this blog is the platform for publishing the research conducted by the students of the "Prehystories of New Media" class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2008, instructor: Nina Wenhart


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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sean O'Connell: against documentation : or moving around in the issues of art preservation in 21st century

against documentation : or moving around in the issues of art preservation in 21st century , looking specifically at the variable media questionnaire and wolf vostell’s ‘sun in your head’

a case study : wolf vostell’s ‘sun in your head’

Wolf Vostell's 'Sun in Your Head' is a digital web video is an analog video is a film is a prop in a performance is a textual component in a fluxus event score is a circuit manipulated television sculpture. With each iteration the piece is altered in various degrees to fit the intended format. With many of these transfers information is lost, or 'damaged' if one is thinking in conventional art preservation terms. This inevitable ‘damage’ or dissolution, however, is a key component to the work.

Vostell's initial concerns for the piece were grounded in his concept of 'de-coll/age', or a subtractive art process in which materials from the world are stripped of surface layers to reveal latent alternative meaning. Instead of honoring the platonic desire for perfection or Hegelian models of society ever-ascending towards more desirable states of civilization, both concepts complicated greatly by the atrocities of the second world war, Vostell chose to embody the processes of entropic decay in his work. It is through embracing these natural processes that a deeper understanding of humanity comes, not from decoration or artifice. This assimilation of decay into an art practice was a radical move for a painter in the 1950s. Vostell had studied painting formerly in Paris and could very well have continued on with the conventions of imagist tradition. This would not be so, however, as the introduction of television violently ruptured visual consciousness into millions of scattered bits of light. Unlike Nam June Paik, with his overdetermined visions of televisual utopia, Vostell saw the danger in broadcast media. The one way non-communicative structure of the broadcast could be seen as a more subliminal reconstitution of the fascist ideology of the past. Vostell’s complicated skepticism shows in his ‘de-collage happenings’ in which televisions are destroyed, ritualistically buried, and put on display as contemporary works of art. While on the one hand trying to destroy the institutions of static meaning in art work, Vostell incidentally re-affirmed the traditions. This can be most particularly read in the piece ‘Sun in Your Head.’

This work, one of the only time-based documents left of Vostell’s de-coll/age happening work, apparently re-enters the realm of art world convention. Through transferring the live broadcast television sculpture to film and then to video, Vostell apparently sought to engender the piece with longevity, or rather to remove the piece from time. Looking at the piece today, it is most easily available in a digital web video format. Here we find both inevitable decay and glitch inserted into the work after Vostell’s last move of active participation in the piece’s preservation. In my opinion Vostell’s early work contains overwhelming profundity in its complex engagement with natural processes as integrated into the work of art. This inclusion of decay makes the work complicated to read because the continuous decay of the work contradicts Vostell’s later attempts at preservation. I would like to write through the various issues at play here concerning documentation, artist’s intent, and the extent to which the parameters of an artwork can supercede later desires of the artist. Or, if an artist sets up a work of art’s parameters to include the ‘total environment’, to what extent does the evolution of that environment exist in the work? Is the total environment only that which is willed by the artist? Or can it be seen to include ‘extra-artistic’ factors, so-to-speak, or those outside of the artist’s control. I would like to argue that the profundity of Vostell’s work lies in these sorts of parameters in which the inclusion of decay supercedes the artist’s future desires for preservation. Further, in line with Vostell’s early desires for his works to provide the audience with an active role in the work and subsequent new ways of living and creating, I would like to offer the opinion that all acts of preservation are essentially acts of reinterpretation1. At the end of Jon Ippolito’s essay on the variable media questionnaire he states:

However, those artists, and those institutions, who accept the concept that an artwork can change may find a number of their time-honored assumptions changing along with it. They may cease to view the conservator’s job of preservation as independent from the curator’s job of presentation. They may begin to picture a lasting artwork not as a stony relic-for stone is brittle-but as a succession of linked events that, like a stream of water, endures by remaining variable2.

