Documenting for Present Use:

The Interplay of Documentation and Human Expertise in the Exhibition of Interactive Digital Installations

Carlijn Juste (Lille)




Digital artworks can be extremely difficult to install. They require specific knowledge, adaptable materials, and technical equipment. Moreover, digital artworks can be ephemeral and subject to change. Documenting digital art is not only important for preserving and restoring works for the future but also for installing them in the present. Documentation functions as a set of guidelines for limiting errors and misinterpretations. Therefore, documentation impacts the actualisation of each artwork by indicating which elements are necessary and how they should be connected. However, this is not always enough to ensure that an artwork is exhibited as intended. This article examines which documentation is necessary for exhibiting interactive digital installations, how it is created and how it is used during the exhibition process. More specifically, based on case studies from ZKM, Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany and Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, France[1], it investigates the use of templates as a systemic approach to documenting artworks for their re-installation by analysing the interconnection between this type of documentation and exhibition, identifying the documentation that is necessary for installation, and investigating necessary additions for editing, testing and updating the documentation.

The following text picks up on the distinction between documenting and documentation used by Toni Sant, director of the Digital Curation Lab at Salford University, Manchester, and editor of the book Documenting Performance: the context and processes of digital curation and archiving (2017). In this article, the term ‘documenting’ refers to the process of creating and organising documents, and ‘documentation’ to a structured approach to organising information in documents, including the “process of storing [...] and preserving them in a systematic way for long-term access” [Sant 2017: 1]. The first section of this article will show how documentation for preservation differs from documentation for re-exhibition and discuss the templates used by the two institutions mentioned above. The second section examines why an expert is needed in addition to documentation. The case studies show that, when it comes to complex digital artworks, documentation alone is often insufficient and the presence of an expert, such as the artist, an assistant or a museum employee who knows the work well, is also required during installation. This, however, does not diminish the importance of the documentation; rather, it places it in a different relation to the artwork and the expert.


1. Methods of Documenting Artworks for Re-exhibiting at the ZKM, Centre for Art and Media and Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains

1.1. Documenting for Preservation or for Exhibition: What Is the Difference?

Every exhibition creates a certain number of documents. They can be generated before (loan contracts, shipping arrangements, budgets, insurance, condition reports, installation plans etc.), during (press reviews, visitor enquiries, documentation of the exhibition situation, etc.) or after the exhibition (condition reports, shipping arrangements, reviews, etc.). These different types of documents can be produced for diverse reasons such as publicity, presentation, funding, reconstruction, preservation, or for developing a historical or theoretical framework, etc. [Dekker 2013: 151]. The exhibition of installation-based art and the kind of digital-born art this article is interested in calls for a proactive approach to documentation. It has been pointed out that documentation is absolutely necessary for the preservation of these types of works and that, in some cases, the documentation can even become part of the work [Dekker, Giannachi and Van Saaze 2017: 63], or be the only remaining trace and mode of presentation of works that are no longer accessible. But there is also a need for documentation that directly concerns the installation of the work and its functioning during the exhibition, that is a supporting tool for exchanging information between the collector or artist and the exhibitor.

Since the early 2000s, major institutions have been thinking about methodological approaches for the documentation of new media art.[2] These approaches, which may also contain aspects important to the exhibition, are mostly concerned with preservation. There are varying approaches that might include artist interviews, technological descriptions, information on how the work might evolve in the future, installation views, data from social media or audience interviews, exhibition records. It should address elements of the creative process that could eventually influence the presentation of the work. While this type of documentation is concerned with the future possibilities and development of the work, the documentation necessary for its exhibition pertains to its present condition. There is a difference in the kind of information needed by a collector or a conservator, who wants to keep the work alive for as long as possible, and by an exhibitor, who wants to install the work and show it for a certain period of time. The aim of a document inevitably influences its scope, how it is written, the information it contains, its layout and how it is read. Therefore, documents relating to the preservation of a work are not necessarily written and read in the same way as those for its exhibition. The latter can be much more concise. It is not necessarily concerned with all future possibilities but precisely explains how the work is functioning and how it is installed and maintained.

