404 Object Not Found. What remains of media art?

[beginPage: info]


The information provided here gives a context and description for the research project and  conclusionary congress of 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art? Also provided is information concerning the Netherland Media Art Institute's (NIMk) role as a project partner  through commencing a case-based study on the presentation, registration and documentation of four multimedia installations. Through this research guidelines were designed for the re-installation and preservation of the installations, and a model for media art installation documentation was developed.

Through the support of the EU programme Culture 2000, the year long (July 2002 – August 2003) research project “404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art?” was launched by medien_kunst_netz Dortmund to examine questions about the production, presentation and preservation of media art. At this time medien_kunst_netz Dortmund was a new association between hartware medien kunst verein, the Museum am Ostwall and the Administration of Cultural Affairs of the city of Dortmund. The research project was realized through the cooperative partnerships of the Netherlands Media Art Institute, NIMk (Amsterdam), Center for Culture & Communication, C3 (Budapest), and Hans Dieter Huber of Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Stuttgart). Through this research initiative medien_kunst_netz Dortmund, NIMk and C3 produced case study based research using concrete works to investigate and assess the problems, issues and methods involved in the presentation, documentation and preservation of media art, including video, video installations, net and software based art.

M.-A. Cardenas / 25 Caramboles en variaties / oude opstelling in het toen Boymans van Beuningen Rotterdam


To conclude the year long research project and to present the case studies, and to offer a public platform that involved further conversations about these topics, 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art peaked as a four day international congress running from the 19th to the 22nd of June 2003 in Dortmund, Germany. The congress included lectures, working groups, and panel discussions that encompassed presentations of the case study research, as well as presented a stage of interdisciplinary international experts who offered their experience, strategies and current projects in the field of media art.


Of particular importance, 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art, respresented the first major european research project and congress that focused on research surrounding the preservation of installation media art works that brought together a large number of interested and specialised individiduals, institutions and organizations together to share issues and ideas, and to raise and answer questions about the production, presentation, documentation, preservation and re-installation of media works of art.


404 Object Not Found: What Remains of Media Art website


This project is supported by


[beginPage: congress]

With a focus on using actual examples and concentrating on specific questions, the priority of the 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art? congress lay in bringing together a diverse base of international initiatives and people from a variety of professions with different skills and interests to facilitate a forum of comprehensive discussions. Media and art historians, artists, curators, and restaurateurs as well as computer scientists, technical assistants to artists and representatives from the ICT industry were brought together with the aim of fostering long-term cooperation and communication about the key questions and issues involved in the production, presentation and preservation of media art that reached beyond the four days in Dortmund.


The success of the congress in this way was realised as many participants had the opportunity to make connections and contacts with other individuals and institutions with similar interests in media arts preservation, and many have since participated in a variety of collaborative projects. Furthermore, due to the success of the research project and congress, similar initiatives following the model in Dortmund have been initiated, such as the international exhibition, symposium and workshop title 404 Object Not Found: International project for Media Art,  in Seoul, Korea running from October 2006 to October 2007.


congress resources

*404 congress presentation abstracts

*404 congress programme

*Selection of presentation full texts and essays related to 404 congress


During the congress case study presentations, lectures and panel discussions were divided into a number of topics: “installative works of media art,” “net and software based art,” “archives and documentation,” “presentation / interpretation / reconstruction,” “emulation,” and “infrastructures” with presentations focusing on key issues and concrete works within these areas. 


Within and across these topic subdivisions, a number of key themes were presented prior to the conference in publicity material as crucial points to consider for the conversations that were to take place in Dortmund.


congress themes


*technological and methodical aspects of preservation (storage, migration, emulation, re-interpretation etc.)

*the demands placed upon the documentation of media art, and open and standard documentation methods.

 * the question of whether it can be expected or indeed demanded that artists, during the production process of their work, should consider its long-term conservation or assemble detailed documentation about it.

 *the importance of raising conversations about which possible “low-budget” solutions  would allow institutes with limited budgets to present, document and preserve media art.

 * the question of how net and software based art can be collected, exhibited and preserved.

 *the importance of including discussions involving art-theoretical reflections on media art in tandem with case-based research, that for example considered the problems of its difficult to define “materiality” and process oriented nature as well as issues surrounding the spatial and contextual specificities of many media art works.


congress organization


Case Studies:
after the yearlong research project, case studies were presented at the congress by NIMk, medien_kunst_netz Dortmund and C3 that dealt directly with the themes and aims of the conference.