53 Ippolito

With this in mind I would like to proceed with as focused a discussion of this work that inevitable decay and disruption will allow. Unfortunately for my work with ‘Sun in Your Head’, Wolf Vostell died near a decade before the variable media approach was developed. While his work has on the whole been largely forgotten, it is my opinion that there are aspects of the work that deserve preservation in some shape or form. His rigorous development of a critical vocabulary through art production and performance can be seen as exemplary for younger artists. Maybe most importantly is his inclusion of ego-transcending complexity in the form of predicted indeterminate decay. I will try to work with the variable media questionnaire only to show only that Vostell’s work was created with the intent to include environmental factors outside the artist’s control. This then must include future digital glitch and other preservational decay.

variable media questionnaire : helpful taxonomy

The variable media approach to art historical preservation as laid out in Jon Ippolito’s essay ‘Permanence Through Change: The Variable Media Questionnaire’ is as specific an approach as possible given the unutterable complexities of most all media art work. The components of a piece can no longer be summed up by the merely visual, but exist on all levels from the microscopic to the cosmic. Many works include both complicated arrays of electrical components to small for the eye to perceive and the use of large networks of waves being transmitted via satellite. In my experience, attempting to include an invoice for all of these aspects of a new media work when trying to deal critically with said work is an overwhelming impossibility. We must, of course, attempt to deal only with those aspects that are important to understanding the auratic core of the work. According to the variable media approach these important aspects should be gleaned from direct communication with the artist, most desirably through a questionnaire.

Ippolito lays out an apparently valuable taxonomy of possible preservation methods: storage, emulation, migration, and reinterpretation3. Apparently valuable due to the problematic gaps inherent in any taxonomy. After laying out the four strategies laid out by Ippolito I will then present some questions that come up in relation to Vostell’s work. Storage implies placing as much of the material content of the piece into as safe a place as possible. Vostell’s ‘6 TV de-coll/age’ sculptures are preserved by this method in the Museo de la Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. The altered television sets and filing cabinets that make up the installation are in storage in a warehouse only to be moved when a show is on. Emulation demands a change of medium although the artifice of the original work is preserved. The transfer of ‘Sun in Your Head’ from video to digital video could be seen as an emulation. Apparently the surface of the piece is the same, though the format of the information is different. Migration is where we start to see perceptible change of the artwork integrated into the preservation process. Not only does the format change but due to the constraints of certain older media, the piece has to change to fit to a contemporary media. When Vostell decided to capture the images from the sculptural version of ‘Sun in Your Head’ to film, he was in essence allowing the work to migrate, though from a new media to an older one. This is so because the piece loses the live aspect of the original sculpture. The film migration becomes a static document devoid of the possibility for the same sort of atmospheric interference that the television sculpture contains. The last strategy, reinterpretation demands a radical alteration in the state of the piece from its original state in order to show. I am tempted to think of the digital web version of ‘Sun in Your Head’ as a depressing reinterpretation of the original de-coll/age happenings. The forgotten Vostell’s work having been reduced to a glitchy seven minute youtube video with the advertisement distractions and links to ‘related videos’ such as ‘Tegan and Sara’s – Back in Your Head’. I would rather think, however, that Vostell, through actively disrupting the role of name in mid 20th-capitalist economy, is only remembered through alterior reverberations seen throughout the contemporary art context and beyond.

