The Work of Art Without Original

Published on September 20th, 2021

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

What happens to the future presentation and value of digital art if there is no original to go back to? What does it mean for the position of the artists, do institutional practices change and does documentation increase in value?

Tuesday, 21 September, 2021
12.00 – 14.30 CET

This event is free of charge and will be streamed online.
Please subscribe to LIMA’s channel by clicking here.

What happens to the future presentation and value of digital art if there is no original to go back to? What does it mean for the position of the artists, do institutional practices change and does documentation increase in value?

The continuously changing materiality of digital art challenges the notion of the original in contemporary art. Despite recent renewed attempts to fix the original to a specific author, time and space, it is acknowledged that in time some change to digital art will happen, whether aesthetic, in the form or functioning of the project, or a combination of these. Likewise, several methods to preserve digital art have emerged and while some work well they bring up similar technical challenges as the artworks they aim to sustain. Yet, there is little attention for alternative approaches that accept change as a given, or consider the possibility of art without original, thereby privileging fluidity, mutation or discontinuity as preservation strategies.

In this workshop we will discuss several of such options. These range from the question what happens to the future value of art if there is no original to go back to (Cornelia Sollfrank / Winnie Soon), to the proposition for a post-preservation approach (Caitlin Desilvey and Martin Grünfeld), and what this would mean for the position of the artist (Amy Whitaker) as well as the institution and its documentation practices (Brian Castriota). The discussion will be led by Annet Dekker (Curator & Researcher, Assistant Professor of Media Studies University of Amsterdam) and Gaby Wijers (director LIMA).

The aim is to provide more insight into the challenges related to the continuation of digital art beyond its creation and what this means for existing ways of thinking about the future of digital art, in particular to the methods of conservation, presentation and documentation.



Cornelia Sollfrank & Winnie Soon
Cornelia Sollfrank  is an artist, researcher and educator, living in Berlin (Germany). Since the early days of the World Wide Web she has explored the potential of the digital for rethinking traditional aesthetic categories while also searching for innovative forms for aesthetic and political transformation. Recurring subjects in her artistic and academic work in and about digital cultures are artistic infrastructures, new forms of (political) self-organization, critical authorship, aesthetics of the commons, and techno-feminist practice and theory. Her experiments with the basic principles of aesthetic modernism implied conflicts with its institutional and legal framework and led to her academic research. In her PhD “Performing the Paradoxes of Intellectual Property,” Cornelia investigated the increasingly conflicting relationship between art and copyright. This led to her research project “Creating Commons” (2017-2019) based at the University of the Arts in Zürich. In her current research “Latent Spaces. Performing Ambiguous Data,” she investigates the potential of social media for political manipulation.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Winnie Soon is an artist-researcher interested in queering the intersections of technical and artistic practices as a critical/feminist/queer praxis, with works appearing in museums, galleries, festivals, distributed networks, papers and books. They have won various academic and art awards, including the Winner of The 2018 Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD award, the Top-Ranked LABS Abstracts 2017 of Leonardo, Expanded Media Award for Network Culture at Stuttgarter Filmwinter — Festival for Expanded Media, WRO 2019 Media Art Biennale Award, the Public Library Prize for Electronic Literature (short-listed), and the Special Mention and Silver Award of IFVA – Media Art. They are the co-initiator of the art community Code & Share [ ] and co-editor of the Software Studies Book Series at MIT Press. Researching in the areas of software studies and computational practices, they are currently based in Denmark and working as Associate Professor at Aarhus University. Wi

Caitlin DeSilvey & ​Martin Grünfeld
Caitlin De Silvey
is Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus, where she is Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Research in the Environment and Sustainability Institute. Her research into the cultural significance of material change has involved extensive collaboration with archaeologists, heritage practitioners, ecologists, artists and others, and has informed new approaches in heritage practice, focused on accommodating process rather than securing preservation. Her monograph, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (UMP 2017), received the 2018 Historic Preservation Book Prize. Recent publications include After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics (Routledge 2020), an edited collection stemming from a 2016-17 fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Study in Olso, and Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (UCL 2020), a co-authored volume arising from work on the AHRC Heritage Futures Research Programme (2014-2019). 

Martin Grünfeld is an assistant professor in Metabolic Science in Culture at the NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research and Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen. His research takes place in the interfaces between philosophy and objects, art and science, conservation and decay, life and death.

Amy Whitaker is Assistant Professor, Visual Arts Administration Department of Art and Art Professions New York University. She studies the frictions between art and business and proposes new structures to support economic sustainability for artists. Stemming from Amy’s longstanding engagement in the social practice of teaching business to artists, this research has contributed new methods of art market analysis that center artists and archival materials. These structures, in turn, inform policies of economic redistribution in democratic societies. Amy has developed new models of fractional equity in art which rely on blockchain technologies. A leading expert in blockchain, NFTs, and the economics of art, Amy’s research and her teaching, have been covered in the press including in Time Magazine, The Guardian, Harpers, The Atlantic, the Financial Times, Artnet News, Hyperallergic, Artforum, and The Art Newspaper. Her early work with the artists’ cooperative project Trade School was covered in the New York Times and The New Yorker. She was interviewed by TRT World, Turkish television, alongside Vignesh Sundaresan (Metakovan), the purchaser of the record-breaking $69.346 million Beeple NFT sale.”

Brian Castriota is a researcher, educator, and conservator specialising in the conservation of time-based media, contemporary art, and archaeological materials. He holds a Master’s degree in History of Art and Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, and a PhD in History of Art from the University of Glasgow. His doctoral research investigated notions of artwork identity and authenticity commonly invoked in the conservation of contemporary art. Since 2018 he has worked as a freelance conservator for time-based media and contemporary art at the National Galleries Scotland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. He serves as Supervising Conservator with Harvard Art Museums’ Archaeological Exploration of Sardis in Turkey and has worked with the expedition since 2011. He is a lecturer for the NYU Institute of Fine Arts’ time-based media conservation stream of their MA/MSc degree programme, and is a regular guest lecturer on the subject of contemporary art conservation at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh College of Art. He currently serves as Programme Chair of the AIC Electronic Media Group, Assistant Coordinator of the ICOM-CC Theory, History, and Ethics of Conservation Working Group, and is a Committee Member of the ICON Contemporary Art Network.

The Work of Art without Original forms part of Documenting Digital Art, an AHRC funded research project and partnership between University of Exeter, London South Bank University, Australian National University, LIMA (Amsterdam) and The Photographers’ Gallery, London. This event is conneceted to The Work of Art in an Age of Audience Documentation held at the Photographers’ gallery in July.


Image credit: Cornelia Sollfrank // Warhol flowers, nag (1999)

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

T O    T O P