Interview with Christopher Eamon
Christopher Eamon

Christopher Eamon is Director of the New Art Trust, San Francisco [1], and Curator of the distinguished Pamela and Richard Kramlich Collection, San Francisco. He was previously the Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and has curated shows of video and new media art at PS1/MOMA, ICA London, and SFMOMA, among others. This conversation with Lori Zippay took place in September 2005.
See Also: Video Acts Case Study.

Lori Zippay: The Kramlich collection is recognized as the most important private collection of media art in the United States. Can you briefly talk about how the Kramlichs began collecting video?

Christopher Eamon: In the late '80s the Kramlichs began looking at video at the urging of John Caldwell, the late curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Jack Lane, who was SFMoMA's director at the time. Pam and Dick were looking to do something with art in their community. They had been collecting works on paper, mostly conceptually driven works, such as Jenny Holzer drawings when Jack Lane and John Caldwell instigated their looking at video. At that time it was beginning to merge into the visual arts realm. It was actually very prescient on their part, because it was a good five years before the whole international art scene became very focused on video. Together the Kramlichs and John Caldwell went abroad to either Documenta or Venice in 1987 and then again in '92, and by that time they were actually beginning to collect in a limited way. But '92 was the turning point for them in that they acquired their first installation.

LZ: What were the first video works that they acquired?

CE: The first tape Pam purchased was Fischli and Weiss, The Way Things Go (1985-87) [2]. The first installation they purchased was Dara Birnbaum's Tiananmen Square: Break-In Transmission (1990) [3]. After that it was Cut Pipe (1992) by Gary Hill [4]. The Kramlich collection today includes 60 installations, and 100 or so related photographs, paintings, and objects. The installations aren't all video-they're mostly video, but the collection also includes other projected or moving-image media from the '60s to the present such as slides, film installations, and so on. They also have nearly 200 single-channel works in what we call the video library, which was mostly given to their foundation, the New Art Trust, in 1999, I believe.

LZ: How would you characterize your role as curator of this collection?

CE: Since early 1998 I have been, first, the art advisor, through Thea Westreich [5], then since 2001 the curator of the collection. This involves making offerings of works that I believe fit into the collection, soliciting material, reviewing unsolicited materials, and forwarding works that I think fit, given our eight-year history together. It involves registrarial work on the collection and developing the database that tracks the collection. It involves managing the storage, the transferring in-and-out of storage material. It involves overseeing and coordinating the migration as needed and risk assessment. It involves doing the insurance evaluations, all management and installation of the collection, curating from the collection, facilitating loans as an agent of the Kramlichs, agreeing to and signing loan forms, assessing the ability of the borrowing organization to carry out proper installation of the work, acquiring proper documentation from the galleries, negotiating sales and acquisitions of proper materials as determined by our guidelines, developing those guidelines and being the mediator between curators from other institutions and the Kramlich Collection.

LZ: That's all? (laughs)

CE: There are probably other things, but it would seem self-important to continue. (laughs)

LZ: In describing your role, you've basically outlined many of the issues that we're addressing in this project. No doubt most curators managing a major private collection have similar bullet points in their job description, but when we're dealing with media art or technology-based art, the issues seem exponentially more complex. Perhaps we can take your list as a kind of template to discuss some fundamental issues. I'd like to start with basic questions about the implications of various technologies for collection, exhibition, and preservation. Shall we begin with the single-channel video works?

CE: The formats represented in the Kramlich collection reflect the changes in what commercial galleries have offered from the early '90s onward, from signed VHS tapes to laser discs to 3/4" tapes (for historical material prior to 1998), to Beta SP, Digital Beta, and DVD. And now there are at least two hard drive pieces. These are quasi-interactive; one is actually interactive through a foot pedal, but it's not a computer-based work: Feedback (2004) by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller [6]. The key issue on the collector's side is that every time a new technology or format for exhibition gets invented and made commercially available, the dealers tend to forget everything that was learned about the last exhibition format and the whole process reverts to something like another signed VHS tape all over again.

LZ: Do you make a distinction between exhibition and acquisition formats?