To clarify this paper’s intent, Vostell’s statements frame his work in a light that can only to the unimaginative be preserved through Ippolito’s methods. Vostell pointedly sought to destroy barriers between artist and audience, between work of art and life. Though he left conventional artifacts behind, his early work demands a reassessment in terms of these intentional disruptions of the artist’s relationship to context. Following will be a look at an artist statement pulled directly from a collection of Vostell’s happening scores4. After analysis of this statement biographical instances will be presented to highlight Vostell’s interest in the relationship between transcendence and destruction(which is really what we are talking about here). This is all for the sake of reworking an art theory based on the artist as individual ego(which is still the prevalent mode dealt with in Ippolito’s models ; why Paik is maybe so regarded due to his direct unabashed engagement with the art star ego) in order to move towards one that considers the art work as only one piece of a greater cultural context. Eventually the discovery of aesthetically pleasing glitches in the digital transfer of the piece will be discussed in light of these previous arguments / statements as either new works of art or as exemplifying the original ‘intent’ of Vostell’s de-collage work despite the artist himself revoking his devotion to entropy. In the midst of all of this Vostell research I have come across Joseph Grigely’s concept of ‘textualterity’. He reminds us of the work of art’s role as cultural text(obvious but somehow easily forgotten) that contains essential elements outside of the artist’s control. A valuable schematic is presented in which there is the work(W) or limits that the artists initial sets for a work of art, and textualterior iterations/versions (T1, T2, T3, T4…)5. Each version contains certain site specific aspects of each showing of a work that are necessarily in conversation with a work. This dialogue between the immediate cultural context and the past delineation of parameters set-up by the artist is where the ‘art’ of a work lies. This complicates my research because I had initially set out to utilize the variable media questionnaire as a potential critical mode for thinking about new media work. Writing about work that contains parts that exploit multiple media presents an critical impossibility in that the limits of the work are very difficult to textually define. With Vostell’s work this is especially the case because the work started as a utopic vision, entered into the realm of the performative social experiment and eventually siphoned into the excessively compressed digital web video. This transformation was a multiple step process. Some of the transformations were willed by Vostell himself. These could be seen as within the realm of Vostell’s intention as artist; manifestations of his creative vision. At a certain point, however, the piece exited Vostell’s ‘ownership’. Either bought by the Reina Sofia or the Daniel Langois Foundation, the piece, due to the necessities of its media, continued to transform. These transformations could be seen as preservational, curatorial, or maybe radically creative. Thinking specifically about the digital glitch in the most recent incarnation of ‘Sun in Your Head’, I would like to position Vostell’s work as radically creative in that the action inherent in the work, despite its existence in apparently ‘stable’ media, continues beyond the limits that the artist could initially predict. Even if Vostell thought he was preserving the piece by transferring to video, his initial concerns with decay continue to act within the piece. This is a profound statement of a particular aspect of the human condition. After two world wars, what is an artist to do but start to assimilate both the instantaneous and long form processes of destruction in his/her work. The impossibility of the creation of the perfect body had been violently highlighted such a degree that it would be pathetic for an artist of Vostell’s position to ignore it.

Let us move through his initial artist statement in the de-collage happenings text from 1966 to more closely examine Vostell’s interest in decay. Interspersed within the statement biographical instances will be included to set a temporal framework in place in relation to the artist’s life. Similar to Vostell in his statement I am working with contradictory essayistic desires. On the one hand I want to examine the facts in order to make a responsible decision in regards to the documentation / preservation of Vostell’s work ‘Sun in Your Head’. On the other, I want to use Vostell’s experience and statements against his later attempts at self-preservation. My interest in doing this is that I feel his work is more poignant when seen as assimilating decay into its limits as ‘art’, instead of marginalizing these processes as desctruction of the works value. I use the world with value with an implied ‘cultural’ before it. This paper is not trying to figure out whether or not indeterminate glitch affects a piece’s monetary value.

Begin the statement:

statement from the artist : 19656


10 years ago I was just aware as I am today

that our era has its own never-to-be repeated characteristics

and emanations that demand new methods of treatment

and that a revolution of vision is needed

to enable s to experience the times we live in


Intensive study of prints by..Francisco de Goya in the bibliotheque National de Paris.

He works on torn posters with paint and fire.

Looking at Goya here will help draw connections to a deeper history of works that defy the conventions of the institutions of preservation. The black paintings, containing many similarities in content to Vostell’s work, i.e. war, persecution, and death, were created with new sense of urgency by the artist to express his inner psychological turmoil through depicting the horrors of his external socio-historical environment. There are many parallels to be drawn between Goya’s and Vostell’s lives and work. Most importantly, for the sake of this paper, we need to look at the treatment of surface in the black paintings. Having been a court painter, Goya had been accustomed to canvas works commissioned by the state to reflect the court’s political interests. This work was devoid of any intrapersonal interest of the artist. As an interesting aside, Goya’s distortion of the facial expression of the royal family could be seen as a precursor of Vostell’s treatment of the face of presidents and celebrities in ‘Sun in Your Head’. With the Black Paintings, Goya ruptured the relationship of the painting to canvas and the necessary concerns expressed there. Placing the paint directly on the wall of his own home, Goya relocated the work of the artist as both deeply personal, and from this intrapersonal psychological place comes manifest a defiantly social humanism. Of course, now we see these paintings safely preserved in the Prado, but not without alterations necessary for the transporation of the work. Yet, we are still drawn to the work, maybe even moreso, knowing that the work of the artist continued to transform even after his death.

