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Just in Time

On the Status Quo and Future of Electronic Art Preservation

Fri, October 07, 2022 10:00 am – Sat, October 08, 2022 11:00 pm CEST

© ZKM | Center for Art and Media; photo: Felix Grünschloß
Lecture Hall

The material culture of the electrified and digitized 20th and 21st centuries is exceedingly fragile. Neither electronic components nor software are made to last forever. This also affects works of art that use electronic and digital technologies: Museums are supposed to preserve them for future generations, but many works are already at risk of permanent loss. What are the biggest challenges of preserving media art? Where is there an urgent need for action? The symposium invites you to join a number of international experts to gain insight into the status quo of electronic arts conservation and to discuss possible future scenarios.

Discover the video documentation of the conference

Since the 1960s, it has become increasingly common for artists to use electronic and digital technologies. The so-called "new media" pointed to the future, thus rapid obsolescence was not an issue for a long time. But now, for a number of reasons, the question of the methods and necessary resources for preserving electronic and digital works is becoming acute.

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Electronic artworks created since the 1960s have reached a technically critical age. This affects video art as well as computer-based works. Video tapes are decaying, and since the manufacture of cathode ray monitors ceased worldwide about 10 years ago, video art installations will no longer be displayable in about 20 years. Spare parts are no longer available, and time for transferring expertise is diminishing. Since computer-based works have hardly been acquired for collections in the past decades, artists often lacked the resources for preservation, and institutions had little knowledge of how to handle hardware and software, much of the digital creation since the 1980s is in danger of disappearing altogether. Finally, public and private collections still hardly dare to acquire recent works of digital art due to a lack of expertise and resources. This has long-term consequences for the cultural self-image of a society informed by digital media.

The challenges of digital culture outlined here have been met for several years by a number of specialized conservators and researchers who are continuously developing new tools and methods. The conference invites you to gain insight into the current state of practice, the latest research projects, and the institutional framework for the restoration of electronic works. Based on a diagnosis of the status quo, we want to raise a number of questions for discussion: Where is there an urgent need for action with regard to research? Where do we stand with regard to the training of conservators? What change of perspective is necessary in the institutions and what long-term strategies in cultural policy are needed to preserve electronic and digital artworks for future generations?

The event is aimed at conservators, colleagues from public and private collections, computer scientists, electrical engineers, artists, students and an interested public.


  • Elisa Carl & Jee-Hae Kim [Hamburger Bahnhof]
  • Christian Draheim, Florian Draheim & Jochen Saueracker [Colorvac / ZKM | Karlsruhe]
  • Tom Ensom & Jack McConchie [Tate, London]
  • Patricia Falcao [Tate, London]
  • Martina Haidvogl [Bern University of Applied Sciences / Bern University of the Arts]
  • Inge Hinterwaldner [Institute for the History of Art and Architecture, KIT]
  • Alex Michaan [Atelier Sonar / Université de Saint-Etienne]
  • Dorcas Müller [ZKM | Karlsruhe]
  • Arnaud Obermann [Staatsgalerie Stuttgart]
  • Joanna Phillips & Lan Linh Merli-Nguyen Hoai [Restaurierungszentrum Düsseldorf]
  • Morgane Stricot, Matthieu Vlaminck [ZKM | Karlsruhe]
  • Nadja Wallaszkovits [KNMDI, ABK Stuttgart]
  • Andreas Weisser [Preservation as a Service / Doerner Institut]
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October 7, 2022

10:00–10:15Margit RosenWelcome
10:15–10:45Joanna Phillips, Lan Linh Merli-Nguyen Hoai [Düsseldorf Conservation Center]Launching Time-based Media Conservation at the Düsseldorf Conservation Center: Infrastructure, Staffing and Networks
10:45–11:15Jee-Hae Kim and Elisa Carl [Hamburger Bahnhof]Good, Better, Best… Good Enough? - Caring for Media Art Within a Public Institution
11:15–11:30Coffee Break 
11:30–12:00Andreas Weisser [Preservation as a Service / Doerner Institut; München]20 Years of Private Practice in TBM Conservation: From Restoration to Consultancy
12:00–12:30Arnaud Obermann [Staatsgalerie Stuttgart]“Permanent […] wie oil painting”  – A Look Back and the Road Ahead
12:30–14:00Lunch Break 
14:00–14:30Patricia Falcao [Tate, London]Driven by the Art – New Practices in the Preservation of Software-based Art
14:30–15:00Morgan Stricot, Matthieu Vlaminck [ZKM | Karlsruhe]Digital Art Conservation: the Post-Acquisition Marathon
15:00–15:30Alex Michaan [Atelier Sonar / Université de Saint-Etienne]The Need for a Case-Specific Approach and the Challenges of Disparity in the Preservation of French Media Art Collections
15:30–15:45Coffee Break 
15:45–16:15Inge Hinterwaldner [Institute History of Art and Architecture, KIT | Karlsruhe Institute of Technology] Race Against the Collateral Sunsetting of Art
16:15–16:45Tom Ensom, Jack McConchie [Tate, London]Preserving Virtual Reality Artworks
16:45–18:00ZKM Tour (Laboratory for Antique Video Systems, Colorvac/CRT Lab, workshop electronic restauration) 


October 8, 2022

10:00–10:15 Welcome
10:15–10:45Dorcas Müller [Laboratory for Antique Video Systems. ZKM | Karlsruhe]Re-Valuation of Electronic Art
10:45–11:15Jochen Saueracker, Florian Draheim, Christian Draheim [Colorvac / CRT Lab, ZKM | Karlsruhe]From Repair to Prepare. Re-Engineering of an Industrially Produced Cultural Heritage Device
11:15–11:30Coffee Break 
11:30–12:00   Martina Haidvogl [Contemporary Art Conservation Program, Bern University of Applied Sciences / Bern Academy of the Arts] Modern Materials and Media: The Contemporary Art Conservation Program at the Bern Academy of the Arts
12:00–12:30Nadja Wallaszkovits [Conservation Of New Media and Digital Information (KNMDI), ABK Stuttgart] On Ageing and Preserving Audiovisual Media – A Challenge Conflicting Physical Decay, Technological Obsolescence and Data Preservation

Patricia Falcao, Martina Haidvogl, Joanna Phillips, Jochen Saueracker, Morgan Stricot, Andreas Weisser moderated by Margit Rosen

Round Table

For Friday, October 7th, at 7 pm, we recommend the event »A conversation beyond matter: Carolyn Kirschner« at ZKM | Kubus. The British artist and scientist will present her project »Iconoclash: Slow Squeeze« created during the Beyond Matter Residency Program.



Project management: Jenny Starick, Laura Schmidt


ZKM | Center for Art and Media

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76135 Karlsruhe

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