WAVEFRONT Issue Fall 1986
DAVID KATZIVE INTERVIEW
LINDA LAW: You've expressed the
possibility of turning the Museum of
Holography into a Museum of Technology.
DAVID KATZIVE: I think you need to
be careful how that's expressed. I don't
want to diminish the emphasis on
holography, but I'd like to add other
components at some point.
Do you have room to do that?
No, we don't, but the Museum needs to
grow anyway. I would like to. We could
fill this whole building easily if we had
the means and the staff.
Do you have support from the
There's no timetable because it's
something we'll do very gradually and
it's also an idea that we would articulate
as an idea. But we could not act on (it)
unless some new source of funding
support emerged, and that's the critical
part. We could say: " Yes, we want to be
not only a Museum of Holography but
to be an Institute of Art and Technology
that might have three
video and maybe something else." It's
not hard to imagine ourselves operating
at three times the size, not
administratively, but curatorially I can imagine ourselves with a
curator for holography, a curator for
computer art and a curator for video and
related forms, plus other kinds of high-
tech art forms. However, we are
not going to do that tomorrow or even
next year. But if somebody who's made
millions of computers would like to
endow a position, then we could add
that on and it would be great. That
would also help the total overall
administration of this place, which
means the holographic part too.
Do you see any real possibility of that
We're just starting. It makes sense to me
that we ought to be able to do that.
There's no institution like it in the
country and technology is such an
important part of our lives and the future
that it seems inevitable and appropriate
to have an institution that is dedicated
that way. We have now an institution
that is dedicated to holography, but it
really is irreplaceable and irreplicable,
particularly the history part. If the
Smithsonian wanted to start a museum
of holography or a division, they would
want what we have. It's very hard for
them to find or acquire the early work,
the archival work, the pieces we've got.
There's a great strength in the
Museum because Posy and the
people she was working with
gathered up and saved so much of the
early work. It's like collecting
photography in the 1840s. I would love
to see us building a holography
collection. I've just picked up a small
grant to acquire more works, which is
really good news for us. One thing on
the charts is the creation of endowment
funds for things like that.
In terms of commissioning works?
Well, possibly commissioning, but
buying existing works. That's where we
are weakest. That's where I'm envious
when I hear that there are European
collectors buying really impressive
pieces. We should be doing that but we
can't. Very few museums have good
acquisition funds. They build their collections by gift, which is what we've
But we're still talking small numbers
of collectors and corporations.
You bet it's small numbers, but it's a
problem throughout American
museums, having enough money to buy
what they want. I worry because there
are things we ought to have in the
collection--important new works and
refined powerful pieces by artists who
are already in the collection. A good
collection has a full sampling of an
artist's work and we are beginning to
slip away from that. That's very
upsetting as a museum person, to see us
not being in a position either because
we don't have the money or because
others are buying them who are much
better off than we are. This is always
true of museums.
There is concern being expressed
because not much of the new work is
being shown at the Museum.
Well, I may ask you what that means.
This show has four new pieces by
Rudie, Doris, Sam and Norman Colp.
Setsuko's work wasn't new work?
This Museum has been a focal point for
Dan Schweitzer's piece out there is his
newest work. Fred just finished
something that's out there.
Still, with the exception of Setsuko,
that represents work primarily from
That was done in New York--
I am just curious
Okay, let me think.
You are talking about work coming out
if Germany, out of Europe, about
collectors buying this work and
stunning new pieces. Concern is being
expressed about the lack of exhibitions
showing that work here. There are
bodies of work coming out in different
directions in Europe and Canada. There
are a lot of artists who haven't spat a lot
of time in the U.S.A. whose work is
beginning to become substantial. I
guess the concern is that the Museum
isn 't fully represent tiny what is
happening on an international basis.
I think you need to look at several
years' programs, especially as we tend
to keep shows here for a long time,
compared to many museums. We'll keep
a show up for six months.
But that didn 't used to be the case.
They used to change every three
months or so. This has been a more
Yeah, this is not likely to change either
because of economics. We will change
things in the smaller section like we are
doing right now with Dieter's show.
