I have been reading this newsletter for a long time, but this is the first time I decide to write with my impressions. My background is on engineering, though I have been working for artist for more than 8 years now, programing, designing and documenting for them. I am probably the least experienced/indicated to make comments, but hopefully I can add my 2 cents and basically learn a lot from you guys.
English is not my main language, so please excuse me for more than probable grammar mistakes. But enough disclaimers!
David and Johannes pointed towards M-Discs. I agree that physical format is half of the battle but I am unsure about that’s it he path to walk. I totally agree with Johannes, resources will be expensive -with a comment-, but I think that the only practical way to go is "refreshing" info. We humans have proven ourself to be quite decent at cultural transmission during the ages. Trusting physical format that long thousand of years is like trusting the Pyramids…but we still need a Roseta Stone to understand what is there. And here, that metaphor is double: a device is needed to read the discs and once the information has been extracted from the device it has to be interpreted. It seems like storage is becoming cheaper and more reliable day after day but what happens if the contents are not longer understandable?
This year, in a lecture at Danube University Krems, Andreas Broeckmann commented that he rather have book publications to keep the results of his research than web pages or fancy digital forms. And the reason it quite obvious, we have been transmitting information along time in that way quite successfully. It is not posible to do the same with new media works -store them in books- but I think that we should think more on how to transmit information instead on how to store it. I think that the effort has to be put in transmitting the information, being able to “refresh” the content periodically, even though that takes resources, just as Johannes pointed out.
It makes very little sense to preserve information that can not be understood, specially if it could be understood at some point! Institutions should include the correct professional to ensure this information transmission, archivists, conservators, engineers, art historians…
My comment about resources being expensive, and this is just a thinking out loud, may it be expensive to start the lab/institution but maintaining it can be doable if the work was periodically checked and problems could be foreseen?
As Anne-Sarah was suggesting, it would be great to have a institute-lab researching and performing in this direction, from a practical point of view. A place where artists or any art-world related professional could go to look for solutions, where different profiles work together. Also it could publish “best practices” periodically in order to help creations to be a bit more robust. Spread knowledge among professionals in other to “palliate” the problem. For the technical perspective, that’s what I try to do for a living, but as an individual, I am bit limited. Let’s make it happen in Madrid! Weather, food and wine are quite good, not to mention it is my home town! :)
I think Oliver is pointing to the main problems, but it may not be that expensive/difficult. First, I think there should be a reference network/community, acknowledged by the main actors. For me it is like each one has a couple of reference people to ask, but there is not like a stable interdisciplinary community where different backgrounds merge and provide their bit of information. Seems like several isolated island talking about what concerns them and not considering a bigger picture. I know “interdisciplinary” is a common word when talking about this issues
As David points out, it feels to me that conservators are excited about the conversation that has started, but it feels to me like a deeper technical background is needed in the institutions.
I am afraid of a lot of oppositions to these arguments, but I will enjoy trying to answer them!