Archiving New Media Art Lift Project

Nola Farman, a Western Australian artist, has never had a consistent practice. The Lift Project (1979-1982), her major work, is an important contribution to Australia’s history of new media art. The Art Gallery of Western Australia now wants to deaccession it. Farman set sail for Toronto after her fellow students fled Perth to London in search of postgraduate opportunities.

Many people found a sanctuary in a particular medium. They continued exploring its possibilities through regular exhibitions at commercial galleries. She moved from drawing and painting to animation and writing. Farman was a pioneer in the adoption of new technologies and sought out collaborators during a time when solo artists were the norm.

It was never a matter of contrariness. Artists use whatever tools are available to realize their ideas. Farman’s ideas are complex, multifaceted and varied. This makes it more important to have a wide range of tools. She spent four years in Canada and returned to Perth in the late 1960s. Produced exhibitions of paintings and drawings, as well as smaller sculptures, in rapid bursts.

She began a two-year study in 1983 of the psychological and physical effects of lift travel. As Perth boomed, and concrete and glass towers made St Georges Terrace a replica of every other city in the world, vertical lift travel became a common occurrence.

Lift Discussed Or Considered

It was not discuss or consider by anyone else. Farman did. Farman and Michael Brown worked together for two years to create a lift environment. The lift was equip with fully automate steel doors and computer-control operation. Spectators were treat to a 12-minute audio-visual program.

It was the 1980s, and computer-based immersive and interactive works were just beginning to emerge in Europe and the USA. This was thanks to the efforts of Roy Ascott, Paul Sermon and Jeffrey Shaw. Farman’s insight, diligence, and openness was at the cutting edge. This project created an intellectual buzz that attracted many engineers, scientists, architects, artists, and tech-heads.

Farman led visitors to The Lift, which was located on the top floor at Ed Jane’s Fremantle Furniture Factory, an old warehouse in the heart of the port city. The Lift was a symbol for the structured and unconscious experiences that the audience had when they were lift-traveling. Images and sounds recreated the lift’s upward motion as it stopped at each floor. Serial images explored the fears associated with lift travel.

Individuals who entered the environment through Johns Perry doors accidentally left the safety of the art gallery. They were force into dangerous territory where they would have to confront their fears and phobias. Farman explained this in the accompanying Lift Manual.

Illegal Activity Lift

It was important to me because it is a social space. In this space, looking becomes an illegal activity and the close scrutiny of others becomes more appealing and desirable. The lift is a point of rupture from reality. The lift is a place to embark, but the journey involves more than a physical displacement of ascent or descent. It also involves a psychological displacement. The Lift was complete and display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. It was then acquire for the permanent collection.

It was awarded a Diploma of Honor by the Prix Ars Electronica Interactive Art award in 1991. Complex work that involved slide projectors, computers, elaborate screens installations, and Johns Perry doors. This work is a key to the development of new media art. It is still a vital presence, though it is mostly recollected because it is not often shown in consciousness of critics, practitioners and curators all over the world. The Lift is the latest item to be removed from the Art Gallery of Western Australia collection.

Museums And Galleries

Museums and galleries are responsible for maintaining works in their collections for future generations. However, there are many problems that can arise from keeping them in working order in light of rapid technological changes and intellectual property issues.

This area has seen a lot of research. In 2002, the Guggenheim Museum, along with the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology based in Montreal, created the Variable Media Network to establish best-practice benchmarks for preservation and collection of new media art.

Leading galleries, like the Tate in London have initiated programs to continue to exhibit their collection of new media art. Their conservators work with artists, technicians, and curators to figure out how to do this.

The Lift is an important work that should be preserved and maintain. It perhaps time for a partnership to be form between major state and national institutions, universities art museums, and private organizations holding new media works. This will prevent similar works from being lost in the future.