Panel discussion «Online Archives and Collections of Media Art»

On December 2-5 2020, the European University in St. Petersburg hosted a panel discussion «Online Archives and Collections of Media Art», which was attended by CYLAND artists and curators Victoria Ilyushkina, Sergey Komarov, and Sergey Teterin. The panelists discussed the existing approaches to the preservation of media and technological art, the principles of forming online archives and working with digital data in art.

Participants: Alexey Kupriyanov, independent analyst; Anastasia Tarasova, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (Moscow); Maria Udovydchenko, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (St. Petersburg); Alina Stulikova, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow); Victoria Ilyushkina, Sergey Komarov and Sergey Teterin, CYLAND Video Archive.

The abstracts of the discussion can be found on the website of the European University:

https://eusp.org/en/news/panel-discussion-online-archives-and-collections-of-media-art-part-ii-5th-december-20

King Hackathon’s mines

Photo: Yuri Goryanoy, CYFEST-12
Photo: Yuri Goryanoy, CYFEST-12

By Philipp Dvornik — graduate (Ph.D.) student at HSE Art and Design School; manager at the State Tretyakov gallery educational department.

In the frameworks of the CYLAND Intern Program

 

In place of an epigraph, please read the description of the Kukuanas’ internecine battle from Chapter 14 “The Last Stand of the Grays” in Sir H. Rider Haggard’s novel “King Solomon’s Mines” which depicts the battlefield as a triangle and provides tedious calculations of the proportions of opposing forces.

 

The purpose of this essay may not seem entirely relevant to the preservation of media art, as it discusses issues that relate more to museum curators facing the digitalization of museums more than to works of art themselves. However, the range of problems that scholars face in creating databases of museum collections may be common to both researchers of antiquities and researchers of new media art. The work of creating digital reproductions of artworks and digitizing knowledge about them has become an important part of the museum curator’s routine. I’d like to start the conversation about how the way of describing artworks can be changed by digital technologies.

Theoretical introduction

Art was contrasted with life when it was considered a way of representing life. Works of art capture life by means that have a material basis. With advances in technology, this material base has become increasingly complex and has lost obvious links with nature, yet it remains no less material. In the 20th century, cinema, radio and television, and then digital technology, gradually stripped artistic works of the obvious material foundation. This left us with just one medium attesting to the materiality of the artwork transmitted – the screen by which it is displayed.

Information is a concept that forms the culture of the digital age. The meaning of “information” is debated. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that information is an intangible phenomenon. It is also clear that information is the product of human consciousness, which itself exists within the framework of the human mind. And the mind, in turn, has a material nature. Human consciousness is a phenomenon that synthesizes intangible information and its material source. For information to be transmitted, it must take some form of presentation, i.e. become data. The data is extracted from sources of information by analytical operations and discrete, although the information itself is a synthesis (interpretation, meaning) of the data. The data itself, because it has to be presented, takes the form of signs which are also “material entities”.

The art of the past is the most important source of information about the culture of humanity. Furthermore, it is a source in which the information is analogous (synthetic) in nature and requires certain analytical operations in order to be presented as data that is always discrete. We should remember that data does not contain information per se and must be interpreted (synthesized) to present it. Digital information-processing tools successfully simulate synthesis by manipulating numerical data streams and computational processes, bringing to interfaces something that we can directly perceive, which we consider to be information.

Historical works of art preserve the memory of artistic practices and processes of different eras in different parts of the world, and are also become items of interest for modern viewers, while some of them become sources of inspiration and ideas for contemporary artistic practices. Museum researchers are responsible for extracting information from historical works of art. Thanks to them, the quantity of reliable information is growing year by year, and becomes material for museum catalogs and academic monographs.   The publishing and educational departments of museums are responsible for promoting public interest in the works of the art of the past. The work of museum researchers (or curators) and museum educators has been greatly influenced by the ever-increasing availability of digital museum databases since the 1960s.

What distinguishes these databases from traditional inventory books, files, catalogs, and directories — the tools that art historians have used throughout modern history? How has the digitalization of data changed the work of art historians?

Industrializing memory

The extraction and interpretation of information from artifacts and the cultural context surrounding them is the humanitarian aspect of the historian’s profession, which is difficult to discard. Balancing the need for analytical operations with the desire for synthetic knowledge of culture and art, art historians use analytical tools to reach conclusions of varying degrees of generalization and credibility. So far, an important part of the profession has been a mastery of rhetoric, supported only where necessary by logic. Even the works of structuralists owe their credibility above all to the rhetorical skill of the authors, and only secondarily to their mastery of logic.

