Basic Questions

Media art installations can exist in a multiplicity of forms, from a two-channel video projection to a large-scale environment that incorporates digital media, sculptural objects, interactive computer devices, and ephemeral materials. These variable and complex conditions can pose challenges even for the most seasoned exhibitor. Evolving technologies and the range of artistic practices incorporated in media installations require exhibitors to look at each work's requirements on a case-by-case basis. However, certain questions specific to the conditions and attributes of media-based installations are useful to clarify. What is a multi-channel installation? What is a synchronizer? What equipment is provided with an installation?

The following questions provide a starting point for understanding the basics of exhibiting media art installations. The Single-channel Video and Computer-based Art sections of this Guide also feature information relevant to exhibiting media art installations.

What is a media art installation?

Media installations are works of art that situate moving-image media within specific scenarios, built structures, sites, or viewing environments. Since the 1960s, artists have been integrating media such as film, video, and slides with objects and sculptural elements. More recent installations incorporate digital moving images and computer-based interactive devices.

What is a multi-channel video installation?

A multi-channel video installation consists of two or more display devices, such as monitors or projectors, used in the same work of art, in the same viewing space. The viewing space may be expanded to multiple monitors throughout an entire museum, or two projections situated side-by-side or overlapping. Multi-channel works range from classic early video pieces, such as Vito Acconci's Remote Control (1971), which includes two monitors and two video sources, to more recent works, such as Christian Marclay's Video Quartet (2002), a four-channel video projection.

What is a synchronizer or control system?

It is typical for installations with two or more playback devices to be linked with a synchronizer, which ensures that all the programs begin, end, and repeat at appropriate intervals, prescribed by the artist. Synchronizers can also be incorporated into control systems, which are either stand-alone devices or computers that send the same pre-programmed commands a synchronizer can send, but can also be used to control lights, motorized screens, and other electronic elements depending on the installation. It is possible with some installations to have all of the video programs stored on a hard disc or computer-based device that also acts as the synchronizer. Audio for multi-channel installations ranges from mono, stereo, or multi-channel to 5.1 surround sound or a combination of configurations.

What equipment is provided with an installation? What additional equipment will I need to acquire?

When exhibiting a media installation, it is important to obtain an equipment list that outlines what devices, if any, are supplied as part of the work. Display and/or playback devices may not be included. The specific playback and display equipment will depend on the media format provided with the installation. Equipment choices have an impact beyond the purely technical and should agree with the artists' intentions, as they impact the meaning and perception of the work. It is important to obtain equipment recommendations from the artist, gallery, or artist's representative in as much detail as possible in order to understand the equipment's function and how it applies to the installation. Proper selection, installation, and maintenance of video and audio equipment are critical, and exhibitors should consult qualified technicians where possible. Visit Equipment & Technical Issues for more information

How much space is needed for an installation?

It is important to determine what the minimum space requirements are and the specifications with regard to viewing conditions. Confirm that the space in which you plan to present the work is large enough for the intended scale, and that lighting conditions, walls, floors, ceilings, and other environmental factors are discussed with the artist prior to the acquisition and installation. Ambient light typically washes out projected images, and is usually of greatest concern at the entrance of the space. Light lock entrances or other solutions may be necessary. Painting, carpeting, and building-out of spaces may be necessary depending on the work. The lighting, carpet, paint and other elements are considered elements of the installation, and should be considered carefully and meet the specifications outlined by the artist or artist's representative.

How do I delineate between media-based installation and the other categories of single-channel video and computer- based arts?

The lines between these categories are becoming increasingly blurred. Single-channel video is more and more often being presented in installation environments and recent computer-based installations echo many characteristics of video installation. While these categories have some specificity, it is advisable to visit the Single-channel Video and Computer-based Arts sections of this guide as each contains relevant information to the other.

What are the recommended media formats for exhibiting multi-channel works?

The media format one chooses for presenting multi-channel video works depends on a range of variables, including viewing context, exhibition environment, and the work itself. For example, a well-authored DVD is suitable for exhibition in a gallery or museum, primarily because of its ability to loop (that is, to continuously repeat content). DVDs should be made from source material on archival formats or uncompressed video files and authored by a knowledgeable professional. Please visit "Equipment & Technical Issues" for more detailed information.

What is a "loan agreement" and when does it apply?

Typically, exhibitors must enter into specific agreements or licenses that outline the terms, conditions and rights that are being extended for the use of a media art installation in an exhibition. Such agreements vary depending on the source of the installation (gallery or artist) and a range of factors such as venue, duration of exhibition, and whether the exhibition will tour to additional venues. Visit "Agreements and Contracts" for samples of these documents.

Can I tour my exhibition?

If you wish to tour your exhibition, you must negotiate a specific advance agreement with the artist or gallery, which outlines the terms and conditions of the tour. Visit "Agreements and Contracts" for samples of these documents.