CE: We consider the VHS tape, the laser disc, the DVD and any other thing that plays at length in the gallery to be the exhibition format [7]. It is not the main object of the negotiated acquisition, which would be the archival master and the protection master. We sometimes make the protection masters ourselves because it's just so hard to get the masters in the first place. (By master I mean not the actual master, but the thing closest to the artist's master for our purposes.) In 1998 I started going back and retrieving masters for all of the acquisitions that had been made during the previous 10 years. For us there's not much point in just automatically making exhibition copies until we have to exhibit them, because by the time we need to exhibit a work we might have to put it on another format anway--like Blu-ray or HD DVD. So it's not really important to rush to make that decision at the outset of the acquisition. You make it every time you have to exhibit it. You could think of the exhibition format as disposable in the sense that if it gets wrecked, you can remake it. But it's not really that simple since exhibition copies are not really disposable, which causes a kink in the loan and insurance process, because they actually can be quite difficult to re-make and you need artist approval and oversight, and they're often costly. They often can be so tied to the equipment that you have to go to the ends of the earth to make one. So they should be handled as artworks, even though they're not masters.

LZ: Do you have a reference library of the collection?

CE: Yes. Today the reference library is still mostly on VHS. DVDs are still very high quality in comparison and you don't want to be lending them out all the time. As soon as DVD came everyone just reverted to selling DVDs in nice boxes with signatures on them, and you had to go through another series of debates about what really is collectible.

LZ: This has been a big issue for EAI. It's been a process of education. Many galleries, institutions and private collectors have bought into the myth that DVD is an acquisition format. It's a fine exhibition or reference format, but it's not archival. We often make the analogy that DVD is the VHS of the digital world. There's finally beginning to be more awareness about the preferred archival standard, Digital Beta.

CE: Many artists didn't want to go to DVD at all for a long time, and wouldn't even provide their work on Digital Beta. Eventually they ended up making these themselves and being satisfied, once they felt that the digitization was fine, which is totally their prerogative. These are some of the challenges.

LZ: Many of the single-channel works in the Kramlich collection are from the 1960s and '70s. What are some of the issues raised for you and the artists in the process of going from analog to digital, particularly for works that were made on early formats, such as 1/2" open reel?

CE: It's mostly been an issue of new display devices being too good, or too high-fidelity. This just makes an older image look even worse, if it's not coming from that kind of source or that kind of production quality. These works just don't hold up on the digital projectors and plasma screens and LCD screens we have today. They don't have overscan and you see all the schmutz on the top and the bottom. These works probably shouldn't be shown this way at all, but they're going to be. The early works in the collection were transferred to Beta SP when it was becoming clear that the decks and playback equipment were not going to be made anymore, and Betas in turn were digitized directly into DVD for display. In cases where we had only 3/4" tapes, you couldn't actually go directly to DigiBeta or DVD from them. The processes for digitizing for DVD work best with the last generation of material forward, and thinking that you're going to go directly from the old source and have a better image is a mistake. The jump is too great. This was a risk assessment issue-it was fine to keep the original source, but I erred on being too careful, since the image quality was better on from a later generation of tape. Most of the facilities we work with are so high-end, and we're so comfortable working with them, that we can do a lot of testing. But it's always better for the artist to be involved with the migrations. You never want to undermine the quality of their material. It's just such a huge time-consuming job, sitting and watching every frame of the dub. Most collectors aren't able to do that. Most curators aren't going to be able to do that either.

LZ: Do you have a long-term strategy for digital storage of the works in the collection?

CE: No. Seven years ago the strategy was to do non-compressed digital video, Digital Beta and Beta SP, because nobody knew which way the technology would go. Some were doing Digital Beta and Beta SP duplicates, and those with limited material and sizeable funds were using D5 or D2. The fact is that the broadcast world and the consumer products industry determine what equipment will be available. In 1998 you could spend lots and lots and lots of money transferring work to uncompressed digital video. But it doesn't matter how little compression there was; if it's unreadable by any available equipment, it's worthless. We waited until there was a consensus around Digital Beta. Each time we wait, it turns out that something happens on an international scale that tends to determine what we and the artists end up using. There will be hard drive storage, but if we had started that six or seven years ago when everyone wanted us to do it, it would have cost a million dollars and it would be worthless today. We would have to go back to the originals now and re-digitize in a new, higher quality format.

