[iDC] : Re: shelf life

Mechthild Schmidt mschmidt at HouseWorksDigital.com
Mon Nov 19 04:08:31 UTC 2007

Hi everyone,

As a constant lurker who does not have the time for a comprehensive  
contribution I feel pulled out from under my deadlines for a brief   
thought (Eric's comment sounded familiar).

My interest in this thread is not so much shelf-life of my own art  
but of the implications of our culture of redundancy and our  
expectations from history.
It is not only media art that is threatened by redundancy - it is a  
phenomenon typical most aspects of present life, a non-linear life. I  
am not sure that future generations of media artists will be as  
concerned about longevity of their work. I do see much of media art  
to be experiential in their interactivity, much closer to performing  
arts (as Danny mentioned).

I started out a painter transitioned into video art and then computer  
animation + media art in the 80-ies + beyond. Yet I have not been  
able to shed my desire for the physical object, which points back not  
only at my fine art roots but at my generation as well.
While I consider my attachment to my early works close to being a  
weakness, I am concerned with two developments:

1- What will be the consequence of a lack of historical consciousness  
and continuity the "short shelf live" of our cultural productions may  
produce? Art is also communication. If the works cannot 'speak' to a  
next generation, except for a few rarified preserved museum pieces,  
the communication ceases to exist and transport ideas forward.
question1: How can we retain a historical 'footing' in this fast- 
paced medium?
question2: Is 'historical footing' a dated concept that we have to  
give up like 'ownership' with open source?

2- The democratization of tools for the making of media art combined  
with an affluent society has afforded us to work on more than our  
survival. It has created a positive deluge of creativity with an  
ambiguous deluge of visuals.
question1: How will we make choices what works to preserve and how  
will these choices distort the future view of the present?
question2: Are we being self-important by expecting a degree of  
preservation that did not take place in earlier centuries either?  
What would be the percentage of works preserved as 'rarified' museum  
pieces or rare architectural gems in relation to the works produced  
at the time?


Mechthild Schmidt

Digital Communications and Media
McGhee Division, New York University
726 Broadway, #669
New York, NY 10003

ms1831 at nyu.edu

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