proceeding from self-dissolving


and self-exhausting factors in experience

plane crashes for instance and auto collisions

I coined the term de-coll/age

Excerpt from Vostell’s biography in the book Vostell: Automobile:


First trip to Paris, France...On the front page of the newspaper Le Figaro dated 6 September 1954, Vostell finds the word decollage(i.e. to take off, to remove, to separate, to scratch off, to kick the bucket) which is used in connection with the crash of a Superconstellation into the Shannon River. He transfers the term to torn posters and later on uses it for the open course of events. <> becomes Vostell's formal principle and comprehensive idea of art.

As Carol Stringari states in her essay ‘Beyond “Conservative”: The Conservator’s Role in Variable Media Preservation’7:

The meaning may not be specifically tied to any one element or artifact, or it may lie in its inherent transformation or degradation.

56 Stringari

for me this was the beginning of a change of taste

and the inclusion of the total environment

in the form of experiences

in my work

‘Total environment’ is a complex way of describing the limits for a work of art. I would suppose that an art work must have certain linguistic limits in order to perceivably exist. Even for the most conceptual of art works, there is a certain bind to the material elements of a piece. ‘Sun in Your Head’ has a certain set of material limits. A television set, a roll of film, a video tape, a miscroscopic space on an internet server. The space of travel of this information to the screen is the first place where the piece can undergo indeterminate transformation. Light through the film through a dusty projector, corroded video cables, network interference from overloaded digital pathways. The first experience I had with ‘Sun in Your Head’ was in a conventional movie theatre with no sound. For all intensive purposes I was thinking of the work in terms of normative cinema. The various aspects of the media were transparent in relation to the ‘work of art’ that is present in the treatment of the images. But this transparency of the materiality of the media in works of art, more importantly in the larger social context of the mid to late 20th century with the onset of television, was exactly what Vostell was working against.

duchamp discovered readymades

and the futurists claimed noise as art

a primary characteristic of my work

and that of my colleagues

is the that happening includes

whatever noise




or psychology enters into the total work of art

because of this

i assert that life and people themelves are art

How does this statement treat time? Could it be that Vostell had only been considering the immediate temporal context as part of the ‘total work of art’, ignoring the future evolution of the piece’s environment? Is it that the work only contains these extra-artsistic aspects in the temporal space that the artist delineates? I ask this question because when I ventured into the research of the work I started to experience it with glitches produced by the digital media I was viewing it through. Youtube and UbuWed had somehow altered the piece. Not only through providing a new type of screen, various resolutions, and temporal control for the viewer, but by introducing visual elements not present in the original work. The title page image is the first instance of this that I discovered. I discovered through a mimetic research process, one that seeks to imitate the process of the artist in order to deeper understand the work in question. Parts of the mimetic process were intentional while certain aspects happened outside of my control. Following will be a description of this process and how it let me the discovery of the digital glitch.