LZ: Most institutions or organizations don't have the resources for that kind of investment.

CE: Every time a new format comes out, everyone just uses it, which wastes a lot of money for no reason. You're not thinking long-term if you do this. If you wait seven years instead of changing every three there's still half as much life left in the old tape and you've skipped three generations of wasteful spending. If you wait seven years and then you address the situation, do a spot check on the tape, you still have seven more years of life left in it. So you can make the decision about how you will migrate the work in seven years as opposed to in the first two years that you have had it, because you'll just revisit it again in five years anyway. I call it the theory of thirds; you just skip every other format change and you save hundreds of thousands of dollars. This strategy just came out of trying to not overspend and using some foresight and logic. No one wants to think that the thing they bought is ruined every time a new format comes out, which is practically every five years.

LZ: Who is physically assessing your works?

CE: I usually get someone to do that; usually a video person, an artist or conservator. I brief them on what to look for, what kind of assessment to make.

LZ: What about storage?

CE: 45% relative humidity, 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and they're in open shelving for circulation, upright and in boxes. They're in media storage where everybody else is; Turner Classics and all the big industry collections. They're very safe, bar-coded, etc.

LZ: Media-based works pose particular challenges for collection registration. Standard models were designed for more traditional, unique art objects. Many museums are developing new paradigms for registering moving-image media materials. What kind of systems are you using for cataloging the Kramlich collection?

CE: In 1998 I was provided with a regular Filemaker database for art objects, one record per object. It was completely unusable for the collection, but that's how it was being done at the time. There'd be the title, author, medium, in the notes field, and no way of distinguishing formats, no hierarchy, no taxonomy of categories, no information as to when they were made, which one came from the artist, which came from the dealer. I don't think this is necessarily the collectors' job, but when you have a collection like the Kramlichs', like a museum, you do have to take on a greater responsibility. Basically I created a new database. I had the Guggenheim registrars come to look at it, because they were working on one to use internationally through Bilbao and all the other branches of the Guggenheim, to have online and share. They were investigating all kinds of things. The model for what I created is a parent-child record system. There's one record with the art data information, and then the children are all the subset records for each physical object, including all pertinent information about each tape or disk, including its taxonomy or relationship with regard to the master. It can include equipment and non-media objects as well. Each record also has a location and bar code, and the entire family has a media code. Our taxonomy is archive master, protection master, dub master, and exhibition copy. When it's single-channel we make a distinction between the exhibition or viewing copy, and what you might call the research copy. Galleries sometimes call it the preview copy.

LZ: We sometimes call it the reference copy.

CE: If there's more than one of those then they're further designated by number and also the date they were made. That stuff is also on the label - the date and everything about the actual copy and the source it came from - but that's for other people, a hundred years from now, doing archaeology; they'll use that data.

LZ: How do you document the artists' intentions or instructions when it comes to installations, which are often variable or mutable in form and technology?

CE: The database is a collections tool. There's room for notes and exhibition history, and all kinds of information that's relevant to the object, as each record relates to a single object. Each work has a binder that includes all the installation documents--installations that are subsequently exhibited in other environments. The documents show their variability, and all the data that we could get from the artists regarding their intentions. We try to get at the intent of the piece through documentation at the point of purchase, and also through interviews with the artist and mapping the subsequent installations of it over time, to show the variability in the choices. There is sometimes in the database a list of preferred equipment and digressions from that list. Sometimes an artist is very specific, and this is highlighted in the database. But usually a loan involves a deeper kind of research, or should. The binder files are for the less complicated objects.

LZ: I'd like to speak about collecting single-channel work, and a big shift that occurred in the 1990s. This was the emergence of limited-edition video works as a strategy for video to enter the art market. This phenomenon raises issues not only in terms of its relation to the co-existing distribution model for video, but also for how it relates to what was once seen as a somewhat radical, reproducible medium. Can you speak to these two different models from the perspective of a collector?

CE: For the collector it's confusing. Originally no one was going to make a living out of video art. The distribution model was meant to be alternative television, in a way. Not for all artists; Acconci and Nauman weren't really making alternative television, but they certainly enjoyed the idea that someone could have this material in an inexpensive form, and then the materials could end up in a classroom or a school library. So the real confusing issue between the limited and unlimited edition is…what you get. It's as simple as that. For me it's almost a non-issue, but I think for some collectors it's hard to understand. The value of everything has gone up. What you get is really proportionate to what you pay. The worth of any un-editioned thing-a poster versus a lithograph or a painting-is different in that everyone else has it, too, and the number will continue to increase. If you buy the institutional version of the poster, the framed one, it costs $1,000. The painting costs $200,000. But even with a painting, you don't own the rights to its imagery. So even though you have acquired a work, you still don't have the right to take it, reproduce it and sell it. It's confusing because the distribution model seems to get blended with the editioned gallery model and people want to know that they can do whatever they want in terms of exhibition and lending and borrowing. When you're lending something to a museum that is an edition of three, it's understood that you have one edition and two other people have one and everyone knows who they are. But if you're getting something for less than a thousandth of a percent of what the other two cost, and there are hundreds of them out there, you don't have the right to become the artist's de facto distributor, for a thousand dollars. There's no problem with either of these models, they're just different. You can't become the artist's distributor for free; it totally undermines the whole project.

LZ: Another shift that has occurred since the 1990s, which we've already touched on, is that there's a much greater awareness of archival standards and practices for media-based art works. The example of galleries offering signed VHS tapes for sale in the 1990s, which seems to be haunting this conversation, was certainly a low point in the evolution of this process.

CE: The other issue is that when you acquire the painting you take on the stewardship of that painting. You're not going to let your grandchildren play with crayons near it. But when you buy the poster, so, you lose the poster. Luckily, organizations like EAI and Video Data Bank do in fact take good care of the materials that are in their purview. We don't have to go back and check every single collection in the entire nation with the same titles, because there has been an ongoing caretaking within these organizations. So we don't spend as much money with our institutional copies of distributed, non-editioned works. They get rewound and wound and spot-checked, and replacements will be acquired occasionally when needed. But there's not the same kind of constant migration of masters. The distributor holds those masters and is responsible for them. So the distributor has a much greater proportion of the responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the kind of stewardship they have.

LZ: We have a historical and cultural investment in this work. The nonprofit distributors were pioneers in terms of the preservation of video art works, because the quality of our masters has an impact on exhibitions and acquisitions around the world. At EAI we began our first major preservation initiative back in 1985, both in terms of restoration and cataloging, and it's been an integral part of what we've done ever since. So in some cases - to extend your analogy - the "poster" may be more archivally sound than the "painting," as it were. Do you find that galleries have a similar investment in the longevity of the work?

CE: They mostly do, but you can't count on it. They work with the studios, and often have a lot of input into the work. But you can't assume that, so you really need to get what you need at the beginning of the acquisitions process, just in case. You follow whatever practice or precedent has been set with the gallery. A lot of galleries have the wherewithal and resources and staff to work with the artist's studio and the top labs. But there are artists that don't have studios, and galleries that only have one assistant. Ironically, sometimes you need to get what you need from the big gallery right away too, because they're going to say that they can take care of every problem into the future, but the gallery itself may not be around in 25 years. You need to think about the distant future.

LZ: This also raises important issues about the display and stewardship of media- or technology-based installations. Can you tell me a bit about the installation of works on display in the Kramlich residence? Are they more or less permanently installed, or does the installation change?

CE: They used to change more frequently than they do now. There are still additions and changes. The home is very wired now. We did five years of work so that we could change out pieces much more easily down the road. We hire a programmer now instead of moving all the equipment and cabling around. But, still each installation is a bit different.

LZ: Are you working with an in-house technician?