* to read more on the case studies, click the "case studies" link on the left


in addition to the case studies, a number of talks were given by a range of international specialists. This included a presentation by Hans Dieter Huber, a partner of the 404 research project entitled “From point to point or from production to presentation to preservation of media art.” “The End of Media Art (as we know it)" by Josephine Bosma, and a lecture by Jeff Rothenberg titled “Digital Art Will Last Forever – Or Five Years, Whichever Comes First,” for example, were also presented.


Work Groups:
organized for both the case study presentations and the lectures given by international experts. These meetings offered smaller group settings to reflect on the presentations and have an intensive conversations about the key themes of the conference and their relationship to developing practical questions and solutions regarding the production, presentation and preservation of media art. Additional projects were also presented in this setting and working groups were asked to bring statements gathered during their sessions back to other participants of the congress.

In addition to the case study presentation that NIMk offered, work group sessions occured where members of the NIMk team had the opportunity to talk with congress participants and develop a number of statements with respect to the issues concerning the production, presentation and preservation of media art. Statements gathered from the work group include:

*Its not enough to buy media art, media needs care and maintenance

*Preservation of media art needs an interdisciplinaryt approach; it should be a collaboration of artists, art historians, technicians and conservators

*Authenticity in media arts includes perception, material and artistic intention

*Preservation skills for media art are rare; the focus in the future should be on education

*An expertise platform on these matters will help in the development of good practise

Panel Discussion:
focused on what kinds of requirements must be placed on institutions, curators and exhibition sites, as well as institutes of further education, culture, politics and grant models to ensure a long term and in particular a decentralized infrastructure for media artists' production, presentation and conservation. The panel included a number of key international specialists involved in the field of media arts presentation and preservation: Pip Laurenson (Tate Modern, London), Alain Depocas (Daniel Langlois Foundation, Montreal), Johannes Gfeller (Hochschule für Gestaltung, Kunst und Konservierung, Bern), Hans Dieter Huber (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart), Regina Wyrwoll, and Heiner Holtappels (NIMk).


running parallel to the congress and exhibition of the work “On Translation: Das Museum” by artist Antoni Muntadas was presented at the Dortmund Museum am Ostwall. The exhibition was set and visited as part of the congress with the intent of creating a space to reflect on, amongst other things, the specific problems of the presentation (as an interpretation) of media art in the museums, especially considering works that were originally conceived as interventions in public space as a video conference or internet project. Additionally, Muntadas also presented a lecture at the congress.


*Muntadas 'On Translation: Das Museum'


source: Hartware Medien Kunst Verein www.hartware-projekte.de/programm/inhalt/otme.htm


[Beginpage: research]

As part of the yearlong research project of 404 Object Not Found that preceded the congress, and within the context of the exhibition Thirty Years Dutch Video Art The Netherlands Media Art Institute performed case studies of four multimedia installations which lead to the development of guidelines for their re-installation and preservation as well as the main achivement of designing a conceptual model for the registration of multimedia installations. The installations were examined by an interdisciplinary team existing of Jojanneke Gijsen (Art Historian), Vivian van Saaze (researcher), Ivo van Stiphout (media artist) and Ramon Coelho (media technician) and Gaby Wijers (video preservator) of the Netherlands Media Art Institute.



As expected it was not possible to design an electronic template of the documentation model for multimedia installations for the case studes, but an initiative for a written conceptual model that served as a manual during the report for the installations was achieved. This conceptual model was the major result and accomplishment of the research and was designed by taking existing models into account, for instance, those developed during Preservation of Modern Art (1997) and the project Preservation Video Art (2000-2003). The model for the documentation and re-installation of installation media art works developed in the context of 404 Object Not Found is still being used and available for other organizations, institutions and individuals to use. As further research projects are initiated and collaborations and conferences take place, the model is being continually fine-tuned to keep apace with  changes in artist production and technologies used.

Download pdf

Model for Installation Documentation/ Registration

Extended Research Report of Case Studies



25 Caramboles en variaties. Verjaardagscadeau voor een 25-jarige (1979/1980)  Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas

Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas / 25 Caramboles en variaties presented at NIMk


Outside Inside (1982)
Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas


  Stansfield and Hooykaas / Outside Inside presented at NIMk


Are You Afraid of Video? (1984-1994)

  Servaas / Are You Afraid of Video? (1984-1994) presented at NIMk


A Word of Welcome (1997-2007)
eddie d

eddie d / A Word of Welcome presented at NIMk


For the research project, the works were selected based on their diversity with the others, and the degree of complexity of the used technology.


Questions Examined During Reserch

* What aspects play a role in the preservation and re-installation of multimedia installations?
* What are the criteria for preservation and re-installation?
* What aesthetic and technical elements are essential, and should be preserved in order to ensure that the integrity and significance of the work remain intact during future presentations?
* How can installations be registered and documented?
* What technical know-how is required to ensure the possibility of future presentations of these installations?


