Re:Paik: On Time, Changeability and Identity in Multimedia Installations

Hölling, Hanna Barbara (2013). Re:Paik: On Time, Changeability and Identity in Multimedia Installations (Dissertation, University of Amsterdam, Humanities)

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As no other artworks, multimedia installations that have been created since the 1960s and that are comprised of a wide range of components test the ruling conventions in conservation, presentation and museum practices. Through the cycles of their materialisations, performed and performative qualities, on and off status, distributed authorship and with the involvement of display and playback apparatus, various formats of film and video, sculptural and painted elements, organic components and photography they dispute the validity of what has for decennia been understood under the notion of a static, unique or singular ‘conservation object.’ Consequently, the thesis poses questions that consider the constitution of ‘conservation objects’ in relation to our understanding of what the artwork is and how it functions within a certain historical moment. Furthermore, it engages with the aspects of transformation of multimedia artworks and installations with regard to their nature and behaviour. Departing from the issues involved in conservation, and looking through the prism of the history of techniques, material culture studies and my professional background as a conservator, I pose questions with both philosophical and historical ramifications concerning what, in the case of multimedia artworks and installations, the artwork is in relation to the change it experiences and how this might affect our understanding of time in which and as which the change occurs. A crucial role in this discussion is played by the rethinking of time in conservation through its intrinsically changeable ‘objects,’ as well as by the consideration of the archive as a final destination of artworks, but also as their beginning. The focus of this thesis is on Nam June Paik’s multimedia artworks and installations as representative of proto new media. Paik (1932 – 2006) is one of the most manifold media artists when it comes to his selection of material, constant readiness to test the implementation of new technologies and cross-boundary activities. Due to the variety and historical specificity of the media he uses, Paik can be regarded as a key figure in relation to the questions of the presentation, maintenance and conservation of a wide range of media art installations in the institutional domain. My engagement with his oeuvre owes much to his pioneering role in the introduction of video, television and global communication technologies to the visual arts and their implications for the transformation of the understanding of material uniqueness embedded in an object that endures. A further reason for choosing this topic was my professional involvement as a museum conservator at the ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, in the care and presentation of one of the major collections of Paik’s artworks in Europe.

Item Type:

Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Materiality in Art and Culture
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Materiality in Art and Culture > Contemporary Art and Media


Hölling, Hanna Barbara0000-0002-3063-4405


A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general


[UNSPECIFIED] Dutch Research Council NWO


[UNSPECIFIED] New Strategies in the Conservation of Contemporary Art




Hanna Barbara Hölling

Date Deposited:

12 Sep 2023 14:42

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2023 14:42

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Media, video, TV, film, installation, conservation, preservation




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