[ISEA2011] Panel: Melanie Lenz – In Times of Change: An In­sti­tu­tional Per­spec­tive on Col­lect­ing and Con­serv­ing Born Dig­i­tal Art

Panel Statement

Panel: From New Media to Old Utopias: ‘Red’ Art in Late Capitalism?

Whilst com­mu­nist utopi­anism per­me­ates the process of mak­ing and dis­sem­i­na­tion for many New Media Art works, it is the so­cial aims and prin­ci­ples of pub­lic ac­cess and the care of col­lec­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions that, within a mu­seum con­text, drive the need for ex­panded re­search into the col­lec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of dig­i­tal art. This paper uses the V&A’s re­cently ac­quired born dig­i­tal works Shap­ing Form 14/5/2007 by Ernest Ed­monds, Study for a Mir­ror, 2009-2010 by rAn­dom In­ter­na­tional and Process 18, 2010 by Casey Reas, as case stud­ies to ex­plore ac­qui­si­tion, doc­u­men­ta­tion and preser­va­tion con­sid­er­a­tions and the chal­lenges of work­ing in new ways.  The V&A’s emerg­ing dig­i­tal art col­lec­tion builds on the mu­seum’s ex­ist­ing com­pre­hen­sive hold­ings of his­tor­i­cal com­pu­ta­tional work, pro­vid­ing a route for un­der­stand­ing the con­tem­po­rary sig­nif­i­cance of early com­puter artists’ work.  The V&A has been col­lect­ing com­puter-gen­er­ated art and de­sign since the 1960s, but it was not until more re­cent years with the ac­qui­si­tion of two major col­lec­tions and the Com­puter Art and Tech­no­cul­tures Pro­ject (funded by the AHRC held jointly by Birk­beck Col­lege and the V&A) that the mu­seum has so­lid­i­fied its sta­tus as the UK’s na­tional col­lec­tion of com­puter art.  The col­lec­tion pre­dom­i­nately con­sists of two-di­men­sional works on paper, such as plot­ter draw­ings, screen­prints, inkjet prints, laser prints and pho­tographs.  The ma­te­r­ial na­ture of these works sits within the tra­di­tional frame­work of con­ser­va­tional prac­tices and the art works are ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic through the Prints and Draw­ings Study Room. How­ever, the care and col­lec­tion of born dig­i­tal works poses a new set of ques­tions in­clud­ing:  What in­forms the col­lec­tion pol­icy; how are ac­cess rights me­di­ated; what are the sign­f­i­cant prop­er­ties of the soft­ware and hard­ware to be pre­served; what are the chal­lenges of em­u­la­tion, mi­gra­tion and repli­ca­tion; what meta­data and li­cen­cing struc­tures are needed; and if a more net­worked way of work­ing is re­quired what col­lab­o­ra­tions can be ideni­fied?

  • Melanie Lenz is Com­puter Art Cu­ra­tor at the V&A. She has worked on a va­ri­ety of con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tions and dig­i­tal com­mis­sions. She holds a MA in Mu­seum Stud­ies and pre­vi­ously worked at the Bar­bi­can Art Gallery and Tate Mod­ern.

Full text (PDF) p. 1508-1509