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:

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?
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?
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?