The most appealing results of the research done in the Research Agenda 2008-2012 set in the spotlights.
The video sculpture Mill x Molen/The Power of Tautology (1982) by Bert Schutter from the Netherlands State Collection was showing in 2011 at the STRP Biennial, one of Europe's biggest crossover festivals in the area of art, music and technology. The reinstallation of the work went smoothly - thanks to the instructions and guidelines by the Imago Revisited project.
Media art requires special attention because of on-going technological changes. The re-installation and/or conservation of video art often means migration in which the video signal is transferred to a carrier that is compatible with the current hardware: this makes the signal readable to the current viewer. This means that the artwork 'changes' in the strictest sense of the word and that close consultation with the artist is essential in such procedures as re-installation or conservation.
Mill x Molen measures about three and a half by four meters and consists of twelve large monitors. They are set up like the four vanes of a windmill with three monitors set in a metal frame per vane. Thus the work has the form of a Saint Andrew's cross. The monitors show images of rotating windmill vanes, filmed from a model of a Zaandam oil mill, De Bonte Hen. Each row of monitors shows a whole vane divided up into thirds, each of which is shown on a separate screen; in the background plays the constant loud whooshing sound of rotating vanes. Projected vanes move across the fixed monitors and occasionally disappear from view. This contrast between static (mill at rest, cross) and dynamic (moving image, sound) forms the tension of the artwork.
Mill x Molen was first presented to a large public in the Vleeshal (Haarlem) in 1983. From 1990, the installation travelled as part of the travelling exhibition 'Imago, fin de siècle in Dutch contemporary art'. This co-production of the former Netherlands Office for Fine Arts (RKB) and Montevideo showed the various applications of new technologies by Dutch artists, including Bert Schutter.
Between 2002 and 2006, two video installations from the Imago exhibition were once more set up, conserved and documented as part of the Inside Installations project. In this international collaboration project more than thirty case studies resulted in the first guidelines for the conservation, management and documentation of installation art. However at that time the guidelines were not yet widely applicable or accessible to collection managers.
In 2009, the former Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN, now RCE) and the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk), now the Living Media Art Foundation (LIMA), collaborated on the project 'Imago Revisited'. Once again attention was turned to the re-installation of Imago works: Schutter's Mill x Molen and Panta Rhei (1988) by Ricardo Füglistahler. The 'lessons' of Inside Installations were applied, tested and put into practice. During the construction of the installations each procedure was extensively documented in order to formulate instructions for re-installation and a long-term approach to the preservation of complex (multimedia) installations. The intention of the maker was documented by way of an artist interview to serve as one decision-making criterion.
An installation manual and conservation guidelines are especially important for multimedia installations. Incorrect installation can take place due to lack of instructions. Loss of original equipment or information about components can render a video or multimedia work unpresentable or cause an undesired operation through incorrect playback speed, volume, brightness or environment.
Therefore great importance was attached to the broad applicability and availability of the results of Imago Revisited. Both the manuals and stricter guidelines were made available for international collection managers on the websites of the RCE and LIMA. Thus in 2011, constructed exactly 'by the book', Mill x Molen appeared once again in its full glory to visitors at the STRP EXPO.
As for the future, it is looking promising as important steps were also made in the field of conservation during the Imago Revisited project. Installation art has its specific problems in this area. For example, what to do when a monitor type is no longer available after all these years? How to preserve image and audio technology in a sustainable manner when carriers become out-dated before your very eyes? The survival of Mill x Molen was secured by being able to acquire twelve second-hand monitors (+ one spare) and both picture and sound could be stored permanently in consultation with the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk).
Bert Schutter (Assen, 1945) lives and works in Antwerp. From 1965 to 1970 he studied graphics and painting at the Royal Academy of Art in Den Bosch. After his graduation he settled in Haarlem and as an artist was associated with Ateliers '63 until 1972. In this period he came into contact with conceptual art, which was then at its peak in the Netherlands. His first exhibitions and installations date back to 1978.
Schutter's activities as a conceptual artist gave rise to the use of video. Initially he deployed the medium mainly as a means of documentation; after 1980, he focused on its analytical examination. He defines the basic characteristics of video as the movement, the (flat) screens and (spatial) monitors, which he ingeniously connects with other visual art disciplines and typical Dutch subjects such as tulips and windmills. Nevertheless, Schutter does not regard himself as a video artist but as an artist who uses video, for him a great difference in content. In that sense he feels a kinship with Jan Dibbets, Marinus Bosom and Ger van Elk.
Website Inside Installations
Website INCCA (International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art)
Paulien 't Hoen (SBMK)
Evelyne Snijders, Gaby Wijers (NimK, nu LIMA), Ramon Coelho (NimK, nu LIMA), met dank aan de kunstenaars Bert Schutter en Ricardo Füglistahler en aan Paul Klomp (Klomp kunst en electro)
NimK (nu LIMA)