Digital art conservation (colloque II), Strasbourg, Ecole supérieure des arts décoratifs (ESAD)

28 septembre 2011
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Colloque II, deuxième volet du projet Digital art conservation, 24 et 25 novembre 2011 à l'Ecole supérieure des arts décoratifs de Strasbourg, 1, rue de l'Académie, 67000 Strasbourg. Entrée gratuite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rappel :

Digital art conservation

Le projet Digital art conservation se consacre dans un premier temps à documenter et à constituer un inventaire des collections d’art numérique du Rhin supérieur. En deuxième lieu, fort de la longue expérience des partenaires dans le domaine de la préservation et de la présentation de l’art numérique, il concourt au débat international dans ce nouveau domaine de la conservation.

Le projet s’étend sur une période allant de janvier 2010 à décembre 2012 et il est cofinancé par le programme européen INTERREG IV Rhin supérieur.

Le projet digital art conservationest né de la volonté d’exploiter l’expérience en matière de conservation d’art numérique acquise dans la région du Rhin supérieur et de la partager au niveau régional, tout en constituant aussi la base d’une contribution au débat international sur la conservation de l’art numérique. Ce projet de trois ans est cofinancé par le programme européen INTERREG IV Rhin supérieur.

Grâce à des institutions telles que le ZKM | Centre d’Art et de Technologie des Médias KarlsruheHaus für Elektronische Künste de Bâle et l’Espace Multimédia Gantner à Bourogne en Franche-Comté, qui se consacrent presque exclusivement aux nouveaux médias, de même qu’à des collections publiques et privées importantes établies dans le Bade-Wurtemberg, en Alsace et dans la Regio Balisensis (grande région de Bâle), la région du Rhin supérieur jouit d’une richesse unique en matière d’art numérique. Qui plus est, du fait de programmes généreux pour les artistes résidents au ZKM | Centre d’Art et de Technologie des Médias et de grands festivals tels que Ososphère à Strasbourg ou Shift à Bâle, la région est devenue un haut lieu de production d’art numérique.

L’objectif de la première phase du projet est de répertorier les collections d’art numérique de la région et d’établir des liens plus solides entre les acteurs locaux dans la production, la gestion et la conservation de l’art numérique. Au cours de la deuxième phase, digital art conservation s’est fixé pour objectif de contribuer au débat international sur la conservation de l’art numérique en s’appuyant sur son éminent corpus et sur le fait que les institutions susnommées sont confrontées quotidiennement à la préservation et à la présentation d’œuvres d’art numérique.

Les débats récents dans ce domaine (cf. les contributions de variable media network, IMAP, DOCAM et PACKED entre autres) ont engendré l’énonciation d’un nouveau cadre théorique ainsi que de nouvelles méthodes de conservation. Ce débat s’articule autour de la thèse qui prévaut jusque-là et qui induit qu’un point de départ conceptuel et les effets physiques de l’art numérique définissait cet art et non pas ses composantes matérielles originelles. Par le biais d’études de cas de conservation, de deux conférences d’experts internationales, d’une exposition itinérante et d’une publication spécialisée, digital art conservation poursuivra la discussion à l’échelle internationale en se concentrant sur la question de l’éthique.

La participation de l’École supérieure des arts décoratifs de Strasbourg et de la Haute école des arts de Berne constitue le pôle enseignement du projet. Des ateliers suivront des études de cas de restauration et en parallèle du projet, les deux instituts supérieurs des arts esquisseront ensemble la trame d’un master européen pour la conservation d’art numérique.

 

Rappel:

Colloque I, premier volet du projet Digital art conservation, s'est tenu au ZKM à Karlsruhe les 4 et 5 novembre 2010.

«As part of the broader research project Digital art conservation this international symposium aims to investigate the future of our digital cultural memory, focusing in particular on the preservation of computer-based art.

For millennia, transmission systems with long-term stability shaped our sense of time and of history, helping form our image of ourselves and of the world. The ever-present threat to cultural heritage from external factors - whether war, deliberate destruction or processes of natural decomposition - meant that cultural memory was arranged with longevity and reliability in mind

For a couple of decades now, digitalisation has allowed the content of cultural memory to be more easily processed and circulated; via the internet electronic/digital material is in principle available to any user in any location at any time. However, the preservation of digital contents is fundamentally conditioned by the need to conform to an ever more rapid sequence of new technical systems. This functional obsolescence, along with technical systems' dependence on corporate strategies and commercial interests, presents a systemic threat to digital cultural memory. Again and again, the threat of obsolescence leads previous criteria of cultural memory - longevity and authenticity - ad absurdum.

In this way, the digital revolution has called into question the very preservation and survival of cultural memory. However, until now there has been almost no reflection on the far-reaching consequences of this systemic change in cultural memory. But we may ask: what fundamental underlying values can a society have, which merely disposes of an event-oriented short-term memory?