The analytical tools previously mentioned (inventory book, file book, catalog, or directory), which divide all the necessary information into user-friendly parts, are still the preferred tools for an art historian who directly studies artwork.  These tools are organic to the information environment in which an artwork exists in a museum exhibition or collection. They allow the historian to focus on the object of study, and set an appropriate pace for working with the information, similar to close reading. Reflections, writing explications, physical measurements and verification of the state of the storage facility, presentation of archival research results at conferences and much more — all this work creates a sense of harmony between works of art (with all their contexts) and research.

Information technology has in some respects facilitated our work. For example, instead of spending time searching for a record about the source in file cabinets or inventory books, and then getting permission to access it physically, we can find what we need in a database within minutes, and sometimes also the digital reproduction of the item. But as we know, for this luxury of instantaneous information (which is probably reliable) to be possible, someone must have access to the source of the information (items) and obtain it; present it in a certain language and check its veracity; place it in the context of the information already available (scientific, expert, sociocultural, historical); appreciate it (if we are always dealing with information- interpretation); then carry out analytical operations to present it as is acceptable for computer processing. We should not forget that the amount of this information is constantly increasing as it passes through the circles described above (and not all of them were mentioned) and be able to update it as often as possible. Information technologies have indeed accelerated these processes, which have increased the amount of total human labor devoted to the production of reliable information, but have also reduced its value.

As I wrote above, the properties of the information contained in the historical works of art are also its relation to (cultural) memory and its ability to interest modern audience. If the value of information itself decreases, the value of these properties may also decrease. In addition, we may assume that as the amount of art historians’ labor increases, so their labor organization changes, subdivided into smaller areas and tasks, algorithmized, planned and evaluated in quantitative terms, and ultimately alienated from working researchers according to the most commonplace laws of Marxism. There may be a situation where more staff will be required to build digital databases more effectively or to publish large quantities of digital data on museum Internet resources. Their task will be to fill in standard forms and to write impersonal interpretive texts in accordance with strict methodological requirements.

Small Electronic Computing Machine (MESM), laboratory of S.A. Lebedev, Kiev Institute of Electrotechnology. Early 1950s.
Small Electronic Computing Machine (MESM), laboratory of S.A. Lebedev, Kiev Institute of Electrotechnology. Early 1950s.

Art that did not exist

The tendency for the humanities to converge with the exact sciences increased throughout the second half of the 20th century. The need to apply scientific methods to the study of history and different theories of art has been persistently defended by semioticians, as semiotics takes a highly formalized approach. The demands for greater formalization of the humanities are only increasing as computer science offers increasingly complex and diverse ways of collecting, analyzing and evaluating data. But because all of these techniques are only suitable for computing, we can get more accurate results as we can extract simple and quantitative data from our sources. The loss of meaning in the translation of information into simple data and the automation of its processing is the main obstacle to the large-scale introduction of information technologies into the science of culture, a process which is increasingly unappreciated.

We know that science improves technology and production methods. The belief that computer science can infinitely improve its analytical tools has led many scientists to apply these tools to data that is ill-suited for this. The lack of confidence in the results of such studies calls for more “clean” data. This “clean” data does not always fully represent the objects of research. Methodological errors in conclusions related to the objects of research are most often caused by the identification of the objects themselves and their data. On the one hand, it’s common to confuse works of art with digital reproductions of them. On the other hand, works of art as objects of study are always systems of “very big” complexity, and the subject of research in the processing of big data is not the human but the computer. So the automation of art research on big data does not guarantee that 1) the results obtained will reflect the relationship between data sources correctly; 2) the conclusions drawn from them will in fact refer to the sources rather than to limited attributes that have been translated into digital data. Moreover, since research deals with objects of “very big” complexity that make sense not only by considering the formal relationships within themselves, but above all their relationships with an infinite variety of contexts, even works which are created in a digital environment require significant human involvement in the production of data to study them. Owing to all these circumstances, we cannot assume that we can increase the integrity of the research solely through the introduction of methods of exact sciences in analysis and evaluation of the data contained in art databases. And the relationship of the results of such research to the objects — sources of information (works of art) — requires very complex additional evidence.

