Art and Amps: Getting Media Works Up and Running

Uncrated tracked down DMA staffer Lance Lander to talk about his job at the Museum, which often involves climbing in and out of holes in the sheetrock of our gallery ceilings and walls.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.

I am the Collections Media Technician and an Assistant Preparator. I design, install, manage, and maintain all of the technology hardware used within the galleries. Additionally, I provide support to the preparators in all facets of art handling.

What might an average day entail?

For me there is no average day. One day I am hanging paintings in a gallery and the next day I am running cables through the ceiling. There are days that I work in the Carpentry Shop building crates, and then there are days that I spend programming computers.


How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?

The best part of my job is the team of people I work with directly (Martha, Elia, Mary, Vince, Brian, Doug, John, Mike, and Russell). Everyone is extremely talented and supportive of one another. Each person has his or her own niche or skill set and together as a group we are very strong. We all work well together and have a lot of fun at the same time.

The biggest challenges are dealing with so many forms of technology and keeping the equipment running. I deal with technology ranging from the 1960s to the present day. Some of the works in our collections rely on the equipment they were created with. We can’t just upgrade and “digitize” a work of art. We must maintain the integrity and aesthetic of the work. Technology changes at such a fast rate that it is hard to balance between our needs today and our needs for the future. We have started adding high-definition videos to our collections, so the equipment we use on current works won’t accommodate these new ones. The Museum is open fifty-two hours a week and sometimes more, so I need industrial equipment and creative ways to automate everything.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?

Growing up I always wanted to be a recording engineer and producer. That’s what got me interested in technology. I loved recording music on jam boxes and then four-track cassette recorders. I would spend hours experimenting with sounds and recording techniques. I would take apart electronics just to have a peek inside. I studied music and engineering, and I worked in several studios and made some really nice-sounding records. I was lured to the DMA as a live sound engineer when they began the Late Night program.

What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collections?

That would be Ave, by Mark Di Suvero. It is powerful, poetic, simple, and elegant. The sculpture was made the year I was born and I have a strong affection for it. Last year someone cable locked his bicycle to it and I was the one who cut the lock!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?

Fast Forward was the exhibition that made the Exhibitions and Collections departments realize the importance of having a Media Technician. I was working in the Audio Visual Department and gallery installations were just a side part of that job. The media installations were just thrown together with little or no concern for aesthetic or function. Fast Forward was my chance to show everyone that media installations could be better. I always strive to show an artist’s work as best I can because I know it will enhance the visitor’s experience. But for me, personally, the world won’t listen by Phil Collins was the most rewarding installation. There were many challenges and problems to solve, and right at the end everything came together. It was a beautiful installation and people really loved it. It will probably be awhile before we take on such a large-scale video installation. As far as future installations, I would like to see the Museum install Bill Viola’s The Crossing. I installed it a few years ago in Palm Springs, and when everything is set and you play it for the first time it is a chilling experience. I remember coming to the DMA in 1998, when the work debuted, but at that point in time I never knew I would work here or be responsible for such a magnificent work of art. I believe it is the strongest video in the DMA’s collections and I hope to install it soon.


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