In Search of Sustainable Care for Digital Art
Published on June 9th, 2021
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In this panel, we will present several new perspectives on the sustainability of caring for and perpetuating digital art that search for more transparency, collaboration and less exclusivity and control by focusing on: inter-institutional preservation (Aga Wielocha); the potential of networks of care (Annet Dekker); dissolving orphan collections in the commons (Marina Valle Noronha).
Contemporary Art & Electronic Media
Joint Session 1: Transforming Ownership into a Network of Care
Wednesday, June 9, 12-2pm
In Search of Sustainable Care for Digital Art: Establishing Networks, Enhancing Collaboration and Shifting From Ownership To Commons, with: Annet Dekker – Assistant Professor Archival and Information Studies, University of Amsterdam; Aga Wielocha - Conservator, M+ Hong Kong; Marina Valle Noronha – PhD Candidate Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Several solutions to preserve digital art are emerging and while some of them work well, in most cases changes to the content and information happen as most hardware and software follow the economic model of planned obsolescence. Consequently, endless migration, emulation, virtualisation, and documentation tools and projects are being set up to prolong the functioning of digital art. Burdened by this continuous technical change, several artists decided to delete their projects. For instance, in 2011 Slovenian net artist pioneer Igor Stromajer ritually deleted a number of his classical net artworks that were produced between 1996 and 2007: they didn’t look the same anymore because settings had changed and the web had been updated. While Stromajer prefers deletion to aesthetic loss, in other cases users start to take care of decaying artworks. In such cases, networks are formed in which tasks and responsibilities are distributed and shared. Here the challenge of preservation shifts from the object to maintaining a network that supports the project. In this panel, we will present several new perspectives on the sustainability of caring for and perpetuating digital art that search for more transparency, collaboration and less exclusivity and control by focusing on: inter-institutional preservation (Aga Wielocha); the potential of networks of care (Annet Dekker); dissolving orphan collections in the commons (Marina Valle Noronha).
Combined, these approaches lead towards a greater understanding of the networked conservation concerns of a diverse range of artworks. Wielocha proposes building an artwork’s archive as a method for establishing inter-institutional networks supporting the continuity of variable art forms including digital art. She suggests that putting in focus collaboration and knowledge exchange requires shifting the understanding of institutional collecting from gathering objects to investing in interactions. Dekker will expand on the outcomes of a first pilot study of networks of care, which explores the preservation efforts of the artwork Brandon by Shu Lea Cheang. Moving from the notion of collective ownership of (parts of) an artwork, the focus of this presentation will be on the needs and actions for establishing and sustaining a network of care. It will address questions like, what are the different elements of a network of care, and who would be involved when initiating such a network? What are the benefits (or challenges) for the study of these artworks when they are preserved through a ‘network of care’? And what could be the role of an established institution, or preservation professionals, to persist and evolve such a network over time? Finally, Valle Noronha speculates on modes of usage within collections management that bring an expanded notion of accessibility for the visitors, objects and collections by exploring how orphan collection items can function through the commons.
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