CE: No, not anymore. We used to have someone come in for routine maintenance. But the material isn't turned on for a thousand hours at a time, as it sometimes is in a museum. So it's really about another risk assessment situation. Technical help is brough in on an as-needed basis. But I do have an excellent person now, and we're slowly working through pieces on display.

LZ: Can we speak a bit about challenges relating to the obsolescence of hardware and maintaining the integrity of the work?

CE: I would actually start with the works that aren't hardware-dependent. I would go back to something I mentioned earlier, which was how the low-end early material is affected by all the new display devices, the very technologically advanced consumer-driven products. Works that aren't hardware-dependent, such as single-channel Nauman, or even multi-channel Nauman, for that matter still require you to look at the qualitative aspects of the work, which needs to be documented as well. Of course, these qualities are going to change, and artists will have different opinions about them, and change their minds over time. But I think you also need to keep the material so that you can go back to its original state. If you can go back in the future-it's kind of like cryogenics. Although it's much more likely that you'll revive the art than a person, a cadaver. (laughs)

LZ: I'm interested in the balance between keeping the piece alive and keeping the artist's original intent of the work intact.

CE: Well, for example, the CRTs [8] are still better for old black and white material, and we have many of those. Then you have works such as the Naumans or the Abramovics, where the monitors stack up one upon the other. It's hard to find monitors that stack on each other, so you have to procure them in unconventional ways. With Abramovic, I know that she's happy stacking the flat screens on a wall, but the screens will be in the wrong shape, the wrong ratio. Of course you'll do it exactly how the artist wants, but you need also to be able to restage it. One of the successes of Into the Light [9] was that almost everything was restaged exactly the way it was originally shown. It was really hard--hand-making turntables for projectors, hand-making equipment. We simulated some computers to control slide devices, but they were still slide devices. The computers, which were hidden, replaced lost reel-to-reel encoding, which is just not physically possible today.

LZ: So it's a combination of using new technologies to simulate obsolete technologies, as well as restoring the old devices.

CE: That's the interesting thing about reviving the cadaver; it's totally easy 30 years later to make the piece with the computer controls hidden, rather than to save the old 8-track. But in the meantime you had to save the 8-track in order for there to be something to start with. I think that all of this plasma and LCD is going to be replaced in such a way that the screen will look like a Hollywood film. And that could actually benefit the 1960s works, because a Hollywood film has grain and it has black. It might not be a box, but it also might not show banding and rasterizing of the image and dark colors and schmutz that is not intended. These devices are a huge waste of money. Stockpiling is another strategy for hardware-specific materials or moderately hardware-specific works. We have very hardware-specific material, like the Reinhard Mucha installation Auto-Reverse (1994-95) [10] We actually rebuilt from the inside out many components of this film installation by Mucha. The film projector was completely rebuilt after its tour, and the electronics were completely rebuilt by a very skilled tinkerer/technician (an artist), who rebuilt the equipment from scratch with parts that we acquired from eBay. That'll get us another 15 years. We have to; there's no foreseeable replacement of that 16mm film projector. So don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, or should I say the bathtub? (laughs)

LZ: You mentioned that Dara Birnbaum's Tiananmen Square: Break-in Transmission was the first installation acquired by the Kramlichs. Can you talk about your strategies for preserving that piece, which has very specific technological conditions?

