‘Media, Memory & the Archive’ Conference, 6 october 2007, Argos Brussels. Co-production with PACKED
introduction by Marleen Wynants + Richard Rinehart
Curator and media artist Richard Rinehart (US, 1966) heads the ‘Digital media’ department at the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, where he is also assistant curator. One of the projects he is currently working on is entitled ‘Archiving the Avant Garde’, which consists of a North-American consortium of museums and artists conducting research on models for the documentation and preservation of digital art. At his instigation, MANS (Media Art Notation System) was developed; MANS is a multi-dimensional notation system which makes, to make an analogy with the musical world, a conceptual distinction between the ‘score’ of a media artwork, as an expression of intent, and its ‘execution’, which needs to preserve the integrity of the work over time.
“This presentation will propose a new approach to conceptualizing digital and media art forms. This theoretical approach will be explored through issues raised in the process of creating a formal declarative mode(alternately known as a metadata framework, notation system, or ontology) for digital and media art. This “notation system” for documenting and preserving digital and media art is meant to be implemented by museums and other collectors of media art, but it draws more upon the performing arts for its approach than traditional museological preservation methods. The approach presented and explored here is intended to inform a better understanding of media art forms and to provide a practical descriptive framework that supports their creation, re-creation, documentation and preservation. Rinehart will place this theoretical approach on the context of a practical strategy to preserving media art, including an update on new standards and tools such as the Media Art Notation System and the Variable Media Questionnaire.”
Art historian and media scientist Oliver Grau (DE, 1965) is a professor and director of the department for Image Science at the Donau-Universität Krems. Until recently he carried out numerous research projects at the Humboldt University in Berlin, including Immersive Art, an extensive exploration into the history and culture of immersion, telepresence, genetic art and artificial intelligence, and the development of the Database of Virtual Art, which focuses on the documentation of various forms of digital art. He has published, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (2003), among other things, and was the editor of MediaArtHistories (2007), an attempt to situate new media art in the interdisciplinary and intercultural frameworks of art history and visual research.
MEDIA ART NEEDS HISTORIES AND ARCHIVES
“Over the last thirty years Media Art has evolved into a vivid contemporary factor, Digital Art became the art of our time but has still not “arrived” in the core cultural institutions of our societies. We try to contribute to bridging the gap with two international collective projec
DATABASE OF VIRTUAL ART : As pioneer in the field, the Database of Virtual Art has since 1999 been documenting the rapidly evolving field of digital installation art. The research-oriented, complex overview of immersive, interactive, telematic and genetic art has been developed as a collective project with media artists, researchers and institutions. The database is built with open-source technologies and allows individuals to post materials themselves. It currently contains several thousand digital documents, videos, technical data, institutions and bio-bibliographical information. (see www.virtualart.at)
MEDIAARTHISTORY.ORG – DIGITAL ARCHIVE: The online platform evolves from the conference documentation of the Refresh! Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology to a scholarly archive for this multi-facetted field, serving also as its base. Guided by an international advisory board MAHA is a self-archiving repository using open-source dspace technology. It allows scholars to place digital information online, from meta-data to full-text, all staying within the limits of self-archiving allowed to authors. (see www.mediaarthistory.org)
Charlie Gere (UK, 1961) teaches New Media Research at the Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University and is the president of the ‘Computers and the History of Art Society’ (CHArt). He is particularly interested in the cultural effects and meanings of technology and media, in relation to art and philosophy. His recent publication Art, Time and Technology (2006) explores artistic and theoretical reactions to the increasing speed of technological developments and accomplishments. He questions, among others things, the significance of the archive in the era of ‘real time’ information and communication, with reference to artists such as Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, and philosophers like Jacques Derrida.
“In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker the biologist Richard Dawkins described his Biomorph program that simulated the cumulative effects of natural selection. Biomorph was highly influential on both the science of Artificial Life and on new media art concerning biological evolution. Predicating on the user choosing from among a near-infinite set of possible forms, it also prefigured the new kinds of consumption made possible by digital media described by Chris Anderson in The Long Tail, in which the consumer can choose from an apparently endless supply of media artifacts, as well as being able to become a producer his or herself. This promises or threatens to bring traditional conceptions of art and culture into question. Juxtaposing Biomorph and Dawkins’ problematic concept of the meme with the thought of Jacques Derrida, I propose that art is no longer about creation but could or should be about the act of deciding what to choose from an infinite set of possibilities and about the ethics and responsibilities of such a decision, especially in relation to the future.”
