The aim of these guidelines is to extend existing condition reporting practices to include time-based media works of art. A condition report provides the baseline against which future examinations can be compared.

It is assumed in the loan agreement that the lender will provide a condition report to accompany a loan. In this case, the sections relating to the installation (template section 7), changes to the display (template section 8) and any additional documentation (template section 11) will be completed by the borrower. The borrower might also wish to annotate previous sections. If any discrepancies are noted between the report and the work the owner is notified immediately (see Loan agreement). The condition report is signed and dated (template section 10) each time the work is checked and the date and authorship of any annotations is made clear. Where a condition report does not accompany a loan it is good practice for the borrower to create a new report in order to have a record of the condition of the work at the beginning of the loan and to send a copy to the lender.

A condition report for time-based media works of art is divided into three sections – the media elements, the equipment and the overall installation. They are different from condition reports for more conventional works of art in that some of the components may be easily replaceable without loss. It is often not possible to know by looking at any component, its value or significance in relation to the identity of the work of art.

Overview of loaning time-based media


  • In most cases only the exhibition format of the media element will be lent (for example a DVD).
  • This is made from a master that will be retained by the lender.
  • It is important to be clear whether the owner will provide new exhibition format material or whether they have an agreement with the artist’s gallery or the artist to oversee this.
  • It is useful to specify in the conditions of loan that an extra copy of the exhibition format material is to be provided as part of the loan or that the borrower has explicit permission to make one. It is also important to understand what the procedure is for making new copies if needed during the exhibition.


  • In many cases the borrower will provide the equipment to show a time-based media work of art according to the specifications.
  • Equipment is usually only lent if it is not possible for the borrowing institution to provide the equipment because it is unusual or if the equipment forms a complex system which would be too difficult for the borrower to put together.
  • In such cases it is very important to understand what the responsibilities are of the borrowing institution, what support the lender can provide and what the procedure is for reporting problems.
  • If equipment is being supplied as part of the loan it is important for the borrower to establish whether it has been serviced recently/after the last time the work was displayed. If the equipment requires servicing then it is important to be clear who is to bear these costs. This should also be reflected in the loan agreement.
  • All display equipment will fail and become obsolete. There is a high risk that any equipment you are lent will fail during the course of the exhibition and it is appropriate to plan accordingly.
  • Some equipment has an aesthetic or conceptual relationship to the identity of the work. The value of such equipment is therefore greater than purely its function. This means that it is important that these relationships are maintained and that it is not possible to substitute this equipment with a different piece of equipment that does not maintain these relationships, without loss.


  • No artwork is immune to the circumstances of its presentation. However work of art which are only fully realised in their installed state create a different level of difficulty for issues of authority and authentication than works which form stable static objects. Time-based media works of art are vulnerable to a number of changing conditions that can have a profound impact on how they are understood.
  • A condition report assesses not only the material condition of the component parts but also whether the installation documentation has been followed and the work has been installed without compromise to the identity of the work.

Some things to consider

  • It is important to be clear the status of any elements loaned.
  • Installation documentation is the essential reference document.
  • There are two fundamental facets of condition reporting for time-based media art: the physical state and the functionality of all the components/elements.
  • Condition reporting for time-based media may require the expertise of more than one person.

Condition reporting practice

It is important to view, listen to, and experience the entire time-based program and report any deviations from the condition statement.

Condition report layout

A condition report may include the following:

Basic artwork identification

  • Artist
  • Title
  • Loan reference

Details of the lender and the exhibition

  • Name
  • Exhibition title
  • Open date
  • Close date


  • Describe the work and list the elements/components and how they work together.


  • In most cases exhibition format material will be produced for each loan by the lender or by the artist or the artist’s gallery. It is therefore unlikely that you will be condition checking old or archival material.
  • Where this is not the case the borrower, lender, artist and gallery may need to work closely together to ensure that accurate material is produced from the best available master. This may provide an opportunity to address the long-term conservation of the work.

In all cases it is important to establish:

  • Whether the display material has been newly produced for the display.
  • If the medium is video is it NTSC, PAL or SECAM? It is often inappropriate to change the nature of the signal as different standards have different aesthetic qualities. However this may create a compatibility problem with some display equipment. Any changes should be discussed with the owner.
  • Whether there is an extra copy.
  • Whether there are enough copies for the duration of the show, and how often they should be changed. This is particularly important in cases where display causes rapid deterioration, for example slides, film prints and tapes.
  • The provenance of exhibition copies. (What have they been produced from and has the artist signed them off?)
  • The procedure for requesting additional copies and the cost associated with the production of these copies.

