e-Installation – Telepresence-based documentation of endangered media art

Time-based art (henceforth referred to as ‘media art’) has existed since the early 1960s. However, compared to traditional genres such as painting or sculpting, the life cycle of media artwork is very short: the technology that many media artworks need in order to operate properly is also the cause of their caducity.

Museums are faced every day with the inexorable decline of these artworks. Media art pieces do not only require constant maintenance, but they also take up much exhibition space. As a result, they are often dismantled for maintenance and repair, or they remain in the museum depot for long periods of time. When this happens, these artworks are no longer accessible to curators, art historians, and the interested public. In this case, a good documentation is the only way to ensure that this kind of art can be examined.

Traditional documentation methods such as video or photography cannot reproduce the synesthetic experience level that media artworks require. Curators and art historians can only speculate on the full aesthetic impact of an artwork that is no longer being exhibited.

In the near future, art restorers will not be able to repair these kinds of art pieces in accordance with satisfying authenticity criteria. The reason for this is the obsolescence of historic technic components that are no longer being produced, such as CRT TVs and projectors.

Given this scenario of jeopardised cultural heritage, there is an urgent need for a new kind of documentation that allows, as good as possible, a realistic representation of all synesthetic levels implied in a media artwork. Such documentation is necessary to protect and preserve the meanings that might otherwise be lost along with the material work itself.

e-Installation graphic

Image: Telepresence-based experience of a digital Media-Art Installation. Artwork Motive: Tischtänzer (1988-1993), Stephan von Huene. Source: Intelligent Sensor-Actor-Systems Laboratory (ISAS)

This new documentation method should offer a realistic insight into media artworks that are no longer performable or rarely exhibited. The insight provided would be independent from the works’ physical location, to the benefit of both professionals (curators, art restorers, and art historians) and the public. Moreover, it should be a long-term solution to archive and pass down the milestones of media art when the original works can no longer be repaired. This means that crucial issues for long-term archiving should be taken into account ab initio.

In the project ‘e-Installation’ we – i.e. the ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies and the Intelligent Sensor-Actor-Systems Laboratory (ISAS) at the KIT – use advanced 3-D modelling and telepresence technologies to make a significant contribution in this regard.

Telepresence can be described as “the extension of a person’s sensing and manipulation capability to a remote location” (Sheridan 1989). According to this definition, a carefully designed telepresence system would allow the access to and interaction with virtualised media art works, in particular with those that are temporarily not available to the public, or those whose continuity cannot be guaranteed through current curatorial and conservation practice.

For further Information about the e-Installation method see our paper:
e-Installation: Synesthetic Documentation of Media Art via Telepresence Technologies. Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, Florian Faion, Antonio Zea, Uwe D. Hanebeck, Caroline Y. Robertson-von Trotha (2014). Preprint: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1408.1362

Further Information in German: http://www.zak.kit.edu/e-Installation.php



Jon Ippolito published "Wagging the Long Tail of Digital Preservation on the Still Water Blog, discussing e-Installation.


The Broadcast motzgurke.tv on the KIKA channel produced a spot about "Erfindungen der Zukunft" (Inventions of he future) featuring the telepresence at ISAS. It is available (beginning at 9:12) in German online here: motzgurke.tv.

The 33. ZAK Newsletter published an article about e-Installation.


e-Installation showed a digitised version of the Versailles Fountain on the Beyond 3D Symposium.


"Research To Business" magazine published an article about e-Installation published.

The KIT magazine lookKIT published an article about e-Installation.

Furthermore, a YouTube work by the KIT was published: "e-Installation: Medienkunst per Datenbrille erleben" (experiencing Media Art via Data-googles).


In the Badische Neuste Nachrichten (BNN) newspaper an exemplary image of e-Installation was elected "Image of the Month".


The web-based magazine "clicKIT" published an article about e-Installation.


The 32. ZAK Newsletter published an article about e-Installation.


Publications regarding e-Installation
  • e-Installation: Synesthetic Documentation of Media Art via Telepresence Technologies. Jesús Muñoz Morcillo, Florian Faion, Antonio Zea, Uwe D. Hanebeck, Caroline Y. Robertson-von Trotha (2014)
    Preprint available: http://arxiv-web3.library.cornell.edu/abs/1408.1362
  • Faion, Florian; Friedberger, Simon; Zea, Antonio und Hanebeck, Uwe D. (2012): Intelligent Sensor-Scheduling for Multi-Kinect-Tracking. In: Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2012). Vilamoura, Algarve, Portugal, Oktober 2012
  • Muñoz Morcillo, Jesús (2011): Überlieferung von Medienkunst und digitale Nachlassverwaltung. In: Roberson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. und Hauser, Robert (Hrsg.): Neues Erbe. Aspekte, Perspektiven und Konsequenzen der digitalen Überlieferung. KIT Scientific Publishing, S. 123-140
  • Serexhe, Bernhard (Hrsg.) (2013): Digital Art Conservation. Konservierung digitaler Kunst: Theorie und Praxis. AMBRA | V und ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie


Cooperation Partners:

ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Prof. Dr. Caroline Y. Robertson-von Trotha

Jesús Muñoz Morcillo

ISAS | Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics, Intelligent Sensor-Actuator-Systems Laboratory at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Prof. Dr. Uwe D. Hanebeck

Florian Faion

Antonio Zea

ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Peter Weibel

Dr. Bernhard Serexhe


Banner Image: Tanja Meißner