WAVEFRONT Issue Fall 1986


LINDA LAW: How do you see the
Museum of Holography, now that you have had
some time away from it?

to see for the Museum what I wanted to
see five years ago. It should be a centre
for what is the best and most
interesting in holography. It should be
very involved with the newest research
stuff and it should;l be an advocate for
holography within the field. It needs an
interested, committed staff, who are the
best at what they are doing in terms of
their relationship to holography in the
museum world. It should be a real
museum. There is a real need to collect
and preserve, interpret and educate. It
used to have a fabulous collection; it
still could have a fabulous collection.
It's missed out on about four years of
work, which is some of the most
exciting work, but that is just a case of
money and availability to pick up
pieces. It needs to recommit itself to
being the centre of what's happening,
to being a nonpartisan island in the
middle of holography and to really
having an interest in what's happening
in the field.

In the last couple of years, the Museum
has gone more towards catering to the
lowest common denominator of the
general public and possibly a bunch of
special interests. It's been working
with people that a non-profit
organization should not be having
projects with. There's always been a
potential problem for conflict of
interest or a commercial twinge.
Certainly people ought to be able to
come in and look at what's up on the
walls. I don't want to know what they
say to their clients, but the Museum of
Holography shouldn't be selling to
commercial people or doing
commercial projects. That is not what a
non-partisan educational institution

What it can do is put people together. I
don't see why the museum can't be a
consultant as long as those doing the
consulting have the highest moral and
ethical level. It's got to be done on the
basis of merit. When someone comes in
with a commercial job, you have an
obligation to tell them everybody who
is very good and not pick favorites and
play games. I think a a lot of that has
been going on. While I was at the
Museum we developed a list -- which
changed from time to time as the quality
of work changed--of who did the best
integral holograms, who we felt did the
best embossed work, who we felt did the
best reflection plates, white-light
transmission plates and large plates.
That list did not necessarily reflect
individual opinion. It was a consensus
of opinions from Museum people with experience
in the field. That list was available
only to people who paid consultancies,
so there was no private deal-making.

Right now, there don't seem to be
enough experienced people in the
Museum to do such consultancies.

Scott Lloyd and Kent Alexander are the
only two people who could tell you. I
don't even know if they publish the
Holography Directory any more.

It 's on computer.

Has it been updated in the last couple of

David Katzive said they update it. They
expect people to send in updates.

Well that's a crock. You have to send
the thing out once a year and ask for
updates. I'm disappointed that so many
things I really felt were important and
really cared about haven't been kept up.
It has always been very important to me
that the Museum collect work because I
felt that was its real purpose--to collect
archives, to collect the history, to
collect the work. That's information as
well as holograms -- buying books,
gathering and keeping information and
making it available. I don't even know
where the library is any more. Granted,
the library was always pretty funky, but
it was a library. We had a clipping
service--Andy Pepper had spent a
whole year cataloging the thing. I
don't think the clipping service has
been kept up. Holosphere is... I don't
know what it is; I mean it's nothing.
I'm really delighted that Wavefront has
done something, but it disappoints me
that the Museum couldn't hold on to
what it had. There's no reason for that.
If it is going to be the centre for
information, then it ought to be able to
publish that information easily. But it
hasn't become the kind of place where
people want to go to talk so there isn't
a free flow of information any more. So
I'm upset that it's not collecting work
and keeping up its archives. I'm upset
that it's not buying holograms from
artists because they needed that
financial support. We paid them $5 a
month for 50 years or whatever it was,
but we made a commitment to buy
pieces at market value. That established
a market value back when there was no
market, except what the Museum paid
for something. We got an incredible
collection at very reasonable prices,
because we were paying over time. So
we've benefited a hundredfold.

