DARIAH Connectivity Day at Re: Trace Conference for the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology, Nov 23-25
The 7th international conference for the histories of media art, science and technology featured a DARIAH connectivity day on Nov 25 at the Academy of Sciences in Vienna to discuss media art as part of our Digital Cultural Heritage, the challenges of its preservation and the role of (digital) infrastructures.
The diverse challenges in documenting and preserving media art online and offline constitute one of the most important discourses within the various disciplines from art history, image sciences to information and computer studies, which are all part of the transdisciplinary sphere of media art. Due to its dynamic, ephemeral, complex and/or processual structure and conditionality founded in digital technologies as both its medium and subject, media art cannot be preserved like object-oriented art, but any method of documentation and preservation must acknowledge it as part of a dynamic memory culture. As an important part of our Digital Cultural Heritage, media art can be both born-digital art as well as an image-carrier for digitised cultural artefacts. How can we archive this art, which fathoms and critically reflects technologies such as surveillance software, database algorithms and cybernetics as well as subjects such as body politics, social media and internet infrastructures of the Digital Age? How can we understand and acknowledge it as both a computational artefact as well as art historical work? The transdisciplinary approach of media art calls for new methods, infrastructures and networks in art preservation, for which the DARIAH Connectivity day at the Re: Trace international conference offered a platform.
The theoretical and practical challenges of archiving media art were put into perspective by bringing together different stakeholders (scholars, artists, institutions) to discuss solutions for preservation methods in the long run in- and outside of museums, and underline the importance of network strategies. As outlined in the DARIAH Re-Use Charter, future strategies and networks were discussed to archive media art as comprehensively as possible, and with open science methods to share media art with the public as active participant. Lectures and interactive discussions were held on these topics with sessions on preservation strategies and dynamic archiving, and a Roundtable. In a poster presentation over 20 emerging scholars from all over the world presented their theories, practices and research tools for media art archiving.
The introductory keynote from Sarah KENDERDINE (EPFL, CH) – one of the key researchers in Digital Cultural Heritage and co-editor of the book “Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage“ (2007) – portrayed the different ways in which digital technologies are used to mediate cultural heritage works and sites and create immersive virtual experiences. Kenderdine also discussed how interpretative communities in often multicultural cities constructed meaning during their experience of these environments, stressing the importance of allowing viewers to become active participants of her artworks.
In the first session “Collection – Archiving – Preservation”, the theoretical implications underlying media art archiving were analysed in order to be able to critically reflect them with preservation strategies. The four lecturers discussed recent tendencies in media art theory and aesthetics, and the relationship to archiving methods and exhibition strategies.
Francesca FRANCO (Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, IT) presented curatorial practices from the exhibition “Algorithmic Signs”, which thematised early media art from the 1960s and 70s. Focussing on the relationship between computer programming, art and creativity, she argued for exhibiting media art by combining practices from contemporary art with interactive methods to incorporate media art more deeply into the discourses of contemporary art while being able to exhibit them in their intended implementation within a museum space.
Giselle BEIGUELMAN (FAU-USP, BR) questioned the sheer possibility of archiving media art in its conceptual and aesthetic core, and not only its outer appearance. While analysing media art archives as databases to document the past, she argued for net artworks such as her own to be always processual and ephemeral and thereby situated in the space of the possible. Current methods such as screen recordings can document the web design of media artworks, but not the artwork itself. Beiguelman argued for an archive of the possible, in which this ephemerality is integrated into archiving practices.
From museum practices and artistic perspectives, Janina HOTH (ADA, AT) took a step back to look at these complex set of questions from a scholar’s point of view. After presenting several methods of documentation for media art, she critically reflected them upon archive theory by questioning the ideals of originality and authorship in regards to the collaborative and modular structures of media artworks. While these concepts are still central in archiving practices, they have been disputed in media art theory. Regarding data re-use and the openness of media artworks as part of a dynamic memory culture, Hoth suggested an approach to media art artefacts not as original objects but open and re-usable data to not only archive media art in its current state but document its interactive and processual structure.
Annet DEKKER (Tate, UK) presented examples of light and dark archiving in artistic practices by introducing artworks, in which questions of data storage and archiving methods have become the subject of investigation in terms of data re-use, open access as well as restricted dark archives. Her analysis proved once more, how artistic practice, scholarly analysis and technological research are intertwined.