This research pursued two goals: on the one hand the inventory of specific problems of documentation, registration, conservation and presention of multimedia installations and on the other hand the realization of practical guidelines for re-installation and conservation for future presentations.


questions answered in guidelines

* What is the art historical significance of the work?
* What is the connection between the physical objects, the sound and image, the  play devices used and the space in which the installation is presented?
* Is it possible to replace the equipment when for instance authentic monitors are not available anymore?
* How does the artist feel about preserving his/her work?


For the re-installation of the works at the exhibition Thirty Years Dutch Video Art the wishes of the artist were carefully taken into consideration. Every installation was built  with the authentic artist or in co-operation with them.


The reconstruction of several installation moments, technical data, object registration, installation instructions, bibliography and considerations for further research were conducted in these guidelines. Next to this, the installation process of every case study was photographically documented and the installations were recorded during the exhibition. With the artist interviews that were conducted as part of the research, of particular importance was collecting as much information and exploring the possibilities and boundaries of instability of each installation.


The guidelines for the re-installation and preservation of these works can be viewed on this site by clicking "case studies" in the left menu.



[beginpage: Case Studies]

This page gives a short description of the four works explored by the Netherlands Media Art Institute in context of the project 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art? and the exhibition Thirty Years Dutch Video Art. Moreover, the guidelines for the re-installation and preservation of these four works can be viewed. Most of the case study guidelines are provided in dutch, but as an example, and to make this research more accessible, the final report of the guidelines for the re-installation and preservation of '25 Caramboles and Variations. Birthday Present for a 25 Year Old' by Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas is available in english.

Download pdf: Extended Research report of four case study project

Additionally information about the case study research conducted by medien_kunst_netz Dortmund (Germany), and the Center for Culture & Communication, C3 (Budapest) as part of 404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art? is also provided.


NIMk case studies

 Installation Documentation and Preservation Case Study: 25 Caramboles and Variations by Miguel-Angel Cardenas
A review of the documentation and preservation case study performed by NIMk on the work "25 Caramboles and Variations" by artist Miguel-Angel Cardenas. read more »

 Installation Documentation and Preservation Case Study: Outside Inside by Stansfield and Hooykaas
A review of the documentation and preservation case study performed by NIMk on the work "Outside Inside" by artists Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas. read more »

 Installation Documentation and Preservation Case Study: Are You Afraid of Video by Servaas
A review of the documentation and preservation case study performed by NIMk on the work "Are You Afraid of Video?" by artist Servaas. read more »

 Installation Documentation and Preservation Case Study: A Word of Welcome by eddie d.
A review of the documentation and preservation case study performed by NIMk on the work "A Word of Welcome" by artist eddie d. read more »


additional 404 object not found case studies


Center for Culture & Communication, C3 (Budapest) case study:
Artist: Zoltán Szegedy-Maszak
Work: "Cryptogram"  (1996/97)
Type: VRML project
Collection C3

* "Cryptogram" case study

* Center for Culture & Communication description of "Cryptogram"

* "Cryptogram" website

* Center for Culture & Communication, C3


medien_kunst_netz Dortmund (Germany) case study:
Artist: Diana Thater
Work: "The best animals are the flat animals" (1998)
Type: Video installation
Goetz Collection, Munich

"The best animals are the flat animals" case study

* medien_kunst_netz (currently known as Hartware Medienkunst Verein)


[Beginpage: Events]

The congress "404 Object Not Found: What remains of media art?", from 19 - 22 June 2003 in Dortmund, is the conclusion and public platform of the project. The congress encompasses lectures, panel discussions and study groups. In addition to presenting the case studies, international experts are invited to present their experience, strategies and current projects in the field of media art.
View site


In the scope of the exhibition "Thirty Years Dutch Video Art" / "Dertig jaar Nederlandse Videokunst" (11 January - 8 March 2003) and the research projects Methods of Production, Presentation and Preservation of Media Art. the Netherlands Media Art Institute researched the preservation and presentation of four installations. The installations were documented and guidelines for their re-installation and preservation  developed so  they could be safely presented in the future. On Thursday March 8 2003, , 16.00-18.00 the research was presented at the Netherlands Media Art Institute. Gaby Wijers (project coordinator ) gave a research introduction, followed by an exhibition introduction by Jojanneke Gijsen (Art Historian). Vivian van Saaze (researcher) and Ramon Coelho (media technician) presented their research on the four installations . With  thanks to Miquel-Ángel Cárdenas, eddie d, Elsa Stansfield, Madelon Hooykaas, Ramon Coelho, Dorine Mignot, Gert Hoogeveen and Triomf.