That will make a difference in terms of
showing more European work. I'm
going to Europe within the next month
to become better familiar not only with
the artists, but with some of the
collectors end some of the labs. That
will help. My trip out to the West Coast
was very helpful. Going to Hawaii
helped a little differently. We are
certainly dealing with holographers
from all over the world very, very
effectively through Scott Lloyd's
program and that also means that we
are adding works to the collection.
Sam, Paula, Eduardo, we've got Paul
Newman and Martin Richardson. Only
one of five is from New York. Last
year was pretty much the same
There's a feeling in the holography
community that the Museum is
somewhat run down.
In fact, it is just the opposite. We
refurbished the shop area, we just
refurbished the staircase, we just
recataloged the entire collection.
That's not run down, but it's part of the
internal housekeeping that's critically
important. In the last year we've had the
facade repainted. We are about to
overhaul the entire graphic system from
logo and typeface down to the tiniest
label. Sure, the floor could be replaced
and that's coming. We could use a new
banner and that's coming too, but our
installations never looked better. The
other thing that's important to know is
that the board adopted a policy that led
to the first Holography Works that
we should regularly do shows about
applications, commercial use and
industrial dimensions of holography.
This is appropriate to this institution
and once every two years we are going
to try to schedule something like that.
But there's very little directive for
artists and it takes a bite out of the
schedule that we might normally devote
to them. Our next show is not about
artists at all. There'll be some artists'
work in there of course, but
Holography Works Two is about
display holography and not
specifically works of art. It's more
about the commercial and industrial
applications. So to say there may be
less emphasis on art is in fact accurate,
and that's one of the reasons.
If you are thinking of expanding to
cover technology in general, doesn 't
that mean holography will then take a
Perhaps if you concentrated fully on
holography, someone else would take
up technology and holography could
continue as it has.
I think it's important to point out that
the Museum each year has had
increasing financial success. It may
not be apparent, but in fact our budget
and revenues have increased
dramatically, and we've had more
corporate support, more government
support than ever in the last 12
Does that include grants?
Government grants, corporate grants,
higher than ever, more and larger
numbers. That follows the year before,
which was also a record-breaking year
for us. The attendance continues to be at
the very high level that Holography
Works kicked into in 1984. We had
60,000 people in 1984 and we've still
got those figures now, even without a
show that's getting the kind of
attention that the National Geographic
at that time made for us. We're very
encouraged by that, the maintenance of
a peak year.
You are unusually lucky in that regard
because holography brings in more
people than many other places, like
the New Museum.
People love this Museum, and the way
people enjoy the Museum is
remarkable. I've worked in very
traditional art museums and know that
the average attention span for an object
in a museum is very, very short
compared to the amount of attention
and eagerness that the audiences have
here. It's extraordinary how much time
people spend here. They will read all of
our text, sit through our entire
videotape. People who come here want
to know. They really enjoy looking at
the objects. They drag their kids in
here, lift them up, make them look at
them. That's very unusual and very
special. It's one of the strongest
aspects of this place that it's an
effective learning environment, visual
environment, perceptual environment,
more so than most museums
accomplish. And I've been dragging my
colleagues down from the Met, the
Whitney, the Brooklyn and the
Guggenheim to look at what's possible
here: "Why don't you consider using
holography, one way or another, as
part of your program?"
Are they responding?
No. We've done some work for
museums in the last two years, but they
have come to us, because we are the
only easily accessible public
institution that can directly share
information with them. We are quite
willing to do that.
What is the Museum's policy in terms
of referring inquiries?
We don't. As a policy, if someone asks
us who did the National Geographic
cover, we'll tell them. That's not
referring people. If somebody says who
can do embossed holography for us,
they are not going to get an answer. We
do consultations. We will hear what a
person or corporation's needs are; we'll
give them a copy of the Holography
Directory; we'll give them a copy of
Holography Works, which has all
kinds of information, we'll give them a
few issues of Holosphere. We'll tell
them who is active, but we're only
going to give them a particular area and
who they should contact. That's what
we do in the consultations.
What is the policy in terms of
updating your information?
A lot of people call us for information,
not consultations. We tell them we
produce a Holography Directory of
everybody who has asked to be listed.
Some people don't want to be listed--
some known people in the field who are
obviously active. They don't want to
Is that being updated annually?