There is heuristic potential in science: among other problems it solves, one that is romanticized more than others is the invention of things that never existed before. Dealing with research based on digital reproductions or art statistics, we can gain meanings that our sources do not contain, just as easily as we can make mistakes in generalizations based on empirical research of artworks. By applying big data in research, we get a history of art and culture where the cognitive value of individual artworks increases as their commonality increases with a large sample of similar works. The representativeness of an artwork under this approach, its ability to stand in line with as many other artworks as possible on a simple basis, is increasingly valued, and the unique features of individual things are lost in observational error.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the widespread contrasting of art and life. This dichotomy allowed scholars of the past, in particular Yuri Lotman, to speculate on art as a model of reality. Now scientific and technological methods allow the digital environment to model the works of art themselves. So, the dichotomy has changed: a work of art, while remaining a model of reality and being part of it at the same time, can now be contrasted with the digital information model of itself.

The Kingdom of Engineering

Extracting data from historical works of art is like extracting minerals from the ground. Data, as a resource that makes up information, gains a definite cost in terms of how much human or technical effort it takes to get it. The applied value of humanities can be seen as the invention of new information based on processing obtained information. Research and the creation of works of art can also be seen in this context. Museums of fine arts can now be presented as deposits and enterprises providing reliable information about art and culture. I said earlier that perhaps the cost of such a resource is falling, but the cost of creating it is also increasing. Inevitably, in order to increase the benefits of information, museums seek to become information centers, effectively and increasingly developing their “unique” deposits. I cannot imagine the crisis to which the “overproduction” of this resource could lead, but I can point out what exactly effects the intensification of this process. These are information technologies and databases that have the capacity not only to provide data but also to be material for the production of new data.

The skills acquired by specialists in the humanities (art scholars working in museums) are increasingly being used to extract data literally by hand.

But the data itself can now be useful only if you can work with it in large quantities, which are incommensurate with the study of a single item. What kind of specialists can do this? Naturally, information technology engineers. It is possible that in the coming years, the most important task for art historians will be to acquire expertise in engineering. This is all the more important as digital humanities have become increasingly important. Many art studies are initiated by scientists specializing in computer science, and their results do not satisfy scholars relying on methods developed in the humanities. But more and more of these studies are being carried out, and the possibilities to carry them out are being expanded by art historians themselves.

Now is the time to quote the title of Vladimir Lenin’s article, “The Crisis Has Matured”. The essence of my revolutionary appeal is that it is high time for art historians to adopt the methods used by engineers. Firstly, it can be very useful for art history if important studies have turned towards working with databases. Secondly, it will help to take the process of creating databases into our competent hands: art historians know how to handle our material best. Thirdly, it will help to take into account the requirements of museum curators to organize their own work in filling museum databases.

Personal art archives: why, what for and to what end

CYLAND Audio Archive
CYLAND Audio Archive

by Anastasia Nagornova, School of Advanced Studies (SAS), University of Tyumen

In the frameworks of the CYLAND Intern Program

Nowadays, it is hard to define clearly what a contemporary art museum or archive is. Their function has changed: museums not only preserve masterpieces of art, but also ephemera (booklets, postcards, leaflets, etc.) which have no particular value; artwork archives are no longer interested in physical objects of art, but rather creative concepts and ideas, personal documents and interviews. In our age of digital and media art, even an artist is not exclusively an artist who delivers artworks to the art market, but also a keeper of his or her own works. In fact, he or she performs the tasks that a museum was supposed to perform – to gather, preserve, and exhibit artistic objects. 

One might say that self-archiving is not a fundamentally new practice, since authors always have been interested in preserving their work (just think about self-publishing or samizdat in Russia!). However, self-archiving is taking on new forms today, which not only involves gathering and keeping, but also making extensive use of cultural items and working closely with more prominent and authoritative organizations, which was not the case before. 