Media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer argues in his article “# Best Practices for Conservation of Media Art from an Artist’s Perspective” that, even though documenting might be complex, it is absolutely necessary and can make things easier for the artist in the future [2015]. He also notes that “many curators are sadly too rushed to read manuals”. Therefore, it can make sense to keep documents necessary for preservation and documents for the exhibition separate or write a specific section on exhibitions in the file dedicated to preservation. These documents should at the same time be quick to read and include all the necessary information for the exhibiting institution to be able to run the work as independently as possible.[3]

1.2. Templates as Means of Documenting for Re-exhibiting

ZKM and Le Fresnoy both use templates for creating specific documents directly concerned with exhibiting. These templates specify which information must be written down and ensure that no important piece of information is forgotten. Furthermore, they provide a collective structure for the manuals of all artworks in the collection, which facilitates navigation through the documents, whose reading is not necessarily linear. Since each artwork is different, the template might be adapted to the needs of a specific artwork.

Before switching to the template, ZKM used a wiki for documenting their collection, an internal, web-based tool that could be consulted and edited by employees. By noting who added what information and when, all the decisions that were taken for the preservation or exhibition of an artwork could be tracked, thus offering a very good “version control”, as stated by Morgane Stricot, head of digital preservation at ZKM [Stricot 2019]. Using a wiki to document artworks makes the documentation more adaptable since there is no fixed framework for the information and different kinds of data, and links between data can be included [Giannachi 2022: 137]. In addition to this Stricot insists on the necessity to document not only what has been done to an artwork, but also why. For example, whether a work has been installed in a certain way because it was the artist’s intention or because of space constraints. This apparently has not been done enough in the past and makes it difficult to understand why decisions were taken.

In comparison to the wiki, the template has the main advantage of offering a list of fixed indications that must be filled out for every artwork.

Before, people wrote down what they thought was important. Now we have a list of indications already elaborated and it allows us to write down information that some or others would not have thought of. This gives us a process to follow which is important. In the documentation we mark first all the questions that we have not yet answered. [Stricot 2019]

In comparison to the wiki, the template allows for more control over what is documented and how this is done. The filled-out template might be multi-authored, open-ended, and multimedia, associating writings of different natures, including several semiotic forms (image, text, sound). They often contain visual elements like wiring charts, images of the artworks and technical photographs. However, by providing a fixed framework, a list of things and categories, information that does not fit into these categories may fall through the cracks.

While ZKM’s “Dokumentation & Manual”[4] template is an adapted version of the “Installations Instructions Template”[5] from the Matters in Media Art research project Media Matters, collaborating towards the care of time-based media, Le Fresnoy uses two custom-made templates, a “Fiche de diffusion” (Distribution File) and a “Notice d’exploitation” (Operating Instructions) that are very much focused on information necessary for exhibiting the work.[6] Independently from one another, both institutions come to rather similar results. These documents contain information on how to install the work, including trade-specific knowledge; how much time is necessary for the installation; information on elements and equipment directly belonging to the work, as well as additional equipment that can be sent by the lender to the exhibitor; how the equipment is packed and shipped and other equipment that has to be provided in addition to this (for example, screens or video projectors that can be changed for each installation). ZKM also includes a section on tools, like specific screwdrivers or hex keys that are necessary for the installation. This allows the exhibitor to prepare materials beforehand and avoid unnecessary trips to the hardware store. Both include information on the exhibition space (dimensions, lighting, isolation, wall colour if this is important to the work), instructions for setting up and dismantling the work, and contact information for people who can fix malfunctions like the artist, the programmer, or the restorer. Since inadequate power supply is a major source of damage to the works [Lozano-Hemmer 2015], templates also include a section on this subject. The ZKM template, for example, describes how many sockets and which kind of power supply are necessary, both in the exhibition space and in what they call the “equipment room”. They also stipulate whether the power should be switched off when the exhibition is closed to the public or if it should run continuously.[7] Le Fresnoy notes whether the work could be a source of light or sound disturbance and thus negatively impact the presentation of other works and also whether specific signage or security measures are necessary. In addition to this and to the information included in the Installations Instructions Template from the Matters in Media Art project, the documents created by ZKM and Le Fresnoy include daily operations and maintenance of the work either as sections in the manual (ZKM) or as a separate document (Le Fresnoy). This explains how the work should be turned on and off, how it should be maintained and cleaned, as well as possible operational failures and debugging procedures. This gives the exhibiting institution some autonomy and reduces the time spent by the artist or conservator on maintenance or repairs.

