[iDC] shelf life

Adrianne Wortzel sphinx at camouflagetown.tv
Fri Nov 16 21:56:07 UTC 2007

What about Euripides?

Written on papyrus in an extinct language 25 centuries ago, the plays 
have been preserved as texts and continue in performances  without 
Euripides lifting a finger.  They are also reiterated, repurposed, 
reinterpreted and even re-made   (see "The (Re)making Project - 
Charles Mee at http://www.charlesmee.org/html/about.html.

Are our technologies harder to decipher/decode than an archaic 
language? Are we imprisoning our works when we make them in 
technologies -- even code?

An aspect of mischief in my own work as an artist in is to embrace 
the physical obsolescence of works by embedding their content in the 
context of archaeological digs and lost civilizations. A case in 
point are "The Electronic Chronicles."-- stories of a future 
archaeological dig which excavates our own culture as if it was the 
past . Created in 1994, with overzealous use of newly available html 
magicJ ( alignment and tables) and written on a yellow pad on the 
subway, it is now inaccessible on a CD of "pioneer web works" 
accompanying The New Media Reader which demands System 9.  Update it? 
No. It is, in itself now an archaeological artifact. (Its also still 
visible on line).

I know these things are painful for archivists and artists to 
contemplate , but isn't it also emphatically charming and Sisyphean 
to have our work "frozen" in time?. We tend to experience both the 
newness and obsolesce of technologies as ascendant through time, and 
indicating revoluiton, but what is really changing?

Speaking of shelf life as one of stasis; this is signage from the 
American Museum of Natural History, which, aside from terrifying 
kids,  lauds the process of decay as life enabling. 

"A square foot of dirt in a forest holds four times as many dead 
insects and animals as how many humans there are on all of the earth. 
If the pile just grew and grew the forest wouldn't get any light and 
air and everything would die. This is called the Cycle of Nutrition 
and Decay."

When work is buried by its form in new technologies, its wonderful 
that there are those who would put their ear to the ground to hear 
its heart beating there and resurrect it, but considering the span of 
our lifetimes and those of our literal or philosophical heirs,  what 
kind of time are we talking about?  Years, Decades, Millennia?

Adrianne Wortzel
Professor, Communication Design
New York City College of Technology
City University of New York
300 Jay Street, N1113
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Phone:  718 260-5512
Fax:  718 254-5888
Email:  awortzel at citytech.cuny.edu
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