I wish that Holosphere could really be-
come more of a communicator in the
field. You can't pick up the New York
Times once a week without finding the
word "holography" in it. That is light
years away from what it was 10 years
ago and yet we have a magazine that's
worse now than it was when the Museum
started, when there was very little to
report. I'm disappointed in the status of
the Museum in the community. I worked
very hard to make it a place that
holographers respected, a place where
they would come when they were in New
York to see new work, to talk to people
in the Museum, to find out what was
going on. But it's a shell; there's no
substance there any more. No one
knows anything about holography there
and you get the feeling that no one
really cares. David has made absolutely
no effort to get to know the field, even
just the New York holographers. This
show of New York holographers is a
joke. An awful lot of people got left out
of that show. It's like a show of New
York holographers by a blind man
who's been living in Alaska for 50 years
who just skipped through town briefly,
saw four people and put their work in the
show. The most important thing that
should have been said in that show is
what is New York holography? It's a
style of holography that has come up
over the last few years. One technique
flourished, partly because the
instability of the environment precluded
reflection holography, and partly
because of Steve Benton's white-light
course that Abe (Resney) and Steve
Cohen did years ago. There's certainly
something about it that's typical of New
York. You know, these people draw a lot
from the fragmented energy of New
York, but a lot of that must go into
these people's work. And they influence
each other. Doris's piece is derivative of
a lot of other influences and Sam and
Dan and Rudie and Hale and Dave Klein
and Jody and Serge and Becky. Everybody
has contributed to the New York thing.
And nowhere in that show was there a
little essay about the New York school.
I know it sounds sort of facetious,
trying to push art history onto a
subject that's not ready for it yet, but
it's there. There is a California
holography, there's a Canadian
holography, there's an English school.
It's silly to avoid what you know is
already happening. We were always
taking chances, and we fell on our asses
a lot. You can't get much more out there
than trying to write a history of
holography into an exhibition. That's
outrageously presumptuous but
somebody had to do it. Somebody
had to be the first person to nail up the
dartboard so everybody else could
throw darts at it. Because we are still at
the stage where no one has written it
down yet. You pick up the history by
the tracks people leave in the sand. And
you might read the tracks wrong so it's
a good idea while we are still around to
have people correct us and say: "No,
that isn't what happened."

What do you think about the role of the
Museum in education?

Well, part of the definition of being a
museum, aside from collecting and
preserving, is interpreting and
educating. I was just talking about
interpreting exhibitions--that's
education. You don't just put four
holograms up in the room and say
"Here!" That may be what a gallery
does, but it's not what a museum does. A
museum says: "We put these pieces
together because we felt they had this
particular thing to say about
themselves, about the artists, about
holography." I shouldn't yell at David
because people yelled at me for not
doing it. Well, I did it sporadically. You
walk into the Museum and there isn't
even anything up there to tell you how
to look at a hologram. I'm sure there are
people who walk through the Museum
who see everything red. And there are
little kids who have been yelling at
their mothers for an hour: "I can't see
anything, Mom!" "Shut up, of course
you can." She assumes the kid can see
exactly what she's looking at. That's
ridiculous. There's no comprehensive
educational program, absolutely none.
The Museum isn't using its collection
and resources to talk of holography's
use and impact and importance in the
world, which are maybe more important
to tell people than how to make a
hologram. You spend an hour telling
people how to make them and then
someone asks a question, so in the last three sentences
you zip through 35 years of
applications. That's not right. We are
supposed to be there to tell people what
holography is all about, how you look
at it, what it is, how it happens and
what it does in the real world. They
should have some concept of why an
artist would be interested in using that
medium creatively. What are some of
the ideas, the areas that artists are
playing with creatively around the
world? What are scientists doing with
holography now, what are they
researching? What are their dreams of
what holography can do and what are
the hard-core applications? Someone's
version of holography should not be a
printed hologram on a credit card.
Those cards are probably in the wallets
of three-quarters of the people in the
world. I bet not even one quarter of
them know what that is. That would be
really interesting to people. When Ed
Bush or I were giving a lecture on the
applications of holography, there was
always someone in the audience who
had just had a cataract operation and she
wanted to know about argon lasers and
the medical applications of
holography. There isn't even a mention
of it in the Museum. There is no update
on the history. There is no focus, no
goals for that place. It doesn't know
what it is there for, what it should be
doing. The staff don't know what it is
that they represent. They don't know
anything about holography.

It wouldn't take that much to get the
Museum back on track. It would just
take somebody who really cares, who's
actually going to be there every day.
Who will motivate the staff, encourage
them and keep the thing going forward
and set up a series of goals for the
Museum. It is pathetic to me that 10
years after the Museum started, when
the field is more exciting and has more
promise than anyone dreamed even five
years ago, the Museum is at its lowest
ebb. It's worse now than it was when we
started. It's not getting funding by
some of the major corporations
involved in holography because it's so
fractured and it's so obviously on a
downward spiral.

David says the Museum is getting
more funding now than it ever was.