1.3. Augmentation of Documentation through Exhibition

Far from being finite or unchangeable, the mentioned manuals and installation documents allow for regular reviewing and rewriting. They evolve throughout the works’ lifecycle, sometimes in an ongoing dialogue with the artists. Thus, these documents are living documents that can evolve. They are open-ended; every exhibition becomes an occasion to verify and add to them. Just like the artwork itself, documentation becomes a continuous process. Here, a second layer is added to the relationship between the document and the exhibition, because the exhibition of an artwork is a valuable occasion to check if the documentation is still up to date or if it needs any adjustments[8] – especially lists of variable materials, off-the-shelf equipment like projection screens might change over time.

When ZKM organised the exhibition of its collection Writing the History of the Future: The ZKM Collection (23 February 2019 – 9 January 2022), it coincided with major changes to the staff. Many of the technicians who had been working with the institution since 1997, with 20 years’ experience in installing and caring for the works in the collection, were either about to retire or had already left. Thus, a transfer of their unique knowledge to a younger generation of employees had to be planned, leading the institution to think more deeply about their documentation strategy. Stricot states: “[Because of the change in the team] we are now trying to better document the works, because we cannot afford to depend on one person for the installation of a work. This is also why we are now doing this exhibition on the collection. It enables us to know all our works in depth.” [Stricot 2019] During this period, they switched from the wiki to the template and organised an exhibition of their collection that enabled them to check the functioning of their works and revise their documentation. Thus, an exhibition of new media art can also be used as tool for transmitting knowledge inside an institution and to amend or rewrite documentation.

At Le Fresnoy, the loan of a work is also an occasion to revise documents. Natalia Trebik, responsible for distributing the works produced at Le Fresnoy, states that artists start working on the Distribution File and the Operating Instructions during the production phase and finish the documents before the first exhibition of the work outside of Le Fresnoy [Trebik 2022]. The documents are only completed when they are needed for a loan request.[9] Therefore the relationship between documentation and exhibition is at least twofold: the documents allow for the work to be installed as intended, and the exhibition verifies and enriches the documentation. These new documents can in turn have different purposes: facilitate future installations or preservation, promotion, mediation, etc. Instead of imposing fixity, these documents should be written in a way that acknowledges the variable nature of the work. For example, when Jeffrey Shaw exhibited The Legible City at Ars Electronica in 1990, he provided the organisers with technical documentation describing the ideal way to install the work, but also allowed for adaption to the exhibition space (Fig. 1 and 2). He did not provide absolute measurements for the exhibition space, but the minimum dimensions, not one projector or screen but several options depending on the space and equipment available. He also listed options for other aspects of the exhibition design like wall colour, distance between the bicycle and the screen or the platform the bicycle is mounted on. Because of the specific needs of each institution, artist and artwork, the templates have to be flexible and adaptable to different situations. They should be regarded as a guideline, a starting point that triggers new reflections, rather than as an absolute model to follow.

Fig. 1: Jeffrey Shaw, “Jeffrey Shaw, virtual world voyaging: Technical requirements for the installation of The Legible City”, 1990, Ars Electronica Archive, ENT_IA9018_AEC_PRX_1990_The_Legible_setup_details_1406374.


Fig. 2: Jeffrey Shaw, “Jeffrey Shaw, virtual world voyaging: Diagrams Showing the Basic Form of the Installation of The Legible City”, 1990, Ars Electronica Archive,  ENT_IA9018_AEC_PRX_1990_The_Legible_City_techrequire_1406376.

1.4. Documentation as Support for Communication and Limitations

The purpose of these documents is not only to safeguard information for future reference, but also so that it can be exchanged with other institutions, galleries or collections wanting to exhibit a specific artwork [on the communicational dimension of documentation, see Liquète 2015; Lehmans and Liquète 2019]. Thus, it becomes a support for communication, facilitating the relationship between these two parties. They can be used as a checklist to verify if all the necessary equipment, tools and knowledge are on-site and if the space meets the conditions for the installation of the work in terms of dimensions and technical criteria. The document thus also becomes a means of keeping control over the artwork in the absence of the artist or conservator familiar with the work.[10]