Media theoretician Wolfgang Ernst (DE, 1959) chairs the ‘Seminar for Media Science’ at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He is part of the so-called ‘media archaeology’ school, which revisits new media’s former concepts. His research is focused on time as a crucial parameter of electronic media, a topic which runs through his soon-to-be-published monograph Das Gesetz des Gedächtnisses. Medien und Archive am Ende (des 20. Jahrhunderts). According to Ernst new technologies generate a new form of cultural memory, in which the archive can be understood as a metaphor. According to his argument there is a shift of emphasis from the Western privileged perspective on culture, in regard to areas of memory (locations, monuments and institutions), to a permanent, dynamic recycling of cultural data, or more concisely: from storage to transference.
The Transitional Archive: Dynamic Media Memories
“The philosopher Hegel around 1800 made a clear analytical disctinction between human remembrance and technical memory. While the discussion on human memory is still dominated by vague categories like „collective memory“ (Halbwachs), with the arrival of electro-mathematical media a new level of micro-memories has emerged which needs to be described in terms of storage (Babbage) rather than memory or remembrance (even though the metaphorical notions persist even in technical language). Digital „tele“communication, even though it is mostly treated with ist emphasis on almost immediate data transfer, is based more than ever on a system of short-time storage (cache, f. e.) which belongs to the operation of real-time effects. This new media-archealogical layer of time-critical, invisible memories, asks for theoretical reflection in ist own terms.”
Journalist and author Josephine Bosma (NL, 1962) lives and works in Amsterdam. She has a background in radio and, since 1993, has worked in the domain of media art and culture. She has published countless articles, interviews and essays on net.art, web casting, digital personae and the relation between artist and audience in a media environment. According to Bosma, now that art proclaims itself more and more as an experience or maybe even a lifestyle, under the influence of new communication technologies, new interpretation areas have developed; these are dynamic environments based on the participation and the commitment of the audience. How can these works take their significance and value from the process of interactivity and the specific techno-social context, be preserved and interpreted for and by future generations? What are the implications of all this for the significance and the structure of the archive?
The Unstable Archive, Art Preservation and the Vanishing Museum.
“Both art and audience have moved to a new level of interaction and engagement, a lot of which takes place outside of traditional institutional settings. Preserving art and culture today asks for an approach that takes the outer institutional field into account: not just philosophically, but also technologically. The archive has to expand into a truly ‘living archive’, a space in which the audience’s engagement with art and culture is acknowledged and enabled.”
Jean-François Blanchette (CA, 1965) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His current research focuses on the development of both theoretical and practical tools for the long-term preservation of complex digital ‘objects’, and the corresponding changes in notions of authorship and authentication. In that context, he also explores the shifting borderlines between forgetting and remembering, between what is being recorded and what is not. What does it mean if we cannot escape the social-informational way of remembering and being remembered, now and in the future? Is remembering a way of forgetting?
Remembering and forgetting in the digital age
“At the very heart of digital technologies lies a vexing paradox, one that deeply questions the cultural practices and conventions that ensures the preservation of cultural heritage.On the one hand, computing technologies offer the promise of a perfect prosthesis for the fallibility of human memory. The distributed nature of networked computers insures that no single point of failure (whether through censorship or natural disaster) can impact the cultural record,. As well, availability cheap computer storage and sensing devices promises to expand dramatically society’s capacity to record daily events in minute detail (i.e., “life-blogging”). On the other hand, digital media’s dependence on multiple layers of technological mediation creates profound conceptual and practical challenges for the long-term preservation of new media, suggesting a coming global cultural amnesia. This presentation explores what lies of at the intersection of these two apocalyptical visions —a society capturing in maniacal detail its most banal moments, never to be forgotten, or one rendered blind to its history by its inability to apply traditional methods and concepts of preservation to its cultural output.”
Steve Dietz (US, 1958) is a freelance media art curator. He made a name for himself as a new media curator at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, where he broke new ground as a facilitator for the production, support and presentation of media art. He was director of the ISEA2006 ‘ZeroOne San Jose’ festival and symposium and was involved as a curator in such centres as ZKM, the Banff Centre and Museo de Monterrey. He has published in Parkett, Artforum, Flash Art, and Afterimage, among others. One of the focal points of his research is the potential of the archive and the database, as dynamic generator of various types of data poetics. Dietz was one of the compilers of the exhibition Database Imaginary (2004), for which new and subversive uses of the database were explored.