Things Change: Conservation and Display of Time-based Media Art

Things Change is a short documentary that addresses the challenges of preserving time-based media art in the context of a museum. Time-based media artworks may have as their medium film, slides, video, audio, performance or software, they can be analogue or digital and they have the dimension of time. 

In line with Tate’s mission to promote the public understanding and engagement of modern and contemporary art, the Time-based Media Conservation team at Tate cares for and preserves the artworks that are part of the collection, and prepares them for display.

In the video, some of our conservators and technicians tell us about how they deal with artworks that are performative, multi-dimensional and often create immersive environments in larger spaces. From Charles Atlas Joints 4tet Ensemble 1971–2010, to Daria Martin Birds 2001, or to John Gerrard Sow Farm 2009, the preservation of time-based media art offers a unique opportunity to collaborate between departments and to push ahead the research within the museum.

Andrea Lissoni, Senior Curator of International Art (Film) at Tate, says:

We often refer to time-based media work as if we were birdwatchers. You do not need only to look at the bird, but you need to consider the environment. In a digital landscape the environment is made of data, and how we preserve these data is a big question. It is not only about the actual object that we can extract, but it is about a living and growing environment that is made of relationships. This is going to be a big challenge, because so many works are now conceived as a part of something that changes.

Things Change is directed by Patricia Falcão, Time-based Media Conservator at Tate, with filming and editing by Simon Tegala, and with the contribution of Francesca Colussi, Luigi Galimberti, Duncan Harvey, Chris King, Pip Laurenson, Louise Lawson, Andrea Lissoni, Jack McConchie, Ana Ribeiro, Marco Testa-Ryan, Benjamin Webb and Tina Weidner.

This video has been realised within the context of PERICLES, a four-year project addressing the challenges of ensuring that digital content remains accessible and understandable. PERICLES has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 601138.