The Distribution File at Le Fresnoy is already used at the very beginning of a loan procedure. Natalia Trebik refers to these documents to evaluate loan requests and write cost estimates. The technical document allows her to estimate billable time for installing and dismantling the work and assess whether Le Fresnoy has to provide additional technical equipment, whether any disposables have to be replaced after a certain exhibition period, or any other costs. However, the loan request cannot be assessed from documentation alone. Le Fresnoy studies the feasibility for each loan request up front with the team, including the artist and technical staff, depending on the context [Trebik 2022].[11] At this moment the list of equipment may be updated to newer standards, installation time is reassessed and the adaptability of the work to the specific exhibition space is evaluated.[12]

The possibilities offered by documentation to ensure the installation and handling of the artwork during an exhibition according to the artists’ intentions are not without limits, though. Even when objective criteria are employed, as in a template, and appropriate language is used, documents always remain partially subjective and informed by an individual documenter or a group of documenters and the relationships between them. Documentation does not only contain already existing information but is also a process of creating meaning [LaJevic and Long 2019: 9]. This means that documents are to some degree influenced by the writers’ individual sensitivities and preferences, their linguistic and theoretical markers, and that they are also open to interpretation on the reader’s part [Sant 2017]. New interpretations might be made from the set of instructions and guidelines that form the documentation [Dekker, Giannachi and Van Saaze 2017]. This limitation is increased by the variable nature of new media art. Because of this variability, individual decisions might become necessary before, during and after the exhibition. These decisions can be taken by the artist or his/her representative or by a qualified employee of an art institution.


2. The Need for a Human Expert: Case Study The Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw (1988) and Blind Sculpture by Marie Lelouche (2018)

2.1. Work Descriptions

The two works whose exhibition procedures I examined for this research, The Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw (1988) and Blind Sculpture by Marie Lelouche (2018), even though they have distinct characteristics, present similar limitations to documentation. In The Legible City, co-authored by Jeffrey Shaw and Dirk Groeneveld, the visitor can take a virtual ride through the cities of Manhattan, Amsterdam, and Karlsruhe. The visitor cycles on a modified off-the-shelf city bike, which functions as an interface for a computer simulation of a virtual city made from letters and text displayed on a screen in front of the bicycle. Giddeon May developed the custom software of the work. The hardware is composed of an SGI Indigo 2 (IRIX) calculating the computer simulation for the projection screen, a computer with Linux OS calculating the position of the visitor – displayed on a map on an LCD-Monitor in front of the bicycle – a bicycle interface, a custom-made convertor transforming the analogue signals from the bicycle (speed and inclination of the handlebar) into digital code readable by the computer, and a variable video-projector and projection screen. The work has been in the ZKM collection since 1997 and has been exhibited over 50 times in the past 30 years.[13]

Blind Sculpture is a mixed reality work produced by Marie Lelouche during her second year at Le Fresnoy in collaboration with programme developer Alexis Hallaert and Wosomtech. The work combines a digital archive of 3D-scanned architectural fragments, visible to the visitor through a mixed reality application on a smartphone, with a minimalistic sculpture made out of high-density polystyrene. The sculpture is also a physical translation of an architectural fragment from this archive.

When entering the exhibition space, visitors encounter a white, minimalist sculpture: an unusual geometrical form, like a superposition and imbrication of cuboids – a form that is relatively simple and complex, as Lelouche states.[14] The visitor, equipped with a Lenovo Phab2pro mobile phone with an integrated Kinect and headphones, observe the space through the display of the digital device. After some time, one might recognise shadows on the floor and start searching the space for the origin of these shadows, discovering three digital elements emerging from three corners of the space that slowly move towards the sculpture and wrap themselves around it like a second skin before disappearing. While the digital aesthetic of these elements is evident, their physical origin remains mostly hidden, sometimes evoking a texture resembling concrete or an architectural form, but never being specific enough to be identified. Physical and virtual elements are in a constant state of composition and re-composition. The visitor is caught between recognition and estrangement, never fully certain of what they are confronted with. The visitor’s gaze moves back and forth between physical space and digital device, without ever being able to fix on one or the other. The work interrogates the perception of physical space and virtual space and the relation between them. The sculptural element, the virtual images and the sound from the headphones are like different facets of the same thing. Without the digital device, the sculpture remains incomplete [see also Lelouche n.d.].

