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In Preparation III: MediaLab – Media Art in the Nationalgalerie

While the first two parts showed how major works of art were restored in public, part 3, the MediaLab, is dedicated to a whole collection complex: the truly diverse media artworks from the Nationalgalerie collection.

Since the 1960s, artists have worked with the most diverse media and techniques. The Nationalgalerie collection contains numerous works for which the artists used film, video, slides, sound, computer software or even the Internet. But media art content can only be taken in by viewers when the works are installed.

Media Art in the Nationalgalerie Collection

The Nationalgalerie collection is comprised of works from the beginnings of film and video art, such as Tapp- und Tastkino (1968) by Valie Export. It includes works by pioneers like Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, and Peter Campus, who explored the possibilities of the new media. The diversity of subjects in media art can be seen clearly in

works such as He Weeps for You (1976) by Bill Viola or Eija-Liisa Athila’s Consolation Service (1996/1999). Works of media art are extremely diverse in their content and their form of presentation. This can be seen in multi-monitor sculptures like Gary Hill’s Crux (1983-1987) or Nam June Paik’s Monument: Family of Robots (1986), and in room-filling installations like Pipilotti Rist’s Remake of the Weekend (1998) or Diana Thater’s Delphine (1999).



Schriftzug der Reihe „In Preparation“ der Nationalgalerie
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

"In Preparation" Show Restoration

Young Art that Quickly Grows Old and Wears Out

Although media art is a comparatively young art form, works can be lost due to material degradation and media players becoming obsolete. Magnetic tape can become sticky, and film can grow brittle, making them difficult to digitize. Players and replacement parts can be difficult or impossible to get and old software can’t be started anymore. In addition, media artworks often comprise several, sometimes quite different components. Some are part of the artwork, equipment that was specially adapted, for example, and cannot simply be replaced or changed. Other parts can certainly be replaced, such as conventional performance technology like players for video works.

Exhibiting Media Art

There is more to media artwork than a media player and a screen. In order to show the work in accordance with the artist’s intention, many points have to be taken into consideration. How should the work’s components be arranged in a specific exhibition room? How large should the projection of the film or video artwork be? How high should the volume level be? Documentation from earlier exhibitions, installation manuals or even wiring diagrams and blueprints help to answer these questions. Interviews with the artists may provide information on which aspects of the work’s presentation are important.

MediaLab in the Hamburger Bahnhof: Trial Run for the New Museum Building

Media art is a focal point of the alternating collection presentation in the new building of the Neue Nationalgalerie – Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts in the Kulturforum. Special knowledge, technical equipment and infrastructure are necessary to preserve and study media artworks. The MediaLab in the Hamburger Bahnhof is the place to study media artworks and prepare them for presentation in the Neue Nationalgalerie – Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts.

The MediaLab in the Hamburger Bahnhof is now providing the technical infrastructure for making artworks accessible again. For example, it has players for U-matic tapes, VHS cassettes, Betacam SPs, and DVDs. This makes it possible for conservators to determine the condition of analog and digital media, make quality checks and conduct other conservation measures. The MediaLab also has room for trial installations used to check and test media art for its new location in the Neue Nationalgalerie – Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts.