In a paper entitled “Archiving Net Art”), dated from 2000, Mark Tribe describes three types of conservation strategies.
Static preservation consists in an attempt to freeze the entire environment in which the project is set, meaning Hardware and Software, as if the work was placed in a time capsule. It can be argued that some components will become hard to find if the Hardware happened to break down, since manufacturers may stop producing them. It may also require specific expertise that will become rare over time to keep the artwork running. Another point that can be argued is that this solution seems to go against the Networked aspect of Net art (a quite crucial one). Even a single serving website has to be encountered through the clicking on a hyperlink. The machine would be left alone in the Digital Cretaceous era instead of running updated software harmoniously with other companions over information Networks. → couldnt find any example so these are speculations
The second solution envisioned is the migration of the work. Agatha Appears) from Olia Lialina is probably the most famous example of a first generation Net Art website's conservation. The original work was made using HTML 3.2 language, adapted for Netscape 4.0 web browser and using real audio sound format. By 2008 the piece had become incompatible with the new Web browsers, as the standards had evolved. Therefore the whole piece was not interactive anymore. Some files had also disappeared and therefore the aim of the original work was not “there” anymore. Elżbieta Wysocka from CCC decided to re-establish compatibility with modern browsers, in some way to mimic the original behaviour using modern standards. This effort constitutes a time limited extension of the life span of the piece, due to the unstable aspect of the infrastructure). But interestingly, maintaining the work “as it is” has paradoxically transformed the work. Since the piece was produced in a pre-social Network era, in a context of personal home pages, it produces the effect of looking back into history. The content was not intended to evolve and the context surrounding it has vanished.
Another case is Marc Lee's Bot TV 1.0, which became Bot TV 2.0 after a conservation project initiated by the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. The project lasted from 2010 to 2012 and the original piece is from 2004. Bot TV is an Internet News channel broadcasting news (less than one hour old) through an automated process. The first version was made in 2004, relying on Real Player application. By 2010, the piece wasn't functional anymore due to the evolution of the web standards, which had made a shift towards Flash Player. The artist decided to adapt his work to Flash player and “modernize its look”. He added the 2.0 to the title to mark the transition (is a digital work becomes a new work once its performativity is restored?). Now in 2014 it seems like this is a matter of time before the Bot TV 2.0 will be confronted with the same problems as its predecessor. Flash player already sounds fairly obsolete since the video and audio current standards have shifted towards HTML5 since its introduction. TV Bot 1.0 now remains as a 2005 documentation video, showing the original version as a “historic sequence”.
Emulation is also suggested, which implies recreating an artificial environment for the work to run over an up-to-date Hardware equipment through a program (an emulator). This program would itself also require to be constantly updated, adding to that the evolution of the Hardware. Once again the relevance of keeping the work alive in its original form could be questioned. In the case of a performance enacted by an artist, no one would imagine that the artist shall perform their piece forever in order to preserve it. Another thing to consider is that emulation enables people to interact with the work, and therefore establish a physical contact with it that would be registered as personal memory that can be retransmitted as testimony.
It is important to note that these strategies were established in a different technological context, computer networks were less ubiquitous. We were also less experienced in digital loss. What is more surprising is that the approaches to preserving such works don't seem to have much evolved since these prescriptions were made (we are still lost but perhaps more experienced with the methods). In 2014, Rhizome has launched Webrenact), a time capsule capturing the live web which has been tested with Amalia Ulman's Instagram based performance “Excellence and Perfections”(2014). If the project is still young, questions can already be addressed regarding the future of such tool. For instance, Instagram may change its layout, which would naturally put this work out of the grid. Also, the interaction with users across the social Network was an important aspect. If the performance is over, what does it mean to preserve the look and feel of it's original form?
- The outcome of the project concludes this way: “Since the problem will continue to grow we may assume that soon there will be no easy and unquestionable solutions…”