More than annually. Probably
quarterly. It's on-the computer and we
just re-issue it. We're always correcting
What about education? You have the
artist-in-residence program, the
program instituted last
year with artists coming in. What about
other possibilities? I know Scott Lloyd
has his arts-in-education program.
That's a very complicated and well
(LL: The program
has been funded by the New York State
Council on the Arts, which awarded the Museum a
$,15, 000 grant this year and will most
likely fund the program next year also.
The Museum is working with 20 school
districts in New York State, providing
them with services which include an
equipment-lend ing program and the
skills of a dozen or so artists available
in New York to teach. Scott visits the
schools and advises them on the nuts
and bolts of building a lab and making
holograms. He later arranges for artists
to visit the schools and work with the
I think it's very exciting.
Scott has become our outside
person. He's running the outreach
efforts. We do these programs
primarily for the school system in New
York State. Kent Alexander is our on-
site instructor for school groups who
come in. We'll do special projects if we
are asked or if we get funded.
We all know there are Sam and Dan
here in New York City, but that is
pretty much it in terms of courses. Are
there any thoughts ahead in terms of
We are pretty much tied up with our staff
and equipment as it is. Scott's trying to
get more equipment in here so that we
can do more workshops for teachers in
particular. If we are successful, then
we'll do it. The problem with public
education is that there's no limit to the
needs and to the extent to which it can
grow. We are consciously limited in
some ways. We could have another
instructor; we could have twice as many
school groups coming in. It would be
chaotic here and we don't have the
money for it anyway.
What about moving and expanding the
space? You just renewed the lease here.
There's two dimensions to that. The
ideal thing would be two locations--a
midtown location that would include
galleries and bookstore. Then we would
maintain this place as the artists'
centre, as our laboratory, testing and
development centre. There would be
works here to be seen also but we know
from our own research that if we were
located where there were more people,
we would triple our attendance. So it
would be very attractive for us to
expand the studio and instructional and
artists' programs that we do here.
Is that a real possibility?
It will be luck. Finding real estate in
New York City is always luck and
contacts. As the board continues to
grow and expand, that strengthens our
Who's on the board now?
We're developing into a very
international board, as some of our
trustees who have been our good friends
are far flown, Posy being one. Posy's
here for the summer, and then she goes
down to Florida. Jim Schlagheck from
American Express is now stationed in
Milan after a tour in Sri Lanka, but we
keep in good contact with him. And we
keep adding to the board. It's the usual
crosssection of a museum boardroom.
We've got bankers, some people from
the field, a laser physicist, a person
from Sir John who defies
categorization. We have some public
relations people, a former executive of
A.T.& T.-- it's a good cross-section.
Back to exhibitions again. In terms of
your reduced schedule for artists, you'll
still be showing them in the smaller
area but the applications show will go
on in the other area.
That first six-month period of time, our
capacity to show artists' work will be
diminished by virtue of the emphasis
on display holography
Can artists with new work still
Oh sure, goodness. Absolutely. We
always want to see new work and know
what's going on for future potential
feature shows or group shows or theme
shows. We've got an exhibition
schedule through 1989. Right now,
this comprises some kind of blend
because every two years there is this
show about applications. But in
between, there are slots for one-person
shows, group shows, theme shows.
Do you have a policy regarding what you
sell in the bookstore?
We limit it to things directly related to
holography or the exhibitions. Which
is why you see anaglyphic work there.
Normally we wouldn't have those, but
as long as this exhibition is up it's
But in terms of someone who is maybe
manufacturing in small quantities and
so on, what is your criterion for
Ideally, it's quality and saleability We
would like to have a variety of products
out there. There are more vendors
throughout the country now. We're no
longer unique as an outlet for the
distribution of holographic products.
You were doing a good trade with
wholesale at one time. Do you still do
We do still do wholesale, but again, as
the manufacturers become more visible
they don't really need to go to us. I'm
interested in developing our own
Can you do that within the mandate of
Oh sure. For example, we worked with
Jodie on that Halley's comet piece for
F.A.O. Schwartz. We've been very
successful with that joint venture. It's a
timely piece; it's a good hologram and
it's a Museum product that we share
with him. I'd like to do more of that,
but like anything, you need some
capital up front. I don't know how
often we can do that. It takes a lot of
time to put those things together.
