Second Summit on New Media Art Archiving
June 11, MACBA – Convent dels Àngels. Long paper.
Keywords: digital preservation, digital archiving, expanded cinema, digital performance, algorithmic art
Questions around preserving contemporary performative digital practice have historical parallels in the preservation of twentieth century expanded cinema performative practices. Examining these earlier attempts to preserve the ephemeral can inform not only how we approach preservation of performative and process-based digital works, but also which works we attempt to preserve.
The 20th century saw various approaches to expanded cinema performance, including color organs and mixed media “psychedelic” light shows. These practices were difficult to document technically and were, to various extents, based on performance in the moment. Technically, archival 20th century visual performance documentation and preservation ranges from the non-existent to the surprisingly future proofed. But expanded cinema historian William Moritz summed up the unrepeatability of performance experience in a 1969 review of the mixed media performance ensemble Single Wing Turquoise Bird: “always only once.” Contemporary performative digital practice shares some parallels with these earlier performative practices: the work may be performed live by a performer, or an algorithm may perform the work automatically. In either case, preservation faces the paradox of recreating moments that were intended to happen “always only once.” Examining 20th century attempts to preserve the ephemeral can inform not only how we approach preservation of performative and process-based digital works, but also which works we attempt to preserve.
- Amy Alexander has been making computational art projects since the 1990s. She is a Professor of Computing in the Arts in the Visual Arts Department at UC San Diego, USA. Alexander has worked in performance art, installation, software, and online media, generally employing custom software to generate real-time video that reflects on cultural issues. She has written and lectured on topics including software art, historical and contemporary audiovisual performance, algorithmic bias and algorithmic determinism, and media preservation. She has served as a reviewer for festivals and commissions for new media art and computer music. Alexander’s projects have been performed and exhibited at venues ranging from The Whitney Museum, Prix Ars Electronica, Transmediale, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, NIME, and the New Museum to club performances at Sonar (Barcelona), First Avenue (Minneapolis) and Melkweg (Amsterdam). She has also performed on the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Zürich, and Aberdeen, Scotland. https://amy-alexander.com