More on ArtBase Preservation

The following are some additional responses to Ben Fino-Radin's post and paper [PDF] about the preservation of works in the ArtBase.

1. Something to consider: A digital work that breaks and has to be remade is a new work. Should it it be re-evaluated at the time it is redone?

2. In the 1950s Giorgio de Chirico remade (forged) his own paintings from the Scuola Metafisica period of the 1910s. These latecomers may or may not be identical, and certainly had the artists' imprimatur, but critics (and the market) will treat them differently than the originals. The artist has changed, the context changes, materials change. Why should a Golan Levin "applet" piece, with four layers of code identified by Fino-Radin as being susceptible to breakage and rewriting, be treated as the "same" piece once it's eventually "reinterpreted" in a museum archive?

3. An institutional database of digital works could be a dynamic entity adding and shedding content or it could be the fetishization of a fixed series of moments. Fino-Radin never questions that his job as a scholar is to implement the latter scheme.

4. Something else to consider: The life of a digital work is not in its centralized preservation but in its widest possible distribution (and ideally, evaluation). It is a very different creature from a painting.

5. Four papers have been written on the preservation of the Rhizome ArtBase from 2002-2011, according to Ben Fino-Radin (including his). Much of this content seems to be speculative suggestions for how to fix work rather than actual success stories. For example, maybe in the future Rhizome could partner with Google so that every time Google changes its code, they will notify Rhizome so that artist "hacks" of Google can be kept from breaking. Sorry, this smells funny. In any case, where does the time and labor come from to implement such schemes? Best to keep writing papers.

6. Institutional archives could be periodically just be cleaned of broken work, freeing up disc space. Natural selection: there are a zillion digital works; the ones that break live in our collective memory but will not be kept on life support.

7. The wording of the post title for Fino-Radin's article, "Keeping It Online," came on the heels of Rhizome receiving some flak for selling an animated GIF at the Armory art fair with the statement that they were "taking [it] offline so the collector can have it locally." Not a very open source sentiment but as far as we know the practice is still going on. It is good to know that the organization is otherwise committed to keeping work online, even if it is reconstituted, zombie artwork.

previous thoughts on this topic