In the second session “dynamic archiving”, artists and scholars from European and international key institutions presented their archive projects. Anne-Marie DUGUET (Sorbonne, FR) talked about “anarchive” – an archival project for media art even before Jacques Derrida’s canonical book “Archive Fever” was published. She stressed the importance of integrating artists into the archival process of their own work, and argued for individual methods based on the single media artworks.
George LEGRADY (UC Santa Barbara, US), a pioneering artist for media art, presented visualisation techniques from his artistic work from more than two decades. Legrady worked with different kinds of archival data to develop his interactive works from pre-digital photography to installation. In his artwork “Making Visible the Invisible” (2005-present), user data from the Seattle Public Library is analysed and visualised hourly. Legrady questions the archival storage system on the Internet in regard to Big Data and surveillance techniques.
Patricia FALÇAO (Tate, UK) presented preservation projects, which are applied for time-based media artworks as a museum object. The preservation focuses not only on archiving the artwork in its conceptual and aesthetic implementation, but as object for public exhibitions, too. She focused on the changes to workflows and skills that are currently being implemented to mitigate the risks for the preservation of these types of works.
In the final session of the day, a roundtable with participants from Austrian, European and international institutions discussed the role of museums and galleries for media art. Digital technology has introduced new multifarious ways of expression that change the nature of the object to be collected, as well and changing the expressive methods available for displaying and archiving collections. These new objects and the techniques used to preserve and interpret them embrace interactivity, make use of linear and non-linear structures equally, and encourage new methods and ever deepening degrees of participation.
Howard BESSER (founding director of the NYU Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, US), Max THUN-HOHENSTEIN (director, Museum for applied arts Vienna, AT) and Patricia FALÇAO stressed how museums still need to create new infrastructures to fully integrate media art into their exhibition spaces. Oliver GRAU and Wendy COONES (Department for Image Science, Danube-U, AT) demanded a revised collection policy, which acknowledges media art as part of contemporary art and requires a European-wide network of collaboration due to the newly developing and complex preservation methods. Digital art is not archived properly by museums, because its basic structures date back to a time when different artistic media prevailed. The systematic preservation requires the conjunction of museums and archives to bigger expert networks. But this possibility is not even discussed yet.
A European network of expertise could help to preserve media art by developing best-case strategies (e.g. emulation, recreation and interpretation) through empirical studies. A practice of shared responsibilities based on a federal system that needs to be supported on a governmental level can build such a network of expertise. In e.g. Germany, Bavaria could build such a network of expertise and be responsible for the preservation of interactive installations; Saxony for Bio Art, Brandenburg for net art and so forth. Austria could do the same or join and share a common framework of responsible and specially financed institutions.
Sarah KENDERDINE and Giselle BEIGUELMAN debated with audience members, whether museums are the only space for media art, and stressed the importance of online archives and exhibitions. DARIAH member Marianne PING-HUANG petitioned for an integration of online archives for media art such the Archive of Digital Art (www.digitalartarchive.at) into repositories like Europeana.
The keynote from Martin KEMP (Oxford University, UK) introduced the audience to analysing and understanding (digital) cultural heritage with media art histories methods. Kemp presented his research between scientific progress and art history on Leonardo da Vinci’s oeuvre as both artist and inventor. Proving that research and technological process in the Digital Humanities is often ahead of its time, he showed ground-breaking digital animations from the 1980s and onwards that brought Leonardo’s sketches to life and offered a new approach to his inventive studies.
In regard to the DARIAH Working Group on “Image Science and Media Art Research”, participants also discussed the necessity of network structures to bring together the different stakeholders, and combine efforts in collaborative research and funding. As a next step, a new digital community infrastructure on the Archive of Digital Art is planned in 2018. The ADA community will be expanded to incorporate institutions and offer a digital space for open dialogues between all stakeholders for media art archiving. The connectivity day also resulted in a re-evaluation of the Liverpool declaration with regards to the DARIAH re-use charter. The goals in the declaration, which was signed by over 450 researchers worldwide, were widened to adapt research infrastructures within the wider context of DARIAH.
More info and DARIAH Connectivity papers and presentation videos here