2.2. Necessity of a Human Expert

Both artworks depend for different reasons on the presence of an expert for their installation. In the case of The Legible City this is a museum conservator familiar with the work; in the case of Blind Sculpture the expert is the artist herself. For The Legible City the expert needs to be present because of its technical complexity and the use of custom-made hardware and software. For Blind Sculpture it is the need to adapt the augmented reality application to the exhibition space – making it specific to each venue – that calls for the presence of the expert. When The Legible City is exhibited outside of the ZKM, an employee always travels with it and ensures that it is installed as intended:

Right now, it’s easier for us to travel with the works and install them ourselves. In the future we can consider having only manuals, but it seems to me that no manual can ever be enough. You have to see the work yourself first to be able to check if the work functions well. [Stricot 2019]

Specific knowledge about the work is needed to set it up and link together technical components, such as the bicycle interface, the computers, the screen and the projector. This knowledge is not transmittable through documentation but depends on specific training. Furthermore, in complex digital art or new media works, there can be many variables and it might not be possible to imagine all the possibilities upfront. ZKM documented one case of an exhibition of The Legible City in 2014 where a large touch screen was used instead of the LCD monitor to display the map in front of the cyclist. On seeing this, Shaw asked that the screen be replaced by one closer to the original. ZKM included this restriction in their documentation to prevent this from happening again. Also, new bugs or malfunctions might arise that are not necessarily detectable by those who have not seen the work before. Stricot talked about a case where the mouse symbol suddenly appeared on the screen, even though it should be invisible. This malfunction, that had never occurred before and therefore had not been documented, could be detected because Stricot knew the work well. The malfunction was rectified, and the debugging and repair documented in the Dokumentation & Manual document. Other works in the ZKM collection are unstable and in constant need of human care. Works that are already unstable in exhibitions at ZKM are not loaned out. While their team is able to install and uninstall works from their collection outside of their own space, it would be too time-consuming and expensive to maintain and repair works that are not on-site.

When the work Blind Sculpture by Marie Lelouche is exhibited, the artist has to adapt the augmented reality program to the specific site. When the work was exhibited at the Galerie Commune[15] in 2018, Lelouche began by amending the program and adjusting the corridors to the movements of the digital elements in the space according to the floor plans of the gallery. Lelouche also adapted the colour settings of these elements and their shadows to the colours and lighting in the gallery. The shadows that can be seen through the screen of the digital device are of course not real shadows but groupings of pixels in a certain colour. They can only be perceived as shadows by the visitor if their colour is close enough to that of the floors in the exhibition space. Thus, the colour has to be distinct for each space. Furthermore, Blind Sculpture has very specific lighting requirements. In order for the augmented reality application to function, the lighting conditions in the space need to be absolutely stable. Thus, the artist first observes the lighting in the exhibition space at different times during the day and then decides which windows have to be sealed off. Then she verifies the lighting by testing the application. The sculpture also has to be illuminated in a certain way and the choice of lighting necessarily depends on the ambient lighting in the space.

The documentation highlights that the lighting has to be discussed up front with the artist but does not detail how it should be installed in the space. The way this work adapts to the space calls for choices that are more aesthetic than technical and are difficult to make on behalf of the artist. When the artist’s presence is required during the installation, they become the primary stakeholder and caretaker of their work. This can be seen as problematic because it takes time out of the artist’s schedule, time that can no longer be used to create new works. However, it can also become a source of income, since the artist can charge a fee for installing, dismantling, and maintaining the work. In the case of Le Fresnoy, which is the producer and image rights holder, the artists are paid either a daily fee or a flat rate to install the work.

Lelouche also explains the functioning of the work – how to switch it on and off, how to charge the phones, and frequent malfunctions – to the personnel in charge of distributing and caring for the phones,[16] and has them perform these tasks in front of her. Besides the document she prepared and sent in advance, she uses this phase of oral transmission to make sure that the procedures are well understood and integrated. The document with the Operating Instructions (Fig. 3 and 4) remains necessary to help the personnel remember procedures and ensure that none of the steps are overlooked. When the work was exhibited at the Galerie Commune, a copy of the manuals remained on-site for the personnel to refer to. Rather than merely relying on the memory of the attendants or their notes, this document provides an additional layer of security, so that the work is handled properly during the exhibition period. Besides documents, oral transmission plays an important part in transmitting information on maintaining and caring for the work.[17] Both are equally necessary for the exhibition.

