[ISEA2016] Panel: Sarah Cook — From Insider Knowledge to Anecdote to Apocrypha: Reflections on how media art has been and could be historicised

Panel Statement 

Panel: Rapid Response Art History: Tools and Techniques for a Fast-Changing Art World

Does being present and witness to new developments in art make one its defacto art historian, or does taking on that role depend on one’s institutional place? Net art and other networked media art practices have been historicised through extra-institutional informal structures of discussion, such as mailing lists, including gossip and first person reporting (often of demonstrations rather than formal exhibition of the works). As younger generations of scholars and cultural producers learn of the early days of networked and media art they read these stories through their own lens of current media literacy, sometimes mistaking features of ‘broken’ or obsolete works of net art as part of the original intention of the artists rather than a result of changes in the structure of the web. As these works of art were little exhibited institutionally at the time of their emergence (or since), and there are few institutional curators and art historians responsible for their preservation and ongoing accessibility, the stories which make up the art history of these works are increasingly patchy, based on varied versions of the works themselves. How can a combination of skills and approaches from art history – such as analysis of exhibition reviews and artist interviews – be used to retroactively consider what is required for creating art history of future media art developments?