That's a job in itself
Would the lab downstairs be utilized to
The first priority of the lab is the
artist-in-residence program, but when
they are not using it, we should use it to
create our own product and do some
testing and research. It's a good way to
amortize the expense of that lab.
You are probably going to have more
expenses maintaining the lab.
We are working on that now. We'll see
what we can do. But again we first look
for donations to upgrade and maintain
In the past the Museum has been a
focal point for the holographic
community. There seems to be less here
It's true we're not giving any lectures or
special programs beyond our
exhibitions. It's one of the areas we've
cut back on. Everybody is
and another program at night is a
strain. There are very few areas where
we can control how much energy we
spend or how much things cost. That's
one of them. If I could get a grant to
pay a staff person to do that, that would
be fine. But that's the primary reason
why we trimmed things back.
There's a feeling of alienation in the
community because there are less
openings, less going on in terms of
contact with the Museum for those
sorts of events. There are lots of new
people in the Museum. Lots of old faces
have left. There's this distance between
the holographers and the Museum.
How do you feel about this?
Well, it's a hard question to answer. I
think our programs are more focused
and less expansive than they used to
be. We work very intensely with fewer
people rather than all over. It's
certainly not helped with the current
vacancy of the curator. I don't know
how many people I can go to see; I
don't know how many trips I can take;
which is the best way for me to get out
to see what's happening. It's nice to put
a name and a face together, as people
are passing through. They do stop by
here. The greatest service we can do the
holographic community is to keep the
programs alive and well. One of the
things we are working hard on now is
the content of Holosphere. The next
issue will print the report from the New
York State Council for the Arts' funding
on architecture, and I explain how
architects are using holography The
more that we can do that, the better. But
I would rather see us strengthen our
existing programs before adding
something which dilutes the programs
and dilutes the energy, like a lecture
series at night. It's more important to make sure that the exhibitions
and Holosphere are first rate.
But if you have the support of the
artistic community, then you may
have more energy coming in to help
maintain these programs.
What do you mean by that?
People volunteer; people participate
The best way they can help is by
talking the place up, bringing their
friends here, calling attention to us by
pointing out the quality programming
But if they feel alienated and distant,
that is less likely to occur.
It's one thing to be overtly alienating,
which I don't think we are. I'm not
telling people to go, that I'm not
interested in their work. However,
there's a limit to how many places we can visit.
The staff is getting smaller and while
our income is better than ever, our
expenses are higher than ever. All our
insurance rates have gone up incredibly.
It's the cost of the operation--we take
two steps forward and two steps back.
It's not just holography. This museum's
problems are no different than any other
museum; in some ways we are in a much
healthier position. Our earned income
situation is very enviable compared to
many museums. We are not so
dependent on grants. We may lose
support from the foundations-- they
won't stay with you forever--but we can
absorb that. Let me come back to a
question I never answered before, that is
the idea of a broader mandate beyond
holography and whether that would
dilute the emphasis. I think it's very
important that that not be
misunderstood. You asked about long-
range thinking and ideas. That is a long-
range thought and a long-range idea. It's
a concept we are going to test before we
make any changes. Again, it isn't going
to be a diluting; it will be adding on new
dimensions. It's like a fruit seller
deciding he wants to sell vegetables
too. It's all in the same family of art. If
somebody gives me 5100,000 to start a
computer art program, a fair portion of
that will pay for the overhead of this
place, which will help support
everything that is already here.
A $100, OOO grant still isn't the kind
of money that will launch you into a
bigger space. But presumably part of
that will be the desire to exhibit that
kind of work too.
We are going to exhibit that kind of
work. The show we are scheduling for
March 1987 is a three-part exhibition.
The main thesis behind this show is
that there is a terrible bias against
technology-based art forms. Critics
don't like it, curators don't like it, jurors on grant-making panels don't like
it. Video has opened the door a little
bit. Compared to computer art,
holography looks pretty good. The art
establishment really despises what's
going on with computers. Another
difficulty is to define a critical
language. There's barely any vocabulary
for understanding or writing about these
art forms, including holography. And
it's partly because nobody's trained in
it. You don't go to school and see much
of this. The course I'm offering is unique
in terms of how I deal with my students
and what they see and read. So we are
doing a show which is intended to help
develop some language. The essayist
will be an editor from Art in America,
Donald B. Kuspit, who has a great
interest in technology-based art and is
an extremely prolific writer, and well
respected as an art critic. He has agreed
to write an essay on this topic about
three media--also about why writers,
artists and teachers are so biased against
it or disinterested in it. The three media
are holography, computer art and video.