Part of my disdain with my first experience of Vostell’s ‘Sun in Your Head’, and many other pieces of video art, were that they were shown in a cinematic context despite their inherent work against such it. Installations, performances were all made by the artist to break with the traditional relationship of film and viewer. I had, however, been visually stimulated enough by the piece for it to be lodged in my attention for the year that has lead up to the writing of this essay. I longed for the participation that initial piece had called for. I wanted to be on a bus, moving through the city of Wuppertal, with both intentional and incidental experiences awaiting each turn. This of course is the ‘never-to-be-repeated’ aspect of Vostell’s era that is mentioned in the earlier part of the work. Interestingly enough by simply engaging with the piece for more than its seven minute running time, I continued the viewer participation in my own experience, with my own navigation of space framed by the focus on this particular work of art. Similar to the inclusion of the digital glitch and its affect on my experience of the piece of video, certain coincidental experiences of mine in 2008 could be seen as only occurring due to their being framed by my research into Vostell’s work. While wandering through Houston, Texas between the Museum of Fine Arts and the Menial Collection I happened upon a public library’s book sale. Due to the library’s proximity to these art institutions, they had many racks of art show catalogues. They were all from shows dealing with craft or classic paintings, except for a few. I would have most often skimmed through these selections and let them alone except for the fact that I had this Vostell research swimming around in my head. For months I had been struggling to find textual sources. Publications were so rare as to now circulate from libraries too far away to travel to, some were available online for too high a price, while others simply no longer existed. On that day in Houston, however, I found an exhibition catalogue from a show in 2006 at the Janos Gat Gallery in New York for one dollar. The show was entitled, ‘Wolf Vostell: Video Works’8. The book contained an essay by Sabine Maria Schmidt and photo documentation of all the pieces in the show, ‘Sun in Your Head’ being one of them. Interestingly enough, two of the photographs of the piece are of a strip of the film version containing images of Lyndon B. Johnson’s head. While not wanting to venture into the mythical/cosmic/psychic implications plausible with this sort of experience I did not know how to start talking about the work. My first impulse was to do mimetic research project to move towards a place where I could start to develop an essay around my experiences with the piece. The catalogue contains a series of fifty screen shots of the ‘TV De-coll/age’ from 1959-1967. This was intriguing because it was a sort of structuralist reworking of the original live distorted television broadcasts. It was a way for Vostell to present the most visually stimulating moments of the live broadcast in a conventional media.

in my de-coll/age happenings

the viewer and participants are offered a new criteria

they learn anew to live

and to comprehend the psychological truth

of environment and experience

through the recognition of social and aesthetic processes

my happenings and events are frames of references

for experiencing the present

a do-it-yourself reality

important characteristics of the happening

are often changed by the public

test erasures of the visual consciousness

and of the acoustic environment

help the public to resolve apparent contradictions


and chaotic situations

but even when they cannot make order out of the events

they are made aware that such things

cannot always be resolved

the observer must differentiate between form and content

concerted actions which may be repulsive and frightening

in life

often have fascinating aesthetic emanations

although the contents or the consequences of the occurrence

are to be rejected

if a happening is thematically concerned

with the destructive phenomena of our epoch

this does not mean that the happening form

is in itself destructive

happenings make such nightmares conscious

and sharpen the consciousness for the inexplicable

and for chance

my pictures are scores of my performances

these scores cannot be repeated

or even interpreted

by someone else

they are erasures and fields of ideas

intended to make the imagination of the viewer

come to life


September 11th 1965

experience with work : tracking my body's experience with work

First seeing Vostell's work, I was sitting in a conventional movie theatre with the piece being projected on the screen. No sound. The video was streaming in from ubuWeb at the resolution of 500 x 364 pixels enlarged to full screen. The visual information that had been lost through transfer to digital became amplified by this enlargement. The piece was a pixellated silent film in which I was a bodily passive observe forced to adapt to the piece's sculpting of space and time. Through the accompanying lecture, the piece was described having been originally a sculptural object created some time between 1958 and 1963. Vostell had invented a process of live broadcast circuit distortion by messing with the electrical components inside the television. According to the lecture, the piece had showed up in Vostell's '9 de-collage Happenings'. These pieces were large scale performances in which the audience was bussed around from various sights throughout the city of Wuppertal. Apparently an attempt to realize Vostell's idea that 'art is life : life is art"(cite decollage happenings), In what form was not necessarily specified. In 1963, Vostell, in collaboration with Edo Jansen, capture the screened images to film subsequently editing a version roughly seven minutes in length.

(Please note the use of 'version' here. From the Apple Dictionary version is defined as , "a particular form of something differing in certain respects from an earlier form or other forms of the same type of thing." A later definition is, "an adaptation of a novel, piece of music, etc., into another medium or style." This is where things start to get complicated. To what extent can a version be different from the original before it becomes a different piece of work? Can a piece be created that is intended to encompass unimaginable future versions, considering the possible invention of new media that could assimilate the piece into more contemporary media?)

Having decided to further research, I viewed the piece first via Again silent and this time more pixellated. However, this time the piece had become somewhat interactive. At least to the extent that I could stop it, start it, reverse it, speed it up, or slow it down. On some

Wolf Vostell / artist : excerpts from biography / relevant details9


First object paintings into which televisions are installed behind torn canvasses. Vostell thus becomes the first artist to introduce television as a medium in 20th century art.


