the foundation for the identity and continuity of every artwork.
Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of Digital Art, Whitney Museum, and Associate Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School
“This book makes an invaluable contribution to the field of preservation and media art history by using the works of Nam June Paik—one of the pioneers and most important figures of media art—to philosophically and practically rethink approaches to media art conservation. Hölling reconsiders concepts of the conservation object in light of the emergence of digital media art, which has reframed our understanding of (im)materialities, time, change, and the archive. In highly original ways, the book addresses how transformations of multimedia artworks over time affect their behavior, their presentation and the ways in which audiences engage with them. Hölling brings unique expertise to the subject since she has not only thoroughly researched the history of Paik’s oeuvre but also actively participated in the conservation and curation of his work.”
Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art, University of Sunderland
“Starting with the wincing crash to the ground of one of Paik’s ‘proto–new media’ works, this book meticulously picks up the pieces, and wrestles the conceptual and the material challenges back into shape. A spirited and useful analysis for ensuring a lively future for media art. Decidedly un-dusty.”
Martha Buskirk, Professor of Art History and Criticism, Montserrat College of Art
“Developing strategies to preserve and ensure access to electronically encoded information is one of the major challenges of our era—in art, and in the culture at large. Hanna Hölling’s wide-ranging study is essential reading for its insights regarding the ongoing interpretation and updating necessary to address the impact of technological change on Nam June Paik’s work and for what this process tells us about the inherent fragility of all aspects of the modern archive.”
Peter Weibel, Chairman and CEO ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, and Professor, University of Applied Arts Vienna
“The restoration and the conversation of media art is one of the greatest challenges for the future of our culture. Hanna B. Hölling’s compelling book is one of the most important contributions to this subject.”
Wulf Herzogenrath, art historian and curator
“It is wonderful to see that a new generation of media and art historians offer a fresh view on this global artist. Hanna Hölling is one of the leading scholars to help us understand Nam June Paik’s work now in the digital age.”
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, media artist
“Time is slowly erasing the work of entire generations of media artists from our potential art history. The loss is irreparable and urgent action is needed. Fortunately, Hanna Hölling’s excellent research will guide us through this darkness!”
Andrea Gyorody, Assistant Curator, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
“The strength of Paik’s Virtual Archive is its ability to narrate and theorize the complexities of time-based media we are forced to confront most fully, Hölling argues, when such media inevitably pose conservation conundrums that become ethical and philosophical minefields. Hölling’s most overarching and thought-provoking argument is that conservation practice is not – nor has it ever been – a straightforward scientific endeavor, but is, in fact, a creative one, carried out alongside curatorial work.”
“How do we care for the increasing number of artworks that challenge previously accepted notions of time and space? Hanna Hölling’s new book is an ambitious and clear-eyed attempt to provide an answer to that question, calling for a fundamental rethinking of curatorial and conservational notions of time and change in media artworks.” … “And yet, as Hölling makes clear, there is no going back when it comes to Paik. She tells us, ‘At the time of this writing, none of Paik’s works is displayed with its initial playback equipment in functional condition’ (p. 88). But an artist whose practice would be a headache for most conservators presents an opportunity for Hölling, who worked as chief conservator at ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe before arriving at her current position as lecturer in the history of art and material studies at University College, London. Her combined museological and academic outlooks uniquely shape Paik’s Virtual Archive, a book that will likely become required reading in curatorial and preservation graduate programs, and which will also be of keen interest to scholars in the fields of modern and contemporary art and media studies.”
“In a memorable opening to Paik’s Virtual Archive: Time, Change, and Materiality in Media Art, conservator and scholar Hanna Hölling recounts how she received the devastating news that Canopus, a laserdisc video work by Nam June Paik, had crashed down from a wall at her then-workplace. By taking this and other Paik “multimedia installations” (MMI) as the book’s narrative thread – originally her PhD thesis – Hölling generously unpacks her theme: How does the identity of a multimedia artwork persist through every act of conservation, every replacement or renewal, every redisplay, and every re-interpretation, especially given its inexorable material decay along the way? … She hints at a radical future where any difference between art and archive become more and more equivocal in terms of authorship, curation, and preservation. This creates space for a radical museology where the “new identity for the artwork” (165) is co-constituted in concrete and creative intra-actions of the many minds, hands, and forms of matter in acts of horizontalizing cultural production.”