We'll have an exhibition of three equal
parts. Three special installations and
probably six other works--two by
computer, two video, two holography,
nine altogether as the show.
My concern is that with such a shortage of
space for the exhibition of holography, this
takes away from actual time and space to show
new holographic work.
Not at all. If anything, this show will
strengthen holography by calling
attention and hopefully articulating
some new values. It's a lot like our Art
Forum cover. We didn't want a
holographer to do the Art Forum cover.
We worked with Lucas Samaras. Yet we
got holography on the cover of one of
the most respected art journals in this
country. And by a first-rate artist, who
worked with Dan, which was fine. They
would only have done it for Samaras, I
know that. The way that whole deal was
set up was that I had talked to Lucas
about doing a hologram. He had
expressed interest because he's doing
lots of experimental polaroid art and it's
very interesting technically Terrific
thing for holography. Sure it would
have been nice to have seen somebody
who has dedicated their whole life to
holography doing it, but it was not
possible. It might be possible in the
future. They are interested in doing a
story on holography at some point and
that would be of direct benefit to
holographers, to see some covers like
I was curious about that Art Forum cover.
Although the hologram was on the
cover and there was a little bit inside
about Lucas Samaras, there was
nothing written about it, no
accompanying article. National
Geographic did a whole article on it.
Not the second time.
But they had covered that once and
they put the hologram in a different
context the second time. Thy used it in
something applicable to a topic they
What you have in Art Forum is the
reverse of this. I certainly can't speak
for their editorial policy, but they
would like to do a story on holography
and they are looking for a writer.
Again, they were thrilled. Everyone
involved with it was very happy and it's
a good inroad to catch their attention.
My po sition is that first it has to be
good art. That's what I would like to see
more and more of in holography.
Stronger and stronger work, more and
more artists involved. This is a very
What about the permanent exhibition?
Well, that's a live space and we
constantly rotate a lot of work. We
often send things to the two traveling
shows. We get about four times the
number of people who come here to see
our shows on the road and last year was
about 10 times the number because of
our very successful show in
Washington. One of them--Through
the Looking Glass --has seen 10
years of travel, and it's still interesting.
We are constantly upgrading, adding
new pieces, putting some things into
storage. That's a long history. It's been
a very successful venture.
Do you have much contact with other
museums of holography?
It's hard. No, there are people that
I'm aware of, and they are aware of us.
We hear about them through
holographers who drop in while they
are in New York.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We've got a wonderful staff. My
assistant director and business manager
is Joe Caron, who has the formidable
task of looking after all our numbers.
Patrick Sadowsky is public relations
director. Scott Lloyd is our most
informed in terms of holography and
Kent Alexander is editor of Holosphere
and instructor. Aric Obrosey is our
technician. We have bookstore staff:
Peter Boynton in charge, and Rachel
Weinstein and Mark Holen. Ann Castro
is the best office manager we've ever had, which
makes a tremendous difference for
Holosphere's subscriptions. Mona
Rubin is working part time as a
fundraiser and we plan to hire another
fundraiser. And I have a part-time
registrar, Molly Moreno, who's
excellent. (LL: David did forget
someone--longterm survivor Mary
Duffy, who has been there part time
through most of the Museum's ups and
You have just catalogued the
collection. Is it possible to get
information about it?
Sure. We've just done the work sheets.
It will be entered into our computer and
by fall we'll have a printout available
for a modest fee to anybody who wants
it. I'd like to get it out because it may
well be that holographers familiar with
the piece will catch something and say
"You've got it wrong here". Our records
are based on what we found in the files
and what Posy largely remembers. She,
more than anybody, had the hands on
bringing pieces into the collection.
The collection grew at an amazing rate.
It's a very interesting tool to know
Just because it's here doesn't mean it is
available. A lot of the pieces are too
fragile, too precious. It's not worth the
risk to loan them. They are our Mona