Jan Dibbets

A White Wall, 1971 Black-and-white photographs and pencil on board, 29.5 x 39.5 inches

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Panza Collection, extended loan

                                                                                    

 

To create A White Wall, Dibbets set his camera to a three-second exposure and shot a

photograph of a wall adorned with the number 1. Dibbets then shot nine more photographs

of the same wall. For each successive photograph, the number increased and the exposure

setting of his camera decreased in a strict mathematical progression: 2 seconds; 1 second;

1/2 second; 1/4 second, etc.). This process resulted in ten photographic prints, gradated

evenly from white to black. The photographs were glued in two rows of five onto a sheet of

matteboard, on which Dibbets drew a pencil diagram explaining the process.

 

The most endangered feature of this work is its reproducible medium—analog

black-and-white photography. Due to imperfections in the original printing process and

photographic paper, over three decades the photographs have discolored. The even

progression from light to dark gray has degenerated to an uneven row of white and an

uneven row of black. The original glue has seeped through the photographic prints,

contributing to the discoloration.

 

Preservation issues to explore include:

 

 Negatives

                     

 Storage

                     What are the best means for conserving the original negatives?

                     Where should the negatives be stored, both during the artist's lifetime

                     and after?

 

                     

 Emulation

                     Could the appearance of the original photographs be staged and

                     re-shot?

 

                      

 Migration

                     Could the original analog negatives be migrated to a digital source,

                     such as CD-ROM?

 

                     

 Reinterpretation

                     When the analog negatives themselves degrade, should they be

                     enhanced or re-interpolated using digital tools such as Photoshop?

 

                     

 Matteboard

                     

 Storage

                     What techniques should be applied to restore the original matteboard

                     on which the photos are mounted?

 

                     

 Emulation

                     [If the board is damaged, should it be replaced and the diagram

                     redrawn to match the original?]

 

                      

 Migration

                     [no options]

 

                     

 Reinterpretation

                     If the board is damaged, should it be replaced and the diagram

                     redrawn?

 

                     

 Prints

                      

 Storage

                     What are the best means for conserving the original prints? In the

                     case of reprinting, what should happen to the original set of prints?

 

                     

 Emulation

                     Should historical limitations in the original printing quality be

                     maintained in future reprintings?

 

                     

 Migration

                     Should the discolored photos be reprinted and re-glued to the

                     support? Whose permission would be required to do so?

 

                     

 Reinterpretation

                     Could the photographs be re-shot from a new wall?