CE: When it comes to the Birnbaum piece there were problems with the audio, because it's a sound and video installation. Each channel of audio has been playing on its speaker for 20 years. It's been playing the same range of sounds for 20 years, so they started to sound really whacked out, grinding and very horrible. First we started replacing all the cones in the directional speakers, which have been unavailable for probably 10 or 12 years already. So we replaced all the cones in all of the speakers. The cones, when you touch them, disintegrate into a fine powder, and they're very high quality speakers. It's interesting, because the laser disc players are still working fine. The rubber in these high-quality professional speakers--the rubber that creates the flexibility and lets the cone vibrate--can't live for 20 years. It never occurred to me. So it's not just video--speakers don't have a life longer than a tape, it turns out. You're supposed to throw everything out before then! (laughs) We've also had continual problems with the sound on one channel, and we tested every single part; first the speakers, then the disc, then the players themselves. The speakers have amps in them too, and all eight of them were replaced. All of that was rebuilt by a very skilled, very caring person. The other problem was the miniature LCD screens. We changed them to another type of small LCD screen, but they're not as good. It's been 10 or 12 years since they stopped making these little screens. But they're inventing new things all the time; I am sure they are going to make nice little screens again soon. They're already on your telephone now. But in the interim nobody cared. The little monitors were a fad when she used them in 1990: who wanted to watch TV on an inch-and-a-half square? It is now another fad. We kept the piece running in the interim and now you are going to see video displayed all over the world on new little monitors. I guess my point is double: The thing will not live in exactly the same manner forever, and the thing can live exactly the same for a very long time if you deal with it properly and think it through.

LZ: How much are the artists involved in this process of rebuilding or restaging?

CE: All of the above was done with Dara's permission. There are other sensibilities involved; Dara's piece is supposed to a look like a television that's been broken into, the transmission breaking down, and television from 1989, actually. So there are many qualitative issues at stake; it's not like we're making a Frankenstein out of this thing. We're keeping it alive. But every artist is different. Dara's piece is so specific; everything is approved by her, it's a collaboration with her. Other artists don't really care as much. But it's still good to keep as much as you can of the original work, so it will be possible to make it again with future technologies.

LZ: It's extraordinary that it becomes a kind of archaeology of equipment.

CE: We have to acknowledge that a lot of art we see from the Middle Ages, for instance, has been repainted fifteen times. Unfortunately, our Middle Ages gets condensed into five years. So if the Giotto was repainted four times, it happened over four centuries, whereas now everyone wants to repaint the Giotto every three years. Every time they show it at a museum, for instance, the budget is small, there are other factors involved, and the curators are married to those factors. They want the work in the show, so they're going to replace everything and make it a Frankenstein in order to do that. Eventually you have to know that the thing will live. You won't be able to keep the thing exactly like it is forever, but you can keep it for a long time. And that's the purpose of collecting at an institutional level, because people need to study the work. It's ok if a work is conceptual or has another kind of performative life--this is all a part of the history of the work and the history of our culture. But somebody will find something amazing to say about it one day, by looking at its various versions through time.

LZ: It's about scholarship.

CE: Yes, it's really about scholarship. It's not about turning the thing into a frozen cadaver, even though I used that example earlier and it's probably going to reflect back on me. (laughs) The irony is that if you were to change the entire piece because it seemed too hard to fix, you'd have this totally new thing that may be completely acceptable. But it isn't very hard or expensive to make it the way it was; it's probably a lot cheaper to replace old parts than to totally remake it as a whole new apparatus, a whole new DVD with new programming, new electronics, new amps. We had projectors from 1995 sent out to a projector doctor - it's actually called The Projector Doctor - in Southern California. They re-built the matrices in all of them, and ordered new lamps for them, and they came back in perfect condition, and with shipping it cost less than five hundred dollars per projector. Every museum that has exhibited this piece in the last eight years has insisted on replacing the projectors with LCD, grayish, blue-green flat light. But this cost less than one new projector, and it's the original! So why wouldn't you do that? And it's only 10 years old, it's not like it's from the '60s.

LZ: In some cases there's a fear of older technologies and a trust in newer technologies, however justified or unjustified; it's what I call the technological mystique. But it also takes work and specialized research and access to information resources.

CE: It takes care. That's why you need a conservator with a technical bent, and a technician with an artistic and conservationist bent. You need to keep these people in the flow of the discussion, which doesn't happen very often.

LZ: It's a constellation of people with specialized knowledge, each of whom is able to contribute his or her area of expertise.

CE: There needs to be a mix of insights. You can't expect everyone to know all of those details, even the artist sometimes. They made the work; you can't expect any one professional to have all the knowledge required, all the time.

