1.2 Glossary of light technology (2006)
creator(s) Franziska Herzog(conservator)

In the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, an exhibition entitled ‘light art from artificial light’ took place from the autumn of 2005 until the summer of 2006. The aim of this exhibition was to provide an encyclopaedic overview of light art from its beginnings up to the present day. This overview display provided the conservators with a fascinating insight into a multitude of various light art objects and thereby an introduction to various light sources ranging from the ‘classic’ light bulb on up to ‘modern’ LEDs.
For the installation of the exhibition, the conservation team of the ZKM were set the challenge of recording all of these types of objects. In the course of the nine months presentation, the conservators had to document all forms of changes in the works of art. It became evident that none of the familiar documentation models could be used. At the beginning of the exhibition, which included ca. 380 objects, the basic knowledge of the specialist terms used in electrical and light technology was lacking. The intensive maintenance work during the show led to the necessary increase in this knowledge. From this came the idea of compiling the acquired experience and making it available for all conservators.

As a result, a glossary of light technology has been created which should provide a simplified overview of the specialist terms in lighting technology (see the downloads). The main focus is on the description of lamps because they represent an important part of light art objects. Terminology for light installations and their effect in a space were not dealt with.
The resulting PDF file does not claim to be complete. There were limitations and contradictions in the available literature, which made defining certain terms difficult. While developing this glossary it became apparent that although there are European codes for light technology, they vary in each country of the European Community. The explanations compiled here are based mostly on German standards. This glossary should make the documentation of lighting objects easier for conservators as it names and explains the important terms. The respective condition reports of objects must be individually tailored to the respective works of art, of course. In the Karlsruhe exhibition there were works of art which corresponded to light technology and technical safety standards. On the other hand, there were numerous artistic, individual solutions, which in no way fulfilled these standards.

Finally, many thanks to all those, who made the resulting glossary possible. Special thanks to the ZKM | Centre for Art and Media and its management, especially to the team of the museum and exhibition technical service, also the IT management and the facility management, and finally the EGMS translation service.

Click download for ‘Glossary of Light Technology’ (pdf in English and German)
Click external link for the exhibition ‘Lichtkunst als Kunstlicht’

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