Versions, variations, and variability. Possibilities and potentialities in the preservation of computer based art
Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, Soros Auditorium
Computer-based art has evolved considerably since the first implementation of computer graphics in the early 1970s. In the past three decades, there has been a radical change towards more sophisticated solutions that have modified our understanding of technological borderlines and the limits of display standards and aesthetics. Although the preservation of computer-based artifacts owes much to discourse and research done in the preservation of electronic and time-based media, the approach to computer-based installations still calls for more exploration and debates considering the issues of their migration, emulation, and reinterpretation. The specificity of computer-based artworks is reflected in the emergence of variations and multi-locational instantiations that call into question established procedures. At times, the distributed character of an artwork renders its identification difficult and its recovery simply fabricates an additional version. In light of this, the paradigms of preservations and conservation are subject to profound reconsideration. Moreover, it is not unusual that artists themselves act not only as creators, but also as caretakers. Most importantly, in reference to conservation discourse and the decision-making process—as is true with much of contemporary art—the artist is not only alive, the artist is involved. Based on my doctoral research and giving the example of I/Eye (1993) by Bill Spinhoven van Oosten – an early interactive computer-based installation conceived for Montevideo in Amsterdam – this paper will discuss issues pertaining to its recovery, conservation, and presentation. I/Eye became a particularly challenging case for analysis due to its unstable, processual nature, the recursive obsolescence of its display apparatus, and the artist’s ongoing engagement in the artwork’s development.