Blinded by the promises of prosperity deriving from the IT and entertainment industries, governments have thus far failed to develop strategies for safeguarding humanity's digital cultural memory. As long ago as 2003, the UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage noted that "The world's digital heritage is at risk of being lost to posterity. [ ... ] Digital evolution has been too rapid and costly for governments and institutions to develop timely and informed preservation strategies. The threat to the economic, social, intellectual and cultural potential of the heritage - the building blocks of the future - has not been fully grasped. "

The practice and theory of art collecting and preservation has also seen a paradigm shift, presenting curators, collectors, scholars and conservators with a new set of as yet unsolved problems. Whereas traditional media and tools remained in the possession of artists and curators, new digital media have definitely reduced the autonomy of these cultural actors. It is not, as it is often claimed, that digital media art itself ages more quickly than traditional art forms. Rather, often after only a few years, the elements needed for artworks' preservation and exhibition - hardware and software, operating systems and programming knowledge - are no longer available.

For digital media art this means that the faster technology develops, the shorter the half-life period of the artwork becomes. Dealing with digital artworks today, we have to expect major preservation threats to set in already within ten years of their creation.

One approach to this problem of digital preservation is to investigate the relation of the material to the conceptual substance of the work. Here it seems that desperate pragmatism of repairing and stockpiling of obsolete technologies will quickly run dry. A second approach accepts the transience of the artwork as irrevocable, taking for granted the work's short-term nature as linked to a performative practice understood to be inherent to the time-based arts.

Parallel to day-to-day collecting and exhibition practice - necessarily pragmatic - conservation theory has recently seen a normative debate on the ethics of preservation, a discussion comparable to developments elsewhere in the humanities and natural sciences, as well as in bioethics and environmental ethics. The conference's discussion of the ethics of conservation aims to overcome the current uncertainty surrounding the preservation of digital media art as part of our cultural heritage.

This set of interconnected themes forms the context for the questions posed by the first international symposium of digital art conservation, a three-year research project funded by the European Union.

 

  • With general digitalisation rapidly moving from dream to reality, it is clear that all future generations will depend on computer networks as the most important and perhaps the only remaining loci of cultural memory. In addition to the constant danger of large-scale data-loss, there is also the associated risk that data may be undetectably filtered and manipulated, making it impossible to establish authenticity.
  • The high cost of long-term conservation or even the restoration of stored digital data far surpasses the limited budgets of libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions.
  • The promise offered by every new digital storage medium - ever larger capacity - has misled to the taking of greater risks. However, the major assurance of ever greater data security has not been delivered until today. In the last two decades our absolute dependence on digital media has become so taken for granted that to call it into question is often decried as “unscientific” or “pessimistic”.
  • Large quantities and varieties of digital data bring with them an ever-increasing need for care and administration. This demands a high level of reliance in the professionalism and absolute independence of administrators, a trust which must extend across generations and political regimes of any kind. Given recent experience, it is hard to be at all optimistic about this.
  • Therefore we must ask questions on a global scale. We must ask which institutions, in a variety of national, governmental and commercial contexts, make decisions about the very contents of cultural memory which are to be digitised. Who and how do we decide on questions of selection, storage-worthiness, handling, research and access?
  • What consequences will the ongoing systemic change of cultural memory have for our consciousness of time and of history, and for our image of ourselves and the world?
  • Are traditional criteria for conservation - a work of art's originality, longevity and inherent economic value - at all applicable to new media art? Considering the specific problems of the conservation of computer-based art, which are the conclusions we have to draw about the characteristics traditionally ascribed to the nature of the artwork?
  • Given the considerable technical difficulties involved, are museums and collections in any position to adhere to the generally high standards in the preservation of digital media art? With increasingly scarce financial resources, can they at all be expected to preserve digital media art?
  • Should digital media art - like time-based arts (film, music) - be regarded as immaterial and ephemeral and is the adequate mode of presentation for it to be at any one time adapted to any particular “performance situation”.
  • What are the requirements of future-proof documentation of the “substance” of digital media art, if we want to preserve knowledge about both concept and material?
  • Should standards of best practice be developed for the conservation and collection of digital media art? Should minimum standards of conduct and performance be set to which museum professional staff may reasonably aspire at an international level?
  • Should museums and collections strive for an internationally-recognised convention for the preservation of digital media art, similar to the various ICOMOS Charters (Athens 1931, Venice 1964)?
  • Does the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, as revised by the 2004 ICOM General Assembly in Seoul, apply to the specific problems of digital media art?
  • Should digital media art fall within the remit of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)? Is digital media art already protected by the UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage? These conventions do not in any case directly address specific issues concerning the conservation of digital media art.

For the complete programme, please click : here

 Read the conference report : here


Cécile Dazord

Conservatrice au C2RMF, Département recherche ; Chargée de l'art contemporain et notamment de l'étude des phénomènes d'obsolescence technologique

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