I contribute sporadically to your discussions of issues in the field of time-based visual arts from the perspective of the time-based performing arts, especially from music.
In the performing arts:
- There is no accumulating added value to a work which might be driven by the (rising) fame of a performer or author; it does not accumulate value and it is only “good” in the moment of the performance in time; the economic value is only defined by its tickets, media and paraphernalia sales – a direct exchange of money for time and experience; and the economic value gets divided contractually (or not) between all parties engaged in creating, performing and distributing these chunks of time.
- Technology (from musical instruments to costumes to interactive live-electronics) is known to change over time - a piano from 1820 is not the same as a piano today, likewise the strings on a violin from 1750 are not the same as from 1920; or the synthesizer from 1970 cannot get repaired but continues as digital reincarnation until no one ports it any more. The majority of classical avant-garde music using live-electronics from the 1970s/1980s cannot be performed anymore since the technology and the performance parameters are not documented in the required detail and the authors and performers have died. And an audio recording of such pieces is never the same as the performance, especially if spatial audio distribution was involved. Like a 2-D picture (or for that matter even a 3-D picture…) of for instance a sculpture.
- Pieces to be performed consume all the financial resources for rehearsals and the moment of the performance. Say the performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony in the Royal Albert Hall costs $500,000 – which is spent after the 25 minute performance including a bonus track of another piece. And the performance has “almost nothing” in common with the “original” performance of the work, which most likely had an orchestra of max half the size, a choir of say 1/3 the size and an audience of maybe 1/40 the size. The experience of the work at that time was so overwhelming not because of a huge orchestra and choir – but because of the small space it was performed in.
It might be useful to look at all web-art, digital art, art with electronic components (including digital technology) etc. as time-based art in the sense of performing art works. Yes, they can linger longer around – like an extended piece of drone music, a sound installation or a generative ambient environment. But somewhere there is a beginning and an end let’s say within the life-expectancy of the artist.
All art works (and non-art works as well) using computer technology for the “real-time presentation to / interaction with the human senses” are time-based. There is no way around it since computer technology is time-based “when the computer is running”. And time-based defined for the moment as “changes in the moment of perception and within the bandwidth of perception given by the temporal resolution of the human senses”. A book or a marble sculpture not falling under this, as their coming to life is steered by the time the reader or viewer gives to the encounter with those works and where the work does not have an inherent beginning or end.
This in consequence might yield a less “how do I preserve my works for the future” perspective, less of a historic perspective that is derived from culture of “preservation” and “things” but on that of “tradition of time-based culture”. “Preservation” (freezing to stay out of time) might be – for the given reasons – totally against time-based art.
Works of time-based art – stemming from visual arts or from performing arts or from wherever - come to life when work and audience (listener, visitor, attendee, participant) share the same time passing on a level of seeing, hearing (smelling, feeling, tasting) and interacting through our senses.
Time-based art is fundamentally intertwining time with technology, ] technique, techne, instruments, devices, costumes, scenery, computer programs, projection technology with our senses and the capturing technology of our senses… there is not one without the other, the “work itself” changes with “culture” and with the underlying concepts and technologies of such cultures and societies and economics.
So, it seems that the introduction of time into the space of visual arts might need to look at the consequences this might have for the traditional approaches to museums, preservation, conservation, restoration etc. – by e.g. looking at those arts which have used time and technology “forever”, which are basically rooted in the going together of instrument, time, in something done for someone and simultaneously someone being involved with what is done for them. It seems to me that the museums are simply the wrong institutions; that the art history as written until the advent of moving images and performing/performance artists still seems to influence the thinking and discussion to a very high degree and maybe a radical departure is needed; that tradition, eternity and cultural values needed to establish a sense of continuity need to change as time gets introduced.
And once again, I would like to point out that these considerations have been part for instance for the past 200-400 years in the area of music theory and practice in Europe. And that it is really “too bad”, all the trans/inter/disciplinary/gressive aspects that come together in time-based arts rooted in the visual arts do not result in an intellectual and practical cross-fertilization for instance in the discussion of preservation, archiving, maintenance and cost involved.
Maybe it would be nice to be able to say: This work is good for 2 months, 3 or 5 years – we can maintain it under such and such conditions – and we will document it with texts, images, recordings, drawings etc. – and then this will be “the end of the piece”. Curtain.