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Posted on March 7, 2016 in Behind the scenes.

Bringing works into a collection, storing them, conserving them and managing their movement in and out of the museum is standard practice. But what happens when a complex electronic artwork with obscure mechanisms is requested for an outward loan? Here Julia Mackay, Registration Assistant, discusses some of the complexities of reviving Dennis Wilcox’s Proteron (1992) for an exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art.

Firstly, what’s the process for making a loan request?

The outward loan process starts with a formal letter to the MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor. The request is then considered amongst Registration, Conservation, and Curatorial, and in cases like this, Audio Visual. If the venue and timing for loan is suitable the request is approved we start the loan process.
The artwork includes two video monitors that make up the bob and counterweight of a pendulum.

Were there any challenges in restoring technology that was over 20 years old and getting it moving?

The bespoke nature of the work resulted in conservation challenges. An audio track (that is never heard by the audience) is used to power a car radiator fan motor that then swings the pendulum holding the two television monitors. When mechanical and electrical equipment and components are used outside of their original intention a lot of testing must be conducted in order to know how they will act in this new scenario.
Another challenge is the maintenance of cathode ray tube television monitors, which are a dying technology. CRT monitors are no longer made and the knowledge of how to fix them is being lost.

Are there any unusual steps included on the artwork’s installation documentation?

The actual set up of the work is quite simple. Is it the documentation of a relay box that is quite unusual. We maintained the original wiring and set up created by the artist and the box acts as the ‘brain’ of the artwork.
It was first installed in the foyer of the Academy Twin Cinema in Paddington, Sydney, with trailers of movies that were about to open on screen.

What’s displayed on the monitors today?

The same images appear on the screens today. The framework is made from the old Academy Twin Cinema railings, so it is a real snap shot in time!

Is there anything you could share on how the artwork should be preserved and protected for the future?

Detailed documentation is key to the preservation and protection of this work. The work is deceivingly complicated so a comprehensive understanding of how the work functions is vital. For example, if the relay box fails, we need to be able to know how to get it working as quickly as possible.

Dennis Wilcox’s artwork was revived for the Technologism exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art.

The framework is made from the old Academy Twin Cinema railings, so it is a real snap shot in time!

Julia Mackay - Registration Assistant