Planning for an exhibition of media art installations must account for the variability and complexity of works that may include wide-ranging elements, including sculptural objects, hardware, and video or digital media. The planning process and timetable includes considering issues such as technical specifications and requirements; acquisition or rental of playback and display equipment; technical support for installation, maintenance and de-installation; and construction, space and sound requirements. Throughout the planning process, it is essential to engage in a conversation with the artist or the artist's representative to understand how the works should be installed and the intended audience interaction.
Create a Checklist
The first step in planning any exhibition is to confirm the availability of the works to be included in the exhibition.
Permission and Rights
Contact the artist, gallerist, or other owner of the rights to the media installation to ensure there are no rights conflicts.
Interview the Artist or Representative
Whenever possible it is advisable to communicate with the artist or representative about how best to install a work of art. Request information about installation requirements and elements as soon as possible and then review all aspects of exhibition design and technical details before installation begins.
Make sure that you have all the elements of the work in hand and a reasonable amount of time before installation begins. To insure that the installation best represents the artist's intentions, it is important to be well informed about the requirements for the work in terms of spatial arrangement and sound and light levels. Hire technicians (full-time, part-time or on-call depending on the specific needs of the installation and the duration of the exhibition).
It is important to plan for the preparation of the space so that it does not coincide with the installation of equipment. Building out the space, sanding and painting walls, and other finishing work should be complete prior to introducing equipment or artwork into the exhibition space. Dust, debris, and liquids can damage electronic equipment; plan your installation calendar accordingly.
Gather all elements of the work and instructions for how these elements relate to one another. This includes source material, equipment, and any other non-electronic elements necessary to install the work.
Installation guidelines and requirements dictate what equipment is necessary for each work. A list of specifications and recommendations should be requested as soon as the work is chosen for exhibition. Find out well in advance if there is dedicated equipment that will be shipped with the work or if you are responsible for obtaining equipment. Allow several weeks for vendors to process equipment orders in order to avoid costly rush shipping.
Install the Work
Follow closely any installation instructions and technical requirements laid out in the planning process. Have someone with adequate technical expertise on hand to help the installation run smoothly.
Once the work is installed it will be necessary to thoroughly test it for technical problems. The work should be left on for a considerable time during this testing period in order to anticipate any difficulties that might arise during an extended exhibition period. Create comprehensive notes outlining any glitches encountered and the steps taken to solve these issues. These notes should be made available to exhibition staff responsible for the maintenance of the exhibition.
Document the installation with schematic diagrams of the equipment, displays and connections, step-by-step instructions for start-up and shut-down of the work, and photo and video documentation of the completed installation.
Shipping and Dispersal
Following the close of the exhibition, return all elements of the installation in a timely fashion, using a reputable shipping company. With installations that include sculpture or other media, it is advisable to use insured art handlers for packaging and transport.