Here is some personal sum up, the information is influenced by my degree of attention and late arrival to the first talks.
Jon Ippolito – paper notes have to be processed
Baruch Gottlieb & Philpp Tögel (DE, Vilem Flusser Archive) discussed the rehabilitation Vilém Flusser's "Schrift" and "Hypertext". They took time to speak about the value of such archive and the different types of documents they had to deal with (and therefore introduced their complexity). They talked about the strategies used for their presentation in two different exhibition contexts and how technical failure at the Transmediale 2011 has influence the decisions made after. Instead of relying on the machines of the time, the context can be suggested in another way inside the exhibition space.
Emmanuel guez presented PAMAL's activities and held a more theoretical talk regarding the vulnerability of Digital media. PAMAL is a French Media Archeology lab based in the Avignon's Art school. He asked how memories can be preserved and accessed, following notions of temporalities, ecosystems, materialities and recyclability, PAMAL put together an exhibition to present this year (presenting research to the public) untitled Second Nature, presenting the piece Les secrets, from Nicolas Frespech, through their remaining. He concluded on the imperative to change our desires of eternity and to design our memories.
Valérie Perrin explained that the digital art collection of the Espace Gantner is mainly motivated by giving access to the public. The place runs a lot of residencies, programs and workshops. They also create printed material, booklets and thematic folders for educational purposes. Collecting digital art, even when the pieces are accessible for free, means that a collection is not just about ownership. It is also a mean to support contemporary creation, mediation about contemporary artistic practices, situate the work within a story and turn it into patrimony that requires to be looked after. These are the role pursued by the establishment of the institution.
Clarisse Badiot comes from the field of performing arts and introduced Rekall. She considered that in the case of performing arts, the artists are the first conservators of their works. Rekall is an open source software,initiated in 2007, centralising different types of documents through the process of creation. This software enables to retrace a project from beginning to help, so it would be easier for artists to restage a performance, and for researchers to study a projects unfolding. The interface combines Notation, Annotation and Denotation (close and distant reading).
Gaby Wilders presented LIMA's activities. LIMA offers expertise in preservation of digital works, making contracts running over 5 years due to the very instable nature of these work and non predictability of technological evolution. She discussed the methods (for instance the formulaire for the artist to get a first idea regarding the requirements). She gave the case study of Peter Struycken's piece, SHFT 34 and the decisions that were made to ensure access to the piece. She insisted on the need for inter disciplinary collaboration.
From the Tate presented their activities and introduced to the PERICLES project, a 4 years EU-funded one which is not just directed at digital Art preservation but also at Science. They approach preservation by design and aim to capture and model am environment.They have a model-driven approach for representing the ecosystem of the object. They also insisted on the fact that the practice of cataloguing was evolving in pair with technological changes. Their motivation to move from metadata schemas to model to capture digital environments. Next research steps include the exploration of a community approach to developing a shared ontology to gain a shared language for sharing knowledge. They are also identifying areas for further research.
Ben Fino-Radin talked presented the MoMA's way of dealing with their Digital archive, which seemed to appear as a well oiled machine. Their methodology is threefold. Firstly, there is a packager, enabling to get an overview of the collection. An open source software named Archivematica is used for this part. It analyses the collection and gives a human readable version of its analyses. The digital storage is ensured by Arkivum, creating three redundant copies and insuring a 100% content integrity. The storage is on premises since it is more affordable than cloud storage on a long term basis. The last part is the one of indexing. For that, the MoMA built a software called binder, which is available on Github.This collection isn't envisioned as a static storeroom but as a mean to narrate contemporary Art appreciation and doesn't pursue long life systems but more flexible strategies.
It was interesting to notice that the Tate and the MoMA both mentioned the same tools and went for Open Source software as much as possible. The presentations were quite differently wrapped but the methodologies and solutions envisioned are comparable. Interdisciplinarity and uncertainty seemed to be important notions, explaining the need for research in the field, and the imperative to remain opened to change and flexible in the approaches.