But if you look at the financial record
you will find that in every aspect the
Museum is worse today than it has ever
been. Worse. The bookstore makes less
money than it ever did, yet there is
more product to sell in 1986 than there
ever was. It's insane that the bookstore isn't
doing 10 times better. If you walked in
there you'd think the only thing made
commercially was dichromates and
diffraction grating earrings. That's so
far from reality, it's pathetic. And yet
there are people at the Museum doing
incredibly good work in the middle of
all this chaos and negativity

According to people who have been through
the A. I. R. program and from my own
experience there recently with Stuart Wilson,
the equipment needs replacing. Parts wear
out, it needs upgrading, the atmosphere is--

I'm not sure the atmosphere ever really
was contusive to doing good work. It is
very difficult to run a lab in the
basement of a museum, in an old
building where hundreds of
schoolchildren come in yelling and
screaming and stomping around in the
middle of your exposure. Most people
worked at night when we weren't around,
but even so, I think it was a noble
experiment. It was wonderful because we
got to know the artists; we got to
understand a little more about the trials
and tribulations of making holograms
and they got to know a little bit more
about who we were and what we did at
the Museum. That was fabulous. But the
making of holograms was not too good.
They were very hampered by having to
work around our schedules and the
physical handicaps of being in a public
building ten hours a day.

If I had it to do over again, I'd probably
do the same thing. But I say that with
mixed feelings because part of the value
of being in New York was that people
who hadn't been to New York before or
don't get here regularly were able to see
New York holographers, go to museums
and be in New York. If it were out in the
country somewhere they would not have
had that much access to other
holographers. It is always going to be a
double-edged sword because you try to
pack too much into the program. You
try to pack in a lot of social stuff
because you want them to get as much
as they can out of bei n g where they are
because nobody can afford to travel that
often. But the reality is that the more
successful programs now are in labs
where people are isolated enough. They
know ahead of time that they are not
going to be doing a lot of socializing
and they are there to work and they get
a tremendous amount done. Not j ust
because they are not distracted but
because the physical layout is more
stable and they are able to do a lot
more. If the Museum is going to
continue to support artists on that
basis (I believe it should), it ought to
move the facility to another location.
Maybe the Museum should re-evaluate
its goals. Are its current goals to give
people in the field an opportunity or
are its goals to give people who have
never worked in the medium the
opportunity to learn holography, or a
mixture of both? There are a lot more
artists who want to make a hologram
and there are a lot more people in the
general public who would like to make
a hologram. Maybe more importantly,
here in the New York area there aren't
any schools, so we are being forced to
take up the slack for people who are no
longer teaching. There is no school. If
there were, it would take the burden off
the Museum of dealing with the people
in the middle. Then we could do what we
did for the last 10 years, which was to
deal with the people at either end--the
holographers and the general public.

Personally, I don't think the Museum is
a school. It is an educational
institution. We shouldn't be teaching
holography there. We made a
commitment early on to provide certain
services to the field, to be an advocate
for the field and to help the field in
certain areas. I think we have to keep
doing that, because that's our centre;
that's our lifeblood; that's the soul of
the Museum. It should be a
holographer's museum, a place where,
even a hundred years from now, a
holographer can walk through the door,
have somebody at least know the name
if not the face, sit down and have a
coffee. Otherwise it's not doing its job.
It's not representing holography and it
may as well be a museum of art and
technology. It's supposed to present
this field to the general public. We are
supposed to be the initial turn-on for
people. Once they are turned on, they
go to a more specialized place.
Unfortunately, there aren't any, but that
is not our problem. We've taken on that
problem and that's not good. We've lost our
focus and we've become very diluted as
a result. The Museum needs to
accurately assess what kinds of services
holographers need. Do they still need a
directory? It seems to me that they need
a good resource library.

I brought up the cataloging of the
collection with David. This could be a
valuable resource. He said it will be out
some time in the future.

He can call it cataloging but what he
handed me was a series of forms that I
now have to fill in, with artist, title,
date, type of piece, the meaning of the
piece, facts on its background. I
wouldn't call the collection catalogued
by a long shot. I would call it
numbered. It's going to take a while
because I have to go through them
myself. Nobody else knows what they
are. And that's my fault. I lay myself
firmly down on the railroad tracks for
that one. I just never had time to sit
down and catalogue every piece, even
though we didn't buy them that often. I
regret that because now it is very
difficult to go back and get it all right.