Fig. 3: Marie Lelouche, “Notice d’exploitation”, section “Comment donner les téléphones + casques”, 2018. All rights reserved Marie Lelouche.

Fig. 4: Marie Lelouche, “Notice d’exploitation”, section “Dépannage”, 2018.
All rights reserved Marie Lelouche.


Documentation for preservation and documentation for exhibiting are not necessarily written and used in the same way. While the first should include all aspects of the creative process that might be important in the future, the second can be much more concise and focus on the functioning of the work and its adaptability to different exhibition situations. This article analysed how two institutions specialised in new media art, ZKM and Le Fresnoy, use templates to document the artworks they produce or collect in order to be able to re-exhibit them in different contexts. Independently from one another, both institutions have developed similar methodologies and collect similar information. These documents allow specific artwork-related information to be stored and shared within an institution or with others during the loan process. However, in many cases the documentation is not sufficient to ensure that the work is installed as intended. In both case studies presented here, the presence of a human expert, either the artist or a conservator familiar with the work, is also necessary. However, this call for an expert does not exclude the possibility of documentation being a sufficient tool for the successful exhibition of new media art in general. Other cases exist where the presence of an expert is not required, maybe because the works are less complex, or because the exhibiting institution’s team already has sufficient knowledge. It is also worth pointing out that the template is not the only option. Other institutions or artists might successfully use a wiki [Giannachi 2022] or provide detailed video instructions.[18] Offering this kind of support is also time and money intensive. While institutions like ZKM are able to do this work outside of their own exhibition spaces, other institutions with different staff structures and different funding situations might not be able to. Finally, the presence of an expert does not render a good documentation strategy unnecessary, but it shifts the scope of this documentation. Instead of being a complete, self-sufficient record, it becomes a supporting tool for communication and memory. It helps the expert remember certain pieces of information, ensuring that nothing important is forgotten. Documents also have a relational role. As part of an inter-institutional exchange, they are an aid to communication and foster relationships between institutions.

The case studies show that, when it comes to complex digital artworks, documentation alone is often insufficient and the presence of an expert, such as the artist, an assistant or a museum employee who knows the work well, is also required during installation. This, however, does not diminish the importance of the documentation; rather, it places it in a different relation to the artwork and the expert.

[1] Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains offers a post-graduate programme focusing on new image production processes. Each year students and invited artists produce around 50 works ranging from photography, video and film to performances, augmented or virtual reality, robotics, digital interactive installations, etc. (, 10.12.2023)

[2] Among them, the Variable Media Approach (Guggenheim, NY, Daniel Langlois Foundation, Montreal et al.) and Matters in Media Art (New Arts Trust, SFMOMA and Tate) are certainly the best known and most written about. While the Variable Media Approach focuses on media independent descriptions of artworks, Matters in Media Art developed guidelines for the care of new media artworks and provides much useful information about acquisition, documentation, loan procedure, etc., and a number of templates for writing condition reports, loan agreements, budgets, cost assessments, etc. [“Variable Media Approach” n.d., “About Matters in Media Art” 2015, see also Annet Dekker 2013: 149–69].

[3] The documents I consulted for this research use a structure and visual formatting that helps navigating through the document and identifying the most important parts.

[4] While the document itself is bilingual (German and English), the title of the template is in German only. It translates to “Documentation & Manual”.

[5] The template can be consulted here: Matters in Media Art, “Installations Instructions Template”, n.d.,, 10.12.2023.

[6] The templates were kindly made available to me by the ZKM on 18 June 2019, and by Le Fresnoy on 14 December 2022. While at ZKM the document “Dokumentation & Manual is part of a larger documentation strategy focused on both preservation and exhibition, at Le Fresnoy institutional documentation mostly consists in the two abovementioned documents and it is up to the artists to document their artworks for preservation or purposes other than exhibition. Le Fresnoy, as an art school and producer, does not own the works and is not directly in charge of their preservation. This may explain the focus on installation and exhibition of their documentation. I talked to several artists from Le Fresnoy who say that they do not document their work enough and that they should probably do it more.

[7] For preservation purposes and to save energy, some of the equipment such as video projectors and screens should be switched off as much as possible. Others cannot be switched off because they would be too difficult to switch on again. This is why institutions like Le Fresnoy have several power grids: one that can be turned off at a central power switch when the exhibition is closed and another that stays on all the time.

