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Time-Based Media Art

We look through a tunnel lined with dozens of strings of bright white lights nestled in silver-gray slats that extend away from us in this horizontal photograph. The alternating lines of lights and slats move away from us to almost come together around a narrow, capsule-shaped area of golden yellow light at the far end of a tunnel, at the center of the photograph. The ceiling runs straight across the top of the photograph and curves down to meet the wall to our left. The curve continues to make a C-shape before extending straight down the remaining height of the wall, turning the profile of the open space into a backwards-facing P. Some of the lights are bright, some fading, and some are off to create a loose pattern of dark squares floating in a field of light. The lights seem brighter at the far end of the tunnel. The overall impact of the view is a starburst radiating in diagonal lines, coming from a point at the center of the photograph.

Leo Villareal, Multiverse, 2008, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), computer, and electronic circuitry, Gift of Victoria and Roger Sant and Sharon P. and Jay Rockefeller, 2009.115.1

Time-based media art depends on technology and has a durational element that is experienced by viewers over time. The Gallery’s small but growing collection reflects artists’ diverse use of technology to create captivating and thought-provoking work. Dating from the 1960s to the present, time-based media art at the Gallery features videos, films, audio and digital installations, and computer software-based art by some of the leaders in field, including Bruce ConnerRineke DijkstraNam June PaikBill Viola, and Jane and Louise Wilson. For a spectacular example, visit the moving walkway in the East Building concourse to experience Leo Villareal’s Multiverse (2008).

In 2017 the Gallery established the interdepartmental Time-Based Media Art Working Group to develop and maintain its procedures for collecting, exhibiting, and preserving these distinct artworks. Group members educate gallery staff on important issues related to the installation and care of time-based media art and foster public discussions with specialists in the field.