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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  November 2010

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING November 2010

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Subject:

The Digital Oblivion - brief review

From:

Simone <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Simone <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 09:16:27 +0100

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*The Digital Oblivion: substance and ethics in the conservation of
computer-based art 4 – 5th November 2010, ZKM
*
Jeremy Pilcher and I were able to attend this interesting event at the end
of last week at ZKM, and the talks prompted some interesting questions for
us that are directly relevant to the variety of interwoven issues engaged
with by this list [new media curating].

Peter Weibel opened the symposium and expressed that we have reached a
critical point in relation to restoration in the digital age.  He expressed
hope that discussion could be facilitated so that we may try and avoid
reaching “tipping point” – the point of no return - through raising
awareness and recognising the problem.   He introduced topics such as memory
and time, which resurfaced in several of the papers presented.

In engaging with the importance of digital technologies for the conservation
of digital art works Edmond Couchot observed that such technologies have
“shaken our relationship with time”. He proposed that we are torn between
chronic time (“the longitudinal time of history”) and the virtual or
“uchronic time”, that belongs to machines and in which “events give way to
eventualities”. This has the effect of compressing the past and the future
leading to a focus on the present: the ‘here and now’ and also consciousness
of forgetting when deciding what is chosen and what is not.   Siegfried
Zielinski also engaged with the significance of time to the preservation of
culture and its challenge of the relationship of the past to the future.
However, he suggested that while Couchot argued for an expansion of the
present he understood digital technologies as tending to lead to its
disappearance. In arguing that instant recording compresses the present and
leads to ‘instant archaeology’ he referred to the work of Chris Petit and
Ali Kazma.

These talks led to questions from the audience relating to the nature of
“forgetting”, and how this is what we are hoping to avoid by preserving.
 Zeilinski also suggested that the concept of the traditional archive now
needs to be seen as obsolete, suggesting that some compromise will always
have to be made if things are going to change.  He thus raised the question
of what focal point can we choose if we cannot deal with everything?
Questioning the idea of selection processes.

Hans-Dieter Huber pointed to terminology as another problem, or obstacle in
the preservation of new media, he attributes largely to the idea that new
media is aging faster than old media.

It seemed to us that such arguments relating to time, past, present and
future, invite an engagement with Bernard Siegert’s proposal that the
increasing speed of technology undermines art because it was “the
impossibility of technologically processing data in real time is the
possibility of art” (Siegert, 1999:12). However, engaging with Thomson and
Craighead’s work ‘Short Films about Flying’, Charlie Gere by contrast sees
net.art as “not simply another genre or practice that presents challenges to
the gallery or museum, but which eventually succumbs to recuperation and
institutionalization.  It is, rather, a means of investigation of the very
conditions of representation and archivization in the age of real-time
systems, and thus – by extenstion – of memory and mourning” (Gere, 2006:
174).

This reminded us of Charlie Gere’s post to this list earlier in the year in
which he commented that he “would like to think of time-based art as
referring to works that acknowledge finitude, entropy etc...”

Law was very briefly mentioned by Peter Weibel in his paper, adding a
further dimension to issues raised in relation to time and memory.  Attempts
to preserve either the original material form of art or to ensure a record
of its existence in an archive may employ the law. This may be argued to be
an iteration of the law’s disavowal of the contingency of its origins, in
the process undermining the critical potential of art.  Yet, Weibel
suggested that the law may serve to balance the interests of individual
artistic expression with those who do not regard it as compatible with
existing social values. The significance of this may be approached in terms
of the comment by Bernhard Serexhe that, with the explosion of storage
capacity, came the implosion of storage times.  Weible concurred that there
will always me more storage space compared to what is and can be stored.
 Therefore there is an attack of the present time on time – storage time in
a real-time culture.  Thus oblivion is inherent – as storage space
increases, storage time becomes shorter.  Because of this, selection by
quality is giving way to random selection.

This implosion is (at least partly) a product of the way in which
capitalistic innovation in technological means of storage increasingly leads
to defunct archives, on which huge quantities of data are stored but cannot
be accessed, raising further questions in relation to memory as storage
technology.  When a storage medium loses its monopoly it fights with new
storage capacities – digital versions can maintain the memory, yet few
institutions have the time or money to do it.   Yet by defining a difference
between analogue heritage and digital heritage including an historical view
reminding us that we cannot now choose what was preserved in the past,
Weibel suggested that the pressure of selecting what aspects of digital
culture should be preserved will actually lead to more “amnesia” (this
relates to Klaus Weschenfelders suggestion that the desire to preserve
complete collections to fight this amnesia will actually lead to “bulimia”
where entire collections are forgotten because of a surplus which lead him
to suggest the approach of thinking HOW to collect rather than WHAT, thus
directing emphasis away from one aspect of selection).   Yet at the same
time, if we do not digitise we are also in danger of losing some of our
analogue heritage.

Because of this destructive innovation (ref to Schumpeter and creative
destruction), Weibel proposed that there should be laws requiring
corporations to provide the technology necessary to continue to be able to
access our digital heritage.  Jeremy noted that perhaps such an appeal to
the law may be understood in terms of Jean-François Lyotard’s distinction
between avant-garde experimentation and capitalist innovation. Of course any
appeal to Lyotard at this point may be regarded as problematic given that he
questioned whether art using new technologies was capable of invoking the
sublime feeling, which was the “undoing of the presumption of the mind in
respect to time” (Lyotard, 1991:107).

This is a brief summary of some of the main points (particularly from the
first day) interspersed with ideas that Jeremy and I discussed at the time
and are by no means meant to be exhaustive.


Best,

Simone



-- 
Dr Simone Gristwood
Scholar in Residence 1st September - 30th November 2010
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie
Karlsruhe,
Germany
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