[iDC] [IDC} Shelf Life

Myron Turner mturner at cc.umanitoba.ca
Sat Nov 17 15:00:53 UTC 2007

Apropos Craig's mention of the British Arts and Humanities Data Service, 
there is variablemedia.net, started up by Jon Ippolito while he was at 
the Guggenheim. Its aim is to formalize standards for the preservation 
into the future of variable media, which includes any kind of art work 
which isn't easily 'stabilized' or cannot easily if at all persist in a 
final form. See his web site:


Also, There is a thread about preservation of media on the CRUMB list, 
which took place earlier this year.

On the matter of "shelf-life" I tend to agree with Patrick, that artists 
bear a good deal of responsibility for the longevity new media work. 
They may have new challenges, but they have to understand and take 
responsibility for the material conditions or their work. I do think 
there is a bit of a 'technological culture gap', however. I don't think 
many of us who were using computers 10 and 15 years ago quite understood 
the rapidity with which the technologies would advance. I have an 
installation, for instance, which had its hey-day 10 years ago and now 
sits created, taking up studio space, and which wholly depends upon a 
pre-tower pc and a particular generation of video card. I cherish that 
flat little pc and its ancient motherboard, because I know even if I 
could find the video card, it would never work in a contemporary pc.

Some of the problems that both Patrick and Helen Thorington (at 
Turbulence) refer to fall into this category, earlier technologies from 
a period when it wasn't so clear that they would be so rapidly 
superseded. We are more informed and cannier today. On the other hand, 
the problems at Turbulence weren't only problems of 'shelf-life' but 
also of funding. Had they had adequate funding and the institutional 
structure based on adequate funding, they would not have had their 
current crisis. Things are getting better, granting agencies are setting 
aside categories for new media, new media programs seem to be 
flourishing in a good number of universities. But things will not be as 
good as they could be, not until we stop getting back blank stares, even 
from other artists, when we say we make art for the Internet.


patrick lichty wrote:
> For me, I believe that the desire for a media artwork to be considered 
> in the historical record requires one to be intentional about the form 
> of their work, and the durability of that work is the artist’s 
> responsibility. If a work will be on delicate/ephemeral platforms, 
> then it needs to be well documented, or if it is Agrippa, it needs no 
> such treatment.
> Digital practitioners need to be honest with themselves, I think, and 
> plan their archival strategies at multiple levels of durability if 
> such things concern them. If not then they are part of oral history, 
> and not the atomic one. This is fine, if it is intentional.

Myron Turner

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