So... after having spent the past week humping it getting ready for a
show at an art/tech gallery I run and talking to a few people who are
thinking of starting their own, I got a mental list running of various
differences and obstacles that exist installing mechatronic/video/sound
(whatever you want to call it) art as compared to the needs of more
traditional (and I use that term loosely) types of art.
The following topics I, myself, deal with as both a mechatronic
- Dealing with Increased Power Consumption
Anyone who places a good many high watt LCD projectors in any one room
soon figures out they tapped the circuit breakers in that room about 2
projectors before they wanted to... Then what do you do?
- Outlet Supply/Location.
Lack of enough (or even any) ceiling and floor outlet locations makes
powerstrips and extension cords a neccessary evil. Handling these in an
aesthetically pleasing/undistracting manner is pretty tough. How are
people handling it?
Almost NO gallerys have accurate maps (with x,y,z, coordinates) of
electrical outlet and track lighting placement and how much amperage
they can handle. I created some overlays on a map I have of where power
and lighting are in my gallery and took a series of photos and plotted
them on a compass grid in attempt to show artists where these resources
are. Most artists respond positively to this but still end up asking me
for 5 or 6 extension cords. Anybody out there doing anything else that
Also, more than once I've seen audio work suffer from hum caused by
improper grounding at the socket. Not an easy thing to deal with a day
before the opening.
- Renting projectors sucks.
Extremely overpriced rentals taps mosts artists/curators/gallery owners
quickly. How are people gretting around this? I scored a used and
refurbed 800 lumen projector on ebay that goes for about 3 grand new for
800 dollars. But even at a cheap 800 bucks to buy and about 150 dollars
a day to rent this nukes most budgets pretty quickly.
- Mounting projectors sucks.
Many times in order to install a piece correctly you end up hanging
projectors from the ceiling, upside down, and all sorts of other funky
configurations. I'm never keen on buying mounting hardware for anything
so I end up making my own... any other solutions?
- Your lamp blows opening night...
If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will. At about 100-300 dollars per
replacement module they aren't the kinds of items you want to have
laying about in reserve... And if it's a rental the opening is always 2
hours after the rental shop closes. But it's a neccessary evil.
- Or lack thereof.
Fortunately I have about 7 computers between the gallery, workshop and
home. Most artists though end up borrowing anywhere from 1 to nearly all
of them for their installations at my space. Most gallerys have maybe 1
computer and monitor you can borrow. And I'm more what you'd call a
Linux person as opposed to a Mac OS type person. So Mac-centric
installations (Max/MSP etc.) and the like based installations get
tougher as I only have 1 Mac.
- Their looks
I'll quote an old professor of mine. "I've never seen a computer
monitor/television that didn't distract me from the content being shown
on it." While I don't really agree with the statement it brings about an
interesting point. Will we ever be able to abstract the viewing
container from the content within it? or should we bother? if so, how?
or is it be aesthetically immoral to do so?
- Phone Lines.
In nearly every gallery in the US, thinking you'll score anything more
than a dialup is laughable.
And using a gallery phone line is likely denying them use of their fax
machine. This usually displeases
the gallery owner.
- DSL was a great boon for network enabled art as hardly any gallery can
afford $800-$1000 US for a T-1 but more spaces could afford 50-200 bucks
a month for some pretty nice "business grade" bandwidth.With Northpoint
here in the US going down the tubes many have had their connections
severed and are back to waiting 6-12 weeks to get service back. Not so
- A cable "modem" is an option but many cable providers do ALOT to
prevent you from hosting computers which accept inbound connections by
doling you out a new IP address every few hours or in AOL's case every
page load. Most cable modem providers as well provide little if anything
in the way
of DNS resolution. What are people doing to work around this?
Artwork using LANs within the gallery are tough to deal with. Lots and
lots of cabling that most crtics find ugly and distracting (bizarre I
know...). How many galleries do you know of with Cat 5 strung up behind
the walls with jacks mounted at every electric socket? very few... So
you end up using a LOT of tape trying to cover up cable runs and the
like. Wireless is finally getting cheap enough and available through
some surplus channels that it's getting cost effective... But not quite
5. Artists Prepardness
- Artists don't give themselves enough time.
Very few shows get put on that there isn't some serious blood sweat and
tears shed in the final hours. This leads to stuff going down either on
opening night, pieces of the project not going up at all, or it breaking
a week into the run.
- Shoddy assembly
Toooo many artists create their work with NO regard to modularity and
maintainability. If you didn't build it, have the person you outsourced
your assembly to make at least ONE fully functional backup and make it
EASY for the gallery/museum owner to replace. And don't EVER expect to
have a gallery owner to troubleshoot your piece. It will be a nightmare
for sure. Also, expect the gallery/museum owner to be pissed if you
piece breaks. Nobody buys or even looks at broken work nor should they
be expected to.
6. Gallery/Museum Owner Prepardness
-Expect the artist to forget a lot of things like tape, touch up paint,
extension cords and the like. It always happens. If you don't want to
provide the artists with these type of forgotten materials find out
where all the repair/home improvement shops are within a 5 mile radius
and what their hours are. It'll come in handy.
Expect to have to get on your hands and knees and be walked through some
decent troubleshooting by the artist while they're on the phone in
Amsterdam. It won't be fun. Do as much as you can to prepare yourself
for this and DRILL the artist about how their piece works before letting
them run off and get liquored up at the opening or jumping on the plane
back to Sweden.
I could go on forever but I'll stop here. 6 big topics is probably
As I normally spend at least 100 hours a month dealing with this stuff
I'm pretty interested in peoples war stories, insights, and arguments
about it and encourage you to agree or disagree wildly. I just couldn't
let June go by with the the topic getting relegated to "What should we
call this art?" While I have pretty strong opinions about that topic
too, installing it is equally as important and definitely immediately
Hope you all enjoy these topics I've brought up for discussion.