Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER

Published on February 2nd, 2015

* * * * * * * * * * * *

PhD thesis by Annet Dekker, Centre for Cultural Studies @ Goldsmiths University of London, December 2014

Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER
A study of networks, processes and ambiguity in net art and the need for an
expanded practice of conservation



Net art is one of the most viewed and experienced artforms, yet some net artworks stop functioning in less than five months. At the heart of this research lies the question of net art’s survival. While net art is hardly accounted for in museum collections – the traditional keepers of cultural heritage – this dissertation explores the material and behaviour of net art. Using a broad range of interdisciplinary resources the chapters open up key theoretical issues that rethink museum practices. Among others, this includes notions of authenticity, authorship, documentation and documents, networks, open source, performativity and processual.

Arguing for the need to reconsider traditional attitudes in museums and notions of static conservation as well as acknowledging decentralised and community-based approaches, this dissertation describes an expanded practice of conservation in the computational age. It shows how net art operates through often imperceptible or ambiguous performance of processes and is networked in various ways. It then examines the way these strategies are used and fold back into notions of authenticity, documentation and variability.

It is in addressing and answering some of the challenges facing net art that this dissertation makes a distinctive contribution to the field of conservation, curatorial studies as well as to cultural and museum analysis. At the same time, an exploration of net art’s intersections with conservation puts studies on net art into a new perspective. Consequently, the study enables more informed decisions when responding to, critically analysing or working with net art, in particular software-based processes. Surviving FOREVER means embracing rather then fearing ephemerality, loss and obsolescence.



List of illustrations

0.1. Materiality and temporality
0.2. Methodology
0.3. Structure of the argument
1. Net art
1.1. Networked
1.2. Processual
1.3. Ambiguity
1.4. From variability to assemblages
2. Conservation: moving towards variability Terminology 39
2.1. Extremes in conservation
2.2. Objectivity and scientific practice as methods for conservation in museums
2.3. Discussing conservation methods
2.4. The decline of objectivity and scientific research in conservation
2.5. A subjective truth: the significance of ‘value’ and ‘taste’ in conservation practices
2.6. Contemporary conservation theory
2.7. A short overview of new approaches and strategies in conservation
2.8. Summary and next steps
3. Conserving variability: mouchette.org
3.1. Authenticity
3.2. mouchette.org
3.2.1. Darkness put into play
3.2.2. Identity play
3.3 (Re)constructing mouchette.org
3.3.1. Front-end aesthetics
3.3.2. Back-end aesthetics
3.3.3. Reconstructing front- and back-ends
3.3.4. Limits of variability
3.4. Audience participation in, and with conservation
3.4.1. Networks of care
3.5. Assembling mouchette.org
4. Documenting variability
4.1. From document to documentation
4.1.1. The influence of technology on documentation
4.1.2. Document in context
4.2. Blast Theory
4.2.1. Methodology and documentation strategies Documentation as process Documentation as presentation Documentation for re-creation
4.3. Documentation in conservation practices
4.3.1. From object dependencies to behaviours
4.3.2. Short outline of different documentation models
4.4. Comparing strategies
4.4.1. Uncle Roy All Around You in a model
4.5. Developing a documentation model
4.6. Looking into the future: Uncle Roy in a museum collection
5. The value of openness
5.1. The emergence of Naked on Pluto
5.2. Naked on Pluto
5.2.1. The structure of the game
5.2.2. Naked on Pluto and Facebook
5.3. Open versus proprietary systems
5.4. Openness and process
5.5. FLOSS and museums
5.6. Shifting roles: from conservator to curator
5.7. Embracing loss and forgetting
5.8. Conclusion
6. Embracing variability and process
6.1. Authentic alliances
6.1.1. The significance of authenticity Identifying authenticity: work Identifying authenticity: author Identifying authenticity: date
6.1.2. Is alliances the keyword?
6.2. The question of documents
6.2.1. Document as fixed and fluid
6.2.2. Document as performance or performative Performativity of a hyperlink Performativity of a game-engine
6.2.3. Document as process, or process as document
7. Conclusion
7.1. From a single conservation practice to networks of care
7.2. Changes in conservation: from emphasising documentation to following an open approach
7.3. Reconsidering fundamental terms: authenticity and documents
7.4. A future of net art conservation
7.5. Recommendations for future research


* * * * * * * * * * * *

T O    T O P