LZ: Before we end this conversation, I'd like to ask you about "Video Acts" [11]. This exhibition was unique not only in its scale-134 historical single-channel video works-but also in the depth of its representation of specific artists and its exhibition strategy. For several artists - Acconci, Jonas, Abramovic - this resulted in mini-retrospectives of their early single-channel video. Can you speak about the curatorial decision to exhibit each of the 134 single-channel video works as individual pieces, mostly on individual monitors?

CE: This was material that Klaus Biesenbach [co-curator of the exhibition] wanted to show that I agreed to have shown. Klaus decided to think of it as an archive, which it is. That is the function of that work in our collection; it provides the context for the installation work. It was a good way of thinking about it. It was a very simple idea: treat each thing on its own, which, at the time of its making, it was. The exhibition had such a profound effect; it was like a school or like a museum. And everyone could visit it over and over again and pick and choose, and have a whole course on early performance video. This was not quite a foreseeable outcome, because for professionals in the field this material was all known and in the past. But it had a huge impact on younger generations. It's such a simple idea, but it suddenly seemed like a brilliant idea. The real interesting thing, though, is that there's a reason that it hadn't been done before on that scale: it's incredibly expensive to do it that way. It was not a cheap exhibition. Multiply the costs of high-quality DVD presentation by 134 works. If you multiply anything by 134, you're talking about a lot. And then you have the playback equipment and the monitors. So that's two more things multiplied by 134. Some things were projected because they were supposed to be projected, and some things were projected because they looked good that way. We made a huge commitment to work that is mostly distribution material and is not even owned outright by the Kramlichs. The amount put into it was many times the value of what that work is worth in financial terms, like maybe 5 times. But it was really a joy, and culturally important. A show like that--it should be the trumping feature, whether a show is culturally important.

LZ: The Kramlichs have been recognized for their pioneering spirit in building a private collection of technology-based art. However, the seriousness of their interest in exploring the conditions relating to these exhibition and acquisition issues is not as well known, such as your Matters in Media Arts project [12]. It really is a unique endeavor for private collectors to be so involved with research and development in this area.

CE: The foundation, New Art Trust is a platform for collaboration between us and our museum partners, which made having a collaborative "best practices" project very doable. As for the Kramlichs, they're consumed by this research, because it's their field. Any contribution to the care and longevity of their collections is a joy for them. They're really sincere. They have a commitment. That's why we can do what we do.


1. The New Art Trust, founded in 1997 by Pamela and Richard Kramlich, is an organization dedicated to the scholarship and preservation of time-based media works.

2. Peter Fischli and David Weiss, The Way Things Go, 1985-87, 30 min., color.

3. Tiananmen Square: Break-In Transmission (1990), by Dara Birnbaum, is a five-channel installation that is centered on the student and worker occupation of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

4. Cut Pipe (1992), by Gary Hill, is a single-channel video installation, which employs a black and white video monitor, projection lens, two aluminum cylinders and three loudspeakers.

5. Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services,

6. Feedback (2004), by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, is an interactive amp-and-pedal piece, which references Jimi Hendrix's rendition of Star-Spangled Banner.

7. For more information on the formats discussed in this interview, see

8. For more information on CRTs, see

9. "Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art, 1964-77," October 2001-January 2002, Whitney Museum of American Art, with nineteen artists including Vito Acconci, Joan Jonas, Mary Lucier, Bruce Nauman, and Dennis Oppenheim.

10. Reinhard Mucha's Auto-Reverse (1994-95) is a film projection installation. Among the elements that comprise the installation are a film of the artist's son, a lightbox, a large-scale duratrans photograph, an AV stand, dual cassette deck with auto reverse, two audio cassettes, two children’s scooters, 50 feet of orange power cable, and two steel and glass disks, one mirrored, the other enclosing a black and white linotronic image of a bronze-age axe head.

11. "Video Acts: Single-Channel Works from the Collections of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and the New Art Trust," November 2002 - April 2003, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. See Also Video Acts Case Study in this Guide.

12. Matters in Media Arts is a consortium formed in order to create standards and guidelines for the preservation, installation, and handling of time-based media works. Its members are conservators, curators, registrars, and media technical managers from New Art Trust, MoMA, SFMoMA, and Tate.