Dragan Espenschied (US/DE, Rhizome) was the last speaker of the morning and gave an overview of Rhizome's activities over the last 20 years. Rhizome is attached to the New museum and started as a mailing list, meaning there is an archive of the exchanges that happened at the time. In 1999, it was decided that artistic practice had to be documented. This, was an affort to archive the future and make it into an established form. It was an artbase rather than archive, since there was no selection, and ended up listing more than 2000 pieces consisting mainly of net art. This collection challenges notions of objecthood (they have no shelves nor exhibition space), ownership (googlemaps based works) and of variability. Since Rhizome is very tiny, it is complicated to look after each work, which makes it more of a library than a museum and raises capacity problems. For instance, it is impossible to deal which hardware issues, which lead to giving away what they owned to other people who could look after it. They have an opened approach to maintenance. Submissions to the artbase are also a bit messy, there is a form to give information about the works and some technical questions may be hard for artists to answer. There is no perfect solution in terms of keeping the works accessible over the long term due to their variability. Risk taking and multiplicity of potential instantiations should be embraced.
During the Q&A session, the question of the relation between Digital Born art and the Art market arose, from an early digital art Collector point of view. Dragan thinks that from a computer science point of view this is a difficult one since Digital art is always about performance and that conservation of processes has to happen. Ben Fino-Radin stated that the MoMA has been trying to establish standards and advices on how to collect and preserve digital art for collectors. He also mentioned that new business models will emerge for buyers, just as you can pay enterprises to store your analog artworks. LIMA does some work in that field. So the collectors won't necessarily engage with the preservation but they could pay for the service. Gaby Wilders underlined the importance of the term “performance”, this notion explains why the contracts for sustaining the works cannot run for more than 5 years at the present time. Also, if the piece is Networked, it is looked at as a performance and the strategy to be envisioned is its documentation. Someone else mentioned that the artists should be consulted throughout their lives to make sure that everything is running ok with the archive. A question, was then directed at the MoMA, since its storage based on archival made by private companies. How would the deal with that for the long trem life of the software? What could happen to the archive if companies went bankrupted? Contracts should ensure that the archive would be kept, it would just not be maintained anymore. To the legal aspects of Licensing and Copyrighting, Dragan explained that Rhizome is a bit small and cannot necesseraly spend time caring about this aspect or asking for permission. To him, since Apple and other manufacturers encouraged artists to use their tools, they could feel a sense of responsibility there. (relating to cultural patrimony rather than corporate propriety) The conclusion he gave was that emulation shall be seen not just as a solution but as a methodology.
Following on Dragan's speech, the last afternoon started with a big focus on emulation. The presentations made by Geoffrey Brown (US, Indiana.edu) and Klaus Rechert (DE, University of Freiburg – bwFLA) were particularly technical. They both started by stating that their respective point of view were the ones of computer scientists, holding no particular interest in Art. What came out of their interventions was that emulation is particularly complex for non experts and could be quite heavy to implement. Some research is done to facilitate emulation in a way that would be more customisable “on-the-fly” since there is a great diversity of requirements to access even just a Microsoft office file.
Jason underlined the fact that he actually doesn't care about preservation strategies but thinks rather in terms of accessibility, which he thinks drives preservation. He talked about the Emulation D-day, when 1100 arcade video games were presented on the Internet's archive. Since then, because of copyright holders, the number of game accessible came down to 607. Yet, they observed 12 000 000 new players this year, some of whom had never had first hand experience with this game prior to their emulation. He strives for the use of emulation within the browser to become as natural as air.
The day ended up with Olia Lialina's talk, addressing the question of digital archeology and heritage. She highlighted the importance of tracing the genealogy of vernacular aesthetics and taking seriously the non professional, non-serious web user culture from the early days. This remembrance has threatened by the lack of ownership and therefore lack of word to say by the users in terms of decision making. The name of the talk referred to the pee-man gif, a sort of dislike button used over other image content. By excavating such material she aims to retrace concerns of the time by the population of the Geocities.