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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  2004

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Subject:

Re: taxonomies

From:

Myron Turner <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Myron Turner <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 24 Sep 2004 09:39:17 -0500

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Just as I was beginning to feel comfortable with the ebullience and happy 
raggedness of the Run_Me Festival which Peter has so engagingly described 
for us, Ana brings us back to an issue which we spoke about earlier in the 
month, but with a greater sense of urgency.

Yet Run_Me is not beside the point here.  If you got their web site you'll 
find dozens of search terms representing categories for the digital work on 
the site; these are not merely the concoctions of runme.org but also of the 
participating artists who, if they can't find suitable categories to 
describe their works, can add their own.  I suppose it's a kind of anarchic 
inclusiveness, of the kind which Peter found in the three days of artists' 
presentations.  Peter found a similar indeterminacy in the Read_Me/Run_Me 
lecture series:
           What the lectures also made clear is that software art is still 
a hard
           to grasp term. Here we can see a similarity with the term conceptual
           art that arose in the 60's and even today is still hard the define.
Early in the history of Rhizome, the relationship between Conceptual Art 
and what we were doing was, certainly for me, an important part of our 
discussions.  I would like, however, to push Peter's point a bit harder, 
that is, that a significant meaning of  Conceptual Art is the 
indefinability of art.  Where abstraction called into question art as 
representation, opening the door to artists who could not represent, 
Conceptual Art called into question the material basis of art and shifted 
art-making from its external manifestations onto the artist--not just to 
Ideas--but to an attitude, the attitude of being an artist and thus opened 
art up to what serious people had often feared, the artist as poseur.   And 
this is where we were on Rhizome--art as talk, as email, as spam, as 
personality--it was a lot of fun, even if sometimes tiresome.  But the 
important point is that we were encouraged in what we were doing by the 
understanding that art did not need a material basis and that if we came at 
our work as "artists", it was art.   Which of course was the motive force 
behind a great deal of post-60's art.

I know, one could not be vaguer than this. It would be futile and foolish 
to ask preservers of media art to first ask the maker of an object whether 
the object was made as art.  And yet maybe it isn't so foolish,  maybe it 
only sounds like a reductio ad absurdum.  This a.m. a post came from 
Josephine Bosma where she observes that
     There is the textual or theoretical  approach in which there is
    an attempt to contextualize a work in  history and/or in contemporary
    culture. Then there are  those that seek the best possible material
    preservation by collecting hardware, software and/or emulating hardware
    and software.
I realize that I am disposed towards the first of these approaches.  Yet 
there is no reason that there cannot be some attempt at accommodation 
between the two where it comes to the urgency of preservation.

Ana refers to Dublin Core and MARC records.   I've in fact worked with MARC 
records and so have some knowledge of them.  The Dublin Core is by 
comparison elegant simplicity.  Moreover, unlike MARC records, which more 
or less require items that fit into traditional library contexts, the 
Dublin Core is totally non-prescriptive and open-ended.  The most directly 
applicable Dublin Core fields, for our discussion, are Creator, Format, and 
Type.  Format is defined simply as "The physical or digital manifestation 
of the resource" and Type can be one or more of the following:
    Collection, Dataset, Event, Image, InteractiveResource, MovingImage,
     PhysicalObject, Service, Software, Sound, StillImage, Text
It is so fluid and open that I can't see how any object which has so far 
been mentioned in our discussions would not be able to be described by the 
Dublin Core.

So, we are still thrown back to the question of what to include in our 
archive of  "new media" since the Dublin Core, at least, wouldn't seem to 
exclude anything.  And that of course is one way to go about it.  It's the 
way the library of Congress goes about it.  Anything that fits into the 
broad category of book is accepted and catalogued by the LOC.  And if there 
were an institution with enough funds available, that's what should be done 
for new media art--if we could come to some broad definition of "new 
media".   The Dublin Core makes such a definition possible, if not 
perfect.  Our all-embracing institution would, first of all, collect items 
in a digital Format--maybe everything digital including music DC's and 
DVD's of The Lion King.  That would be the perfect solution and one in the 
spirit of all-inclusiveness of Read_Me/Run_Me.  Otherwise, we are again 
faced with the question of what to include.  But  if we are, because we 
don't have the limitless resources of the LOC for our collection, then we 
are thrown back again on the Creator.

Obviously, I don't suggest that we approach each digital Creator--even if 
we could--to ask whether a particular object was made as an art 
object.  Here is where cultural criticism comes into play.  The question to 
ask is whether or not the Creator of the work approached it from within one 
or more of the cultural contexts that define and have defined digital 
art.  Unfortunately, this is rather tautologous and self-referential and so 
open to abuse and exclusivity.  Nevertheless, I think it's where one has to 
start.  Every effort would have to be made to be inclusive and not to 
conflate cultural criticism with aesthetic criticism, though it will not 
always be easy to separate the two--maybe even impossible (but that's 
another discussion).   Clearly, the fewer the resources an institution has 
the more likely aesthetic judgments will come into play.  But this isn't 
anything new.

One final point on preservation.  I think that artists are less concerned 
with preservation than those who are charged with preserving.  The 
uncertainty of the works's future is part of the exhilaration of its making.
It roots the work in its conceptual origins, art without a material basis 
or placed on supports without a foreseeable future.

Myron Turner

At 02:48 PM 23/09/2004, you wrote:

>My thoughts after talking about metadata with other folks is that there are 2
>main positions: some think that by discussing metadata for digital art you’re
>condemning it to be “frozen” in time and that that is contradictory to its
>nature - net/ digital art should be an exception to this effort of
>standardization…  Others (me included) believe that archiving and preservation
>are vital. I quote Richard Rinehart "With digital art, … if you don't do
>something to preserve it within a span of five years, it's not going to
>survive.[…]"Some works of digital art are already gone. Our time frame is not
>decades, it's years, at most."
>
>BAck to the insight that metadat can bring to taxonomies: specifically in what
>concerns digital art, how does the Dublin Core, the CDWA and the MARC map to
>one another? What are the essentials of the standards the Getty team is coming
>up with? Last but not least, how do these reflect (and may have an impact in)
>the taxonomies of digital art? What metadata schemas are out there that, while
>categorizing digital artworks, may equally accommodate legacy systems of
>analogue works?
>
>Best to all,
>Ana Boa-Ventura

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