Film and slide material

  • Is the colour, contrast, grading, consistent and correct?
  • Is there any evidence of fading?
  • Are the slides/film prints clean and unscratched?
  • Are slides properly mounted?
  • Is there any evidence of moisture damage?
  • Are the film prints coated?
  • How often does the exhibition copy need to be changed with new copies?

Video and audio tapes

  • Why have you been sent this tape? Is the work to be shown on tape or are you expected to produce additional exhibition copies?
  • Does the lender/artist or artist’s representative need to approve any exhibition copies produced?
  • What is the status of the material (master/sub-master etc) and what are the responsibilities of the borrower in relation to it?
  • Does the tape appear to be in good condition (rewound, no signs of creasing or damage)?
  • Does the quality of the exhibition copy reflect the quality of the master?
  • Check for defects in the image and/or the sound.

Optical discs

  • Are the discs free from scratches?
  • Are the discs free from finger prints and dust?
  • Is there any evidence of delaminating?
  • Are the discs free from warping?
  • Do the discs play correctly and loop etc as required?
  • Is the quality of the encoding accurate and free from errors?
  • Check for defects in the image and the sound.

Hard-disc drives

  • What is the configuration of the disc(s)? (Raid array etc)
  • How are the discs formatted (FAT32, NTFS etc).
  • What is the operating system?
  • What additional software is loaded?
  • What are the file names, encoding, and location of the media files?
  • What are the makes, models and specifications of the media cards?
  • What connectors are available for the display devices?
  • How are the audio and video signals output (check compatibility with display devices)?
  • What is the nature of the back up of the files etc and where are they located?
  • Are any passwords required?

Sculptural element

  • It is beyond the scope of this project to cover condition checking guidelines for sculpture.
  • However, sculptural elements of a time-based media installation should be handled and condition checked in the same way as other loaned sculptures.

Display equipment (if provided as part of the loan)


  • Is the identity of the work of art linked to a particular make and model?
  • Is the equipment intended to be visible? Is the look of the original make and model therefore important?
  • Is the equipment now obsolete and rare?
  • Has the equipment been modified by the artist?
  • Is there a spare?
  • What is the procedure should the equipment fail? (This should be spelt out in the Loan agreement if equipment is provided by the lender as part of the loan).


  • Is the equipment in full working order?
  • Is there evidence of any external damage?
  • Are all accessories present and checked off? (Remote control, operations manual etc)
  • Is the packing adequate?
  • Do you have a record of the hours it has been operational? (This information is available in the menus of many projectors).
  • Is the equipment clean?
  • Has it been maintained?
  • What is the fire risk created by this equipment? (Describe any safeguards taken).

Projectors and monitors

  • Although other technologies are available the most common are cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display (LCD) projectors and monitors.
  • To check a projector it is advisable to project the image at the size required for the work.

Liquid crystal display

  • Project a white field and a black field and check for faulty pixels.
  • View a white field and check that the white balance is even and there is no discolouration in part of the image.
  • View a black field to check for dust spots.
  • View a grid and check for convergence of red, green and blue.
  • View colour bars and check the colour rendition.
  • Check the filters are clean (projectors only).
  • Check the age of the lamp (may be difficult to ascertain for monitors).

Cathode ray tubes

  • Project a white field and check for burn-in on the Cathode Ray tubes.
  • Check a white field for brightness and colour balance.
  • Check the number of hours that the tubes have been used.
  • Project a black field and check for dust.
  • View colour bars and check the colour rendition.
  • Check the focus and the accuracy of the convergence using a grid or dot pattern (projectors only).

Has the installation been installed correctly?

  • Were the specifications accurately fulfilled?
  • Some things to consider:
  • Space and construction requirements
  • How the public encounters the work/enters the space.
  • Lighting and acoustic requirements.
  • Operation and functionality (including timing).
  • Was the sound and image accurately rendered?
  • Where any changes necessary during installation or during the course of the show? (These should be agreed with the lender).