“As an Art Historian and Conservator, Hölling offers a deep and lucid meditation on ephemerality that is both theoretical and practical. … She draws from a range of European theorists to offer her post-structural view of the archive as a place of potentials: ‘divorcing the archive from its exclusive “pastness,” one might conceive of the museum archive as a place where conservators and curators undertake the process of de – and re-activating artwork. … Hölling provides a compelling rationale for not dismissing attempts to re-imagine the artist’s concept that makes sense for precarious digital works that may gain a new, different life separate from their original coded existence.”
“Höllings Ausführungen … zeigen, wie die Praxis von Medienkunst einerseits in die institutionellen Konventionen eingemeindet wird und andererseits einen institutionellen Strukturwandel hervorrufen kann. Die Untersuchung zeichnet dabei aus, dass sie den aktuellen Wandel nicht nur beschreibt, sondern theoretische Vorschläge unterbreitet, um die sich verändernde Werkidentität einer multimedialen Installation zwischen Lagerung und Präsentation zu fassen. Höllings Buch verschafft darüber hinaus einen grundlegenden Zugang zur aktuellen Debatte innerhalb der zeitgenössischen Restaurierungsdiskussion, die bislang im deutschsprachigen Kontext kaum rezipiert wurde. … Denn, so zeigt Hölling überzeugend, diese Werke werden im Kontext von Erhaltungspraktiken immer wieder neu konstituiert und sind dementsprechend unabgeschlossen. Die kunsthistorische Analyse erfährt durch eine Auseinandersetzung mit der aktuellen restaurierungswissenschaftlichen Theorie zur Ausstellbarkeit historischer Erfahrungssituationen eine grundlegende Erweiterung bezüglich der Prozessualität von Geschichtsschreibung selbst.”
Read the Art Bulletin Review by Gregory Zinman
Read the caa:review, College Art Association by Andrea Gyorody
Read the Critique d’art review quote by Olivier Lussac
Read the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation review by Jonathan Kemp
Read the Visual Studies review by Daniel Kayes
Read die Kunstchronik review by Anna Schäffler
Read the University of California Press preview
Order the book ISBN:9780520288904
Book launches & presentations 2017
The Met, NYU/IFA, both New York, The Getty Center Los Angeles, UCL Insititute of Advanced Studies London, ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, SiK Swiss Institute for Art Research Zurich – for details, see the event section on this website.
2015 Revisions—Zen for Film. New York and Chicago: Bard Graduate Center, The University of Chicago Press, 2015
How do works of art endure over time in the face of aging materials and changing interpretations of their meaning? How do decay, technological obsolescence, and the blending of old and new media affect what an artwork is and can become? And how can changeable artworks encourage us to rethink our assumptions of art as fixed and static? Revisions is a unique exploration of all of these questions.
This book, which accompanied an exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center, examines Zen for Film, also known as Fluxfilm no. 1, one of the most evocative works by Korean-American artist Nam June Paik. Created during the early 1960s, this piece consists of a several-minutes-long screening of blank film; as the film ages and wears in the projector, the viewer is confronted with a constantly evolving work. Because of this mutability, the project undermines any assumption that art can be subject to a single interpretation.
By focusing on a single artwork and unfolding the inspirations, transitions, and residues that have occurred in the course of that work’s existence, Revisions offers an in-depth look at how materiality enhances visual knowledge. A fresh perspective on a piece with a rich history of display, this catalog invites interdisciplinary dialogue and asks precisely what—and when—an artwork might be.
Lindsey Reno, University of New Orleans, Earl K. Long Library
“The volume is clearly and densely written. … Provides rich analysis and insights.” Art Libraries Society of North America, May 2016
Martin Koerber, professor at the University of Applied Sciences Berlin and head of the Department of Film at the German Cinematheque, Film Museum, Berlin
“Hanna Hölling zeigt, wie wegweisend Zen for Film für ein tieferes Verständnis von Medienkunst sein kann, oder für ein neues Kunstverständnis überhaupt. … Ich habe lange keine so kluge Abhandlung zu einem Medienkunstwerk gelesen, die ganz eng und genau beobachtend bei der Sache bleibt und aus dem Werk selbst heraus ihre kritische Haltung zum musealen Umgang damit entwickelt.” Journal of the German Conservation Association, March 2017