[iDC] shelf life (Danny Butt)

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Fri Nov 16 11:28:01 UTC 2007

>> my aim here is to ask in what ways the issues of
>> "preservation" in new media are completely distinct
>> from other fields, and where the opportunities
>> lie for connecting our experience to others....
> I can suggest to look at past art forms whose code is
> open and free to be reproduced, such as oral
> narratives, and try to learn from that model. It is
> not evident that many digital works are based on code,
> precisely because our systems are built in ways which
> hide it from view. But the code is there, and we have
> to reveal and share it if we want the pieces to
> persist.
Media art is distinct in that by definition it is mediated by something.
This is true of other art forms (cinema, painting and recorded music are all
mediated). However, media art assumes mediation as its definition and is
thus concerned with mediality as part of its conceptual apparatus. It is the
case that much media art, perhaps due to this, employs technologies noted
for their rapid development and equally rapid redundancy. Thus artists
produce work employing media that become redundant within a few years or
even quicker. This renders the art not so much different as non-existent.

Whilst spoken and performed artworks are often notable for their
ephemerality that is not the same as redundancy. A text or action can be
'performed' many times. Perhaps it is not always the same work, but the
person delivering (mediating) the work is not subject to the same
evolutionary velocity as computer software. They are not in danger of
becoming obsolete. This can be seen in how ancient work (Euripides, for
example) is still performed today. Not only is such work still performable
but because people are not subject to the same upgrade mania as computers
these works retain their artistic and social relevance. People don't change
much, technology does. That is why media art presents very particular
conservation and museological problems and why it needs to be addressed



Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor in Art, Edinburgh College of Art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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