First electronic de-coll/age Blurs in the form of television distortions.


The First Blurs are developed by working on magazines or photographs and wiping them out or off with turpentine and tetrachlorinecarbon. By contrast to Robert Rauschenberg, Vostell sees Blurs not only as a visual event, but as an action with regard to content


Vostell founds the magazine <>.


Declares car accidents to be sculpture.

By recording a distorted program including film actions, Vostell produces the first experimental film <>; a new form of de-coll/aged pictures. The first showing of the film is in Amsterdam, Netherlands 1964.


Television broadcast of the de-coll/age Fluxus Happening <>.


Vostell dies of heart disease on 3 April 1998 at the age of 65.

In "Quicktime" computer networking and the phenomenon of "compressed" video, we see yet a further squeezing of now and then, here and there, what is "real" or original, what is manipulated, or artificial. Here the act of transforming and digitizing live long-distance video signals sent from Moscow to Los Angeles, for example, allows us the luxury (or deceit) of distorting, toning, and stretching verbal and visual messages when they are filed and stored on the computer terminal.

Even now, in an age when copying is high art, when the simple physical availability of vintage masterpieces is dwindling, when post-modern theories of assemblage and collage inform a sensibility that seems our resident state of being, the concept of "aura" (if not its traditional material realization) persists. Surely, now, it must be further transformed, to survive the logical assault brought on by the digital age. Transformed into what? Into a dematerialized idea? symbol? presence? Of course these questions are impossible to answer, definitively, at a moment when the events sure to be generated through the new context are only beginning to occur.

They are nonetheless pressing enough to warrant the hazard of a guess, informed at once by the elite culture, by vulgar analogies in the popular culture, and by the demographics of the century now coming to a close. Certainly it seems that if the clutch of tendencies variously described as "post-structuralism," "post-modernism," "post-avant-garde," "appropriation," and a

wide variety of post-painterly tendencies prefixed by "Neo" have any single, unifying thread it is the discordant power of unique interpretation, or re-interpretation. When I de-construct meaning, I re-create it, within a subjective context that is inevitably unique, no matter how ordered, or predestined.

it is the repetitive "copy" that is dead, not the original. The one and the other are not separate, but together.

We reach through the electronic field of ease that cushions us, like amniotic fluid, through the field that allows us to order, reform, and transmit almost any sound, idea, or word, toward what lies beyond, toward the transient and ineffable, a breath, for one example, a pause in conversation (for another), even, finally, the twisted grain in a xeroxed photograph, or videocassette. Here is where the aura resides. In the originality of the moment when we see, hear, read, repeat, revise. Not in the thing itself.

Douglas David, ‘Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction’

Entropy requires no maintenance. Entropy has its own poetry: it’s all about delamination, disintegration, deterioration, degeneration, decomposition, and doddering decline.

14 Bruce Sterling,

So a computer’s got the conservation problem that a painting has, plus a bunch of new ones.

18 Buce Sterling

A stream of bits is not just ones and zeros. Ones and zeros are numbers, and even if arithmetic is immaterial, computers aren’t. Bits are not different from atoms: bits are bits of atoms. Bits are not ghosts or spirits or good intentions, bits have to be measurable, observable physical objects, like a greek vase.

19-20 B. Sterling

Bits have no archival medium. We haven’t invented one yet. If you print something on acid-free paper with stable ink, and you put it in a dry dark closet, you can read it in 200 years. We have no way to archive bits that we know will be readable in even 50 years. Tape demagnetizes. CDs delaminate. Networks go down.

Bruce Sterling, ‘Digital Decy’ from Permanence Through Change: The Variable media Approach, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation, in Montreal.

the variable media approach asks creators to play the central role in deciding how their work should evolve over time, with archivists and technicians offering choices rather than prescribing them.

47 Ippolito

When discussing the issue of hybrid works whose media status is initially in flux, and then even further so as each component media evolves(i.e. – Vostell’s use of film, video, and television, each of which has its own course of obsolescence) Ippolito states:

we decided to explore medium-independent, mutually compatible descriptions of each artwork, which we call behaviors.