[8] This is also pointed out by the Variable Media Network and Matters in Media Art: “Among acquisition and exhibition, a loan constitutes another important moment within the lifespan of an artwork. It provides an invaluable opportunity to revise an institution’s holdings, documentation, and knowledge.” [About Matters in Media Art, n.d.]

[9] The exhibition can also allow for the creation of other kinds of documents. When Marie Lelouche exhibited Blind Sculpture at the end of 2018 in Galerie Commune, Tourcoing, she documented the installation with photographs and videos that she made available on her website and social networks. Here the documents are less concerned with preservation purposes than with promoting the artist’s work through the Internet.

[10] In case of damage occurring during the loan period it might become necessary to prove that the lender did receive all the information relating to the correct handling of the work. In this case documents can also become proof that this information was indeed transmitted to the exhibiting institution. (In a private conversation with Lucien Bitaux, 24 November 2022).

[11] ZKM most certainly conducts some kind of assessment before agreeing to a loan as well. However, this was not covered in my interview with Morgane Stricot.

[12] Even though the documentation can include a section on adaptability, this discussion is necessary because the possibilities for variation and the situation in specific institutions and exhibitions frequently exceed what can be documented in a file.

[13] Since much literature already exists on this work, this article only contains a short description focusing on technological components. For a more extensive work description, see Serexhe 2013; Dinkla 1997; an exhibition record can be found here: Jeffrey Shaw Compendium,, 10.12.2023.

[14] In a private conversation with Marie Lelouche, November 2018.

[15] Galerie Commune is an exhibition space shared by Lille University and Tourcoing Art School. The exhibition of Blind Sculpture I curated was part of a larger exhibition programme connected to the Forum Ouvert Œuvre et Recherche, an annual conference on Art/Science collaborations in the North of France and Belgian border regions.

[16] Since Galerie Commune works with volunteers, students of the Visual Arts Curriculum opened and monitored the gallery and mediated the work to the public, which was also mostly comprised of university students or employees. Lelouche also trained these students in the functioning of the work.

[17] Rafael Lozano-Hemmer also insists on the importance of explaining the functioning and installation of the work and concretely showing the different manipulations to an employee when the work is sold into a collection. This employee is then the go-to person if the work malfunctions, and the artist or his studio is only contacted if the employee cannot solve the problem [Lozano-Hemmer 2015].

[18] Natalia Trebik talked about an approach developed by Anne-Cecile Worms where artists created detailed video manuals. The works could then be installed without the presence of the artist. Artist and former student at Le Fresnoy, Lucien Bitaux also states that some of his works can be installed without him. Whether or not his presence is required depends on the work and the individual exhibition situation.


“About Matters in Media Art”. n.d. Online:, 21.02.2022.

Dekker, Annet. “Enjoying the Gap: Comparing Contemporary Documentation Strategies”. In: Julia Noordegraaf, Vinzenz Hediger, Cosetta Saba and Barbara Le Maitre (eds.). Preserving and Exhibiting Media Art: Challenges and Perspectives. Amsterdam 2013: 149–69.

Dekker, Annet, Gabriella Giannachi and Vivian Van Saaze. “Expanding Documentation, and Making the Most of ‘the Cracks in the Wall’”. In: Toni Sant (ed.). Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving. London 2017: 61–78.

Dinkla, Söke. Pioniere Interaktiver Kunst von 1970 bis heute: Myron Krueger, Jeffrey Shaw, David Rokeby, Lynn Hershman, Ken Feingold und Grahame Weinbren. Ostfildern 1997.

“Dirk Groeneveld, Jeffrey Shaw | The Legible City | 1988 | ZKM”. n.d. Online: 09.01.2023.

“Forging the Future: New Tools for Variable Media Preservation”. n.d. Online: 12.12.2022.

Giannachi, Gabriella. “The Use of Documentation for Preservation and Exhibition. The Cases of SFMOMA, Tate, Guggenheim, MOMA, and LIMA”. In: Annet Dekker and Gabriella Giannachi (eds.). Documentation as Art Expanded Digital Practices. London; New York 2022: 133–44.

LaJevic, Lisa and Kelsey Long. “Investigative Performers: Exploring Documentation in Art”. In: Art Education, 72.3/April 2019: 8-11.

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