One of the main reasons for the development of self-archiving is that traditional museums and archives are not sure how to work with new types of art and materials anymore: how can an artwork be preserved without transforming its meaning, but at the same time keep it innovative and relevant to the audience? Is it possible to reconstruct and represent the artwork and not destroy the concept of authorship itself? Personal archives minimize these problems, but if so, who is an artist or, more broadly, an author today? What are the relationships between a museum and an author? What role do personal archives play for a media artist? To answer these questions, I will examine and discuss three personal artwork archives: the John Latham Archive, Irina Aktuganova and Sergey Busov Archive, and Gubanova&Govorkov Archive. They differ by the principles of collecting and archiving cultural items. The John Latham Archive is an example of creative archiving. It does not contain artworks, but mainly documents related to Latham’s work and personal life. The Irina Aktuganova and Sergey Busov Archive collects various documentation that could be useful for scientific purposes: journal articles, event posters, leaflets, and so on. In this sense, this is a classical archive. Finally, the Gubanova&Govorkov Archive includes both artworks and their critical conceptualization, without paying much attention to additional materials. But before discussing these archives, let’s consider what value self-archiving has for both the author and society.

The benefits of self-archiving

The simplest and most obvious value of a personal archive is that it keeps artworks safe. Of course, it is possible to use social media, websites, or hard and external drives; but because they are constantly updated and often crash, they are not a reliable tool. Personal archives are more secure, and data can quickly be recovered. 

Katie Carey’s experience is quite illustrative here: she had a long process of recovering her works from a hard drive which “got immediately fried” when she “plugged it into an outlet of an old Victorian house while on vacation.” She says, “I always assumed that I would be making work indefinitely and would be capable of making similar work if I wanted to recreate an unphotographed work. It’s all too easy to assume that the gallery sites that host photographs of installations of my work would still be around if sometime down the line I wanted to use them for my own portfolio. Instagram and other social media platforms give you a false sense of security that they will always be there to pull images from in the future. With my website on auto-pilot, I fell into a comfortable naivety that the internet is a permanent place of archival information. However, that’s far from the truth.”[1]

Since personal archives include the author’s materials such as opinions, views, commentaries on work and daily life, etc., they establish direct and intimate interaction between the author and the audience, which allows the proper organization of the archive without any misunderstandings about the content. Thanks to these archives, the whole personality of the artist is revealed, so that his or her works can be more objectively presented and interpreted. 

In this sense, Catherine Hobbs argues, “Personal archives reflect not only what a person does or thinks, but who they are, how they envision and experience their lives.”[2]

Finally, personal archives have historical and cultural value: they can tell us something important not only about the artist and his or her circle, but the record-keeping system itself, art and cultural studies, and the history of the museum and gallery.

Challenges and difficulties

Of course, working with personal archives has its own difficulties, too. First of all, there is the problem of searching for resources. This may concern both financial budget and technical supply, things that authors do not need to worry about if they work with corporate or governmental (generally formalized) archiving organizations. So, in this sense, authors’ possibilities are limited. Second of all, if we look at personal archives from the museum’s perspective, it becomes clear that this collaboration implies a lot of paperwork. The goal is to get the copyright from the artist (or, if this is not possible, from his or her descendants) and other persons if this archive includes their documents, make a contract and a special document, conceptually describing how to preserve and exhibit artworks and materials. Additionally, working with individuals can be much harder than with organized institutions, because personal communication is always accompanied by a particular level of subjectivity.

Examples of personal archives: methods and principles

Personal art archives can be much more artistic and creative. Thanks to their much smaller size, they are more manageable in terms of usage and financial support, so that they give an artist a particular level of freedom allowing experimentation and pure, non-biased artistic expression. For instance, the John Latham Archive is a perfect example which challenges common understanding: it positions itself as an “event.” John Latham is a British conceptual artist who worked with paint, sculpture, installation, performance, films, etc. In his archive, you can look through Latham’s personal notes, letters, drafts, messages, and sketches. When the visitors start exploring the archive, they are provided with three links (AA, MA, IA) or three approaches of viewing the documents. To use the AA method, you must rely on intuition: it is based on Latham’s Time-Base classification system that gives each document special signatures, expressed using sounds. It requires carefully learning the system to play the game and retrieve the documents. MA shows the material randomly: it works as a slideshow emphasizing the visual aspect of the archive and relies on the visitor’s first impression and potential response. Finally, IA is a much more structured way of searching the archive, as it allows the usage of keywords, indexes, formats, decades, etc. All these ways of entering the archive are not accidental – they correspond to Latham’s favorite novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and represent the characters of each brother, that is Alyosha, Mitya, and Ivan. Alyosha (AA), the youngest son, is charismatic and sensitive; Mitya (MA), the eldest brother, is impulsive and passionate; Ivan (IA) is thoughtful and organized. By choosing one of these approaches, the visitor is involved in a more engaged and convenient form of exploration, thus establishing close relations with the author himself. As Athanasios Velios says, “the website itself introduces the visitor to John Latham’s ideas before any content has been examined” because “it is tailored around the artist, not around an archiving tool.”[3]

