sorry for disappearing from the list - I actually disappeared in the mountains with my family, where I'm enjoying a very bad connection, healthy life and good food. Copying and pasting the whole discussion on a text file and reading it offline was a pleasure that brought me back to the 90s. Thank you Steve for summing up my thoughts so well, and thanks Jon for mentioning the upcoming book - I really look forward to read it!
It wasn't my intention to hijack the debate toward the good old topic of New Media Art's integration in the contemporary art world, as well as to create such a strong connection between collecting and the art market. It was - I think - an inevitable side effect, because collecting - the topic of this debate - is common practice in the contemporary art world, where it's mostly mediated by the art market; while, on the other side, is little or no practiced in the new media art world. Even if there are dozens of new media art institutions all around the world, just a few of them actually focused on collecting the artworks they exhibit and produce, and just a few of them set up a permanent display for their collection. This is something we should take into account in this discussion: why so many festivals and art centers, and such a few museums? even if many artists, as Simon suggest, feel confortable in the new media
niche-ghetto-community-artworld-whatever, they have to admit that this world is doing little to actually save their work for the future. My question is: why? Is it just a consequence of the push for the new? Or simply the models of collecting and museums don't fit in this world and its idea of art?
Somebody may argue that collecting is not the only way to save art for the future. I completely agree with this, and I think that many attempts to force immaterial, ephemeral, temporary forms of art into physical forms in order to "save" them and fit them into the museum remind me of stuffed animals, or anathomical parts preserved in glass jars. Are we "saving" art or its corpse? We try to save for the future what we love and what we consider important for us and for future generations. Sometimes, this means preserving the actual object. Sometimes not. I loved my grandpa, and I think that my sons should know who he was, what he did, what he told to me. So, I'm try to save him for the future. Of course, I'm not doing it by preserving his corpse, but by preserving the "performance" of his life through documentation, objects that belonged to him, and my personal memory. The same happens all the time in the field of art, and not just in the case of
ephemeral art practices. I still believe that Duchamp's Fountain is best preserved by the issue of The Blind Man that featured it as a cover story, than by the replicas made in the 70s; and that accounts and bad documentation of her early performances "preserve" Marina Abramovic's work better than the huge prints we see at art fairs.
Often, computer based art is too connected with the present to be meaningful in the future. Every year, I show to my students wwwwwwwww.jodi.org; and every year, it becomes more and more difficult to communicate it. The web is too different now from what it was in 1995. So, this year I started showing, together with the work, some early accounts and some video reactions by Youtube users (that sometimes Jodi themselves use in their performances). The students got it better - at least, they were able to experience something more of what makes this piece meaningful to the first generation of internet users. We can try to preserve this piece technically - but it would be just the mummy of the actual piece, if we don't save its story.
A last note. Discussions about strategies of collecting are useful, but sometimes I feel that they are turning into a cold, impersonal practice an instinctive, romantic, personal one. Again: we save what we love, and we instinctively find a way to save it, when it's time to do it. Of course, institutions should work another way - but art was never saved by institutions in the first place: it was saved by chance, by the love of a single, passionate collector or by the respect of the people.
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