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Thursday, June 1 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Electronic Media) Finding logic within integrated circuits: the restoration of Stephan von Huene's Tap Dancer

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Stephan van Huene is recognized for his acoustical sculptures—which he called "machines”—that combine movement and sound with the flip of a switch. This presentation will focus on his 1967 machine Tap Dancer composed of wood and leather boots that perform a three-minute tap dance atop a wooden base every half hour. It is only upon opening the base from its four sides that you realize the construction is a homemade version of an electropneumatic console for a pipe organ. The components include a network of integrated circuit boards that are wired to control recycled valves, levers, and bellows linked to percussion elements and the swivel motion and toe tapping of the boots. First used in the 19th century, Tap Dancer draws from the electropneumatic design common to the Wurlitzer organ in combination with a sound composition from wooden-headed mallets striking four wooden blocks from a xylophone - an interesting choice as some of the first Western uses of the instruments were for theatrical acts of Vaudeville. Von Huene's machine-sculptures have many conservation issues, particularly when they are displayed and plugged in for action. The condition of the circuitry is critical to allow the boots to perform their composition, which is intended to be random by way of an EPROM-circuit connected to an E050 timing circuit. Furthermore, the re-used musical components are vulnerable to mechanical stress failure and one broken wire, shorted chip, frozen relay or erased EPROM could stop the show. His sculptures do not come with a schematic; therefore, the function of all of the parts has inherent ambiguity. It is also most common for a series of problems to occur simultaneously, making the diagnosis and restoration time-consuming and challenging even for a skilled electronics engineer. The talk describes challenges that arose during the exhibition of Tap Dancer at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, a series of malfunctions, temporary conservation interventions, and a complete restoration after the exhibition. The paper will provide guidelines for restoring von Huene's sculptures and can serve as a model for other works of art that incorporate early electronics. The experiences exhibiting Tap Dancer has provided informed conservation issues for his "machines" when challenged to exhibit them as the artist intended. The endurance of their structures are inevitably at risk—a matter of concern that will continue to resonate for conservators and curators in the future.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Julie Wolfe

Julie Wolfe

Conservator, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Julie Wolfe has an M.A. from Buffalo State College specializing in objects conservation. She obtained advanced training in conservation at the Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard University Art Museums. Julie is now a Conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Decorative Arts... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
CW

Coleman Wood

President, Emdyne, Inc.
Coleman (Coley) Wood was born close to Brownsville, TX in 1951.  From early on, he collected electric motors and liked building plastic and balsa wood models. He taught himself to fly radio-controlled aircraft and learned how they do it wirelessly. Tinkering with this, he learned... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 4:00pm - 4:30pm
Comiskey Concourse Level, West Tower

Attendees (56)