48 Ippolito

we chose the term “reproduced” for any medium that loses quality when copied… For these works the essential questions pertain to who owns the master…

49 Ippolito

However, those artists, and those institutions, who accept the concept that an artwork can change may find a number of their time-honored assumptions changing along with it. They may cease to view the conservator’s job of preservation as independent from the curator’s job of presentation. They may begin to picture a lasting artwork not as a stony relic-for stone is brittle-but as a succession of linked events that, like a stream of water, endures by remaining variable.

53 Ippolito

Jon Ippolito, ‘Accommodating the Unpredictable: The Variable Media Questionnaire’ from Permanence Through Change: The Variable media Approach, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation, in Montreal


Glitch as digital manifestation of 'weathering'.

decay in art as political gesture...

preservation of interference - letting particularity of media show through , rupture of transparency.


how vostell negate such vigorous action with later commercial interests... and in the spirit of the work we must see the work as authored only in part by the artist...

allowing for the glitch to be something out of the artist's control... this is something vostell attempted to work with in the beginning, but of course, considering the impossibility of escaping the ego, re-affirmed art institutional norms of object preservation that stem from platonic ideas of beauty and truth. My excitement comes from the possibilities of the shattering these ideas that was part of the early de-coll/age happening work... pushing ideas of 'location' in regards to the question 'where is the art?' 'what is art?' into realms so unutterably complex that we as viewers, artists, people, citizens, are forced to reconsider our relationships to the world. It is this push for constant reconsideration that is of the most critical value in Vostell's work. On some level his commercial ventures later in his life were not so bad. Yes, they were museum oriented and self-celebratory, but maybe there is something in his realizations. Preserve beauty while one can, never forget to reconsider sociopolitical relationships, and embrace the oscillation between the two that causes the great tension that is living.

Vostell as embodiment of post-modern mid/late century complexity. Swept into utopic potential of technology, overwhelming presence of skepticism, coming directly from the heart of WWII trauma, ... on the whole demands a re-engagement with his work.

Since his death only a few shows, etc. While Nam June Paik gets most of the attention, I wonder if it is because Paik was more typically a 'global citizen' interested in utopic prospects who steered away from issues of national identity, etc.

Trace archival history.

--sources and key-strategies to start with:

- friedrich carl von savigny --> set of interpretations for law

- variable media questionnaire --> set of questions to find out the core elements of a work that changes over time; these core elements don't need to be material, they can be an idea as well

- strategies for archiving: storage, emulation, migration, reinterpretation.

1 (Note: Let it be stated that dealing with the particular difficulty in locating the 'art' in Vostell's 'Sun in Your Head' is not to ignore it as a sociopolitical statement by an artist steeped in the tension of post-WWII Germany. The development of media works in the second half of the 20th century comes directly out of a ubiquitous militarism . Technologies appropriated by artists were developed first by military scientists and inventors. It is my hope that while digging into the various difficulties of preservation we might find hints at the politics inherent in Vostell's work. Thinking especially about Vostell's de-coll/age mantra, the refocus of art making from the additive processes of creation/construction to those of disintegration, deconstruction becomes radically politicized. This is so in the context of not only Vostell's immediate era, 50s-90s Germany, but also in a deeper western art history.)

2 Jon Ippolito, ‘Accommodating the Unpredictable: The Variable Media Questionnaire’ from Permanence Through Change: The Variable media Approach, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation, in Montreal

3 Ippolito p. 51

4 de-coll/age happenings by Wolf Vostell , tr. Laura P. Williams, Something Else Press, Inc. 1966

5 from page 79 of an unknown collection of various artist’s/critic’s work with critical equations. Author is Joseph Grigely, will find information a.s.a.p.

6 see note 4.

7 Carol Stringari ‘Beyond “Conservative”: The Conservator’s Role in Variable Media Preservation’ from Questionnaire’ from Permanence Through Change: The Variable media Approach, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation, in Montreal

8 Wolf Vostell : Video Works, Janos Gat Gallery 1100 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10028

9 dates and subsequent details from ‘Vostell: Automobile’ edited by Pablo Rico, 2000 ISBN – 3 8030 3093 5

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