One of the real benefits the Museum
could do is publish a book with
photographs of pieces in the
collection. It is a considerable resource,
not just for holographers to know what
work exists, but for other museums who
might want to borrow work for
exhibitions. There is a whole series of
things that the Museum ought to do for
holographers. It certainly ought to
publish a decent magazine; it certainly
ought to put on exhibitions that are as
interesting and valuable to
holographers as they are to the general
public. The library we talked about. The
artist-in-residence program ought to be
reevaluated in terms of 1. the
holographic community's needs for
such a program, 2. the Museum's goals
as an educational facility The Museum
is supposed to be an international
resource. It doesn't need to teach
holography to a high school in New
York City. That's too localized. That's
too concentrated an effort for too long a
time when you've basically got only
one person working in the education
department. You've got to go for the
broad brushstrokes. The Museum could
better spend its time coming up with
two or three small brochures that are
well researched and well produced, one
that explains holography and its
history, one on its applications and a
catalogue. These resources could be used
when someone wants to put on an
exhibition or a school wants to get into
holography They could buy the
literature from the Museum and
distribute it. That way we get our
outreach without sending a human being
in to do an individualized lecture, which
is very time-consuming and labor-
intensive. I'm trying very hard not to
insert myself back into the Museum.
You're either there or you're not. You
don't go away and say "I've done all I
can", and then start manipulating. I've
done all I can do. I can't give it any
more. I do not have the skills to take it
any higher.

What qualities would you like to see in a
new curator? The ad in the current issue
of Holosphere ask for someone with a
background in art and technology,
particularly computer graphics and

Really? How appropriate! (laughter) I
think whoever curates for this interim
period ought to know something about
holography. Once the goals are set for
what the Museum wants to be and what
it wants to tell everyone about
holography, manifesting those goals
through exhibitions and educational
programs that complement the
exhibitions should be a pretty easy
thing to do. I think the Museum will
continue for some time to

represent commercial holography,
industrial holography, the scientific and
the technical end of holography as well
as the creative end, and the shows
should represent that. I would be
disappointed if the Museum did not do
serious art shows. I would be
disappointed if the Museum didn't do
serious application shows. I don't think
there should be a show until there
is a new director, until it has some
new funding, a couple of traveling
locations to go to and it's a real Bam!
The Museum should start doing
things with the same
commitment to quality and
professionalism as shows done outside
the Museum by people like (British
curator) Eve Ritscher. It's easier to
raise money for a traveling
exhibition that's got a great gate than
for a thing that stands in one place. The
Museum needs to make a commitment to
conceive these shows well, sell them to
corporate sponsors, then turn around
and sell them to locations around the
country. So that an exhibition of say,
The Applications of
Holography, goes to six different
locations and you can actually profit.

Would you like to sum up by talking a little
about what qualities you would like to see in a
new director?

I think I should do this in order of
importance. A real strong personality,
who really cares about the Museum and
what it can be and what it represents,
and who really wants to be an active
participant in its life as well as in
holography An active spokesperson for
holography out in the world.
Nonpartisan, because I think that can be
very, very important. Someone who
gets along well with people in the field
and who cares about getting to know
them and finding out what they think,
and more importantly, putting some of
that to work. And somebody who
understands education and what a good
exhibition is. Who understands the
marketability of holography in all the
right ways, not the commercial selling
of the Museum's assets for whatever
gain, but the solid marketability of a
very interesting topic. How to sell it
with class and dignity and quality
information. Somebody who's got a
really solid business head who can make
the Museum work as a business. It's a
good business. It's not going to be the
best money maker in the world but it
ought to be able to provide a decent
income for 10 or 12 people, do good
programs and not be expensive to run.

The makeup of the board of directors
of the Museum of Holography is as

John Bliss
Bliss, Barefoot and Associates

Gordon Townley Bowden
Management Consultant

Elizabeth Clark
Bank of New York

Mary Ann Crawford
Deloitte, Haskins and Sells

Rosemary Jackson-Smith
Founder, Museum of Holography

Dr. Herwig Kogelnick
Bell Telephone Laboratories

Floyd Lattin
Bankers Trust

David Lawrence Lee
David Lee Communications

Sir John Manniello
New York Institute of Technology

Robert Rothenberg
Marston and Rothenberg

James Schlagheck
American Express