An interesting example of a personal archive is the Irina Aktuganova and Sergey Busov Archive. Irina Aktuganova is a Russian art historian and designer, a curator in the field of technology art, art & science, and science museum design. Together with Sergey Busov, physicist and director of the St. Petersburg Techno-Art Center, she created an interdisciplinary archive that includes various materials documenting photo and video records of particular events, projects, and artworks, catalogs, periodicals, reports, and so on. The archive features items of Gallery 21, Cyber-Femin-Club, Gallery of Experimental Sound GEZ (GEZ-21), and Philosophical Café and Agency 21 art galleries and organizations.

This archive is important because it reveals the usefulness of personal archives for researchers. For instance, a scholar interested in gender studies will find lots of materials here about contemporary feminist movements in Russia, related conferences and events, cyberfeminism, etc.

A special feature of the Gubanova&Govorkov Archive is that it has a detailed description of the artworks. Elena Gubanova and Ivan Govorkov are artists who work with painting, sculpture, and videoart. They have been collaborating and exhibiting together since 1990. In their archive, the visitor can find photo and video records of various installations, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other materials related to their art. These items are often conceptualized, which means one can look at both the artwork itself and information concerning the history of the artwork, what inspired its creation and how it was made, its current state and location, and its larger meaning. For example, the 7th Floor, Walk-Up installation is accompanied by the following text: “A staircase is a functional item, providing vertical connections. It is often used as a symbol, emphasizing the importance of climbing, and as part of a religious ritual. In this installation, the artist depicts a ‘box’ with projections of staircases going indefinitely up and coming down. They are reflected in the mirrors of the ceiling and the floor, so the movements on them change their direction. The audience appears to be in perpetual motion, remaining still just for a few moments. This is important for the artists, as a person can experience a moment of quiescence in the process, which could be a gateway from the boredom of the known and the mundane.” This is a very clever strategy: usually if you want to find conceptual or critical information about an artwork, you have to search for it in websites or scientific databases. Larger record-keeping platforms cannot be so thorough and keep every piece of information about a particular artwork, as there is too much of it. This also makes it possible to avoid overinterpretation, which is often the case with artistic objects.

Why We Need Personal Archives

As I have tried to show, the role of the author is to be both a creator and a preserver of art. Personal archives are great ways to do this. They are reliable, and may be quite artistic and unique, saying more about the artworks and the author’s ideology and views. Personal archives will help museums and galleries adapt to the new conditions of digital and media art and develop a new shift in the record-keeping system. In conclusion, I would like to say that in writing this essay I had definite intentions. Even though self-archiving is becoming a widespread practice, it is still not all that popular. I believe that artists should create their own personal archives and care about their heritage themselves before museums take an interest them. In this way, even the most complex artworks can be fully saved and preserved.

[1] Katie, Carey, “How to Build a Digital Archive of Your Artwork,” Artwork Archive, accessed December 24, 2020, https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/how-to-build-a-digital-archive-of-your-artwork.

[2] Hobbs, Catherine, “The Character of Personal Archives: Reflections on the Value of Records of Individuals,” Archivaria 52 (February 2001): 128.

[3] Velios, Athanasios, «The John Latham Archive: An Online Implementation Using Drupal». Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 30, no. 2 (2011): 12-13.

Bibliography

Katie, Carey. «How to Build a Digital Archive of Your Artwork». Artwork Archive, accessed December 24, 2020, https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/how-to-build-a-digital-archive-of-your-artwork.

Dušan Barok, Julie B. Thorez, Annet Dekker, David Gauthier, Claudia Roeck. «Archiving Complex Digital Artworks». Journal of the Institute of Conservation 42, no. 2 (2019): 94-113.

Gere, Charlie. «New Media Art and the Gallery in the Digital Age». Tate Papers, no. 2, https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/02/new-media-art-and-the-gallery-in-the-digital-age.

Hobbs, Catherine. «The Character of Personal Archives: Reflections on the Value of Records of Individuals». Archivaria 52: 126-35.

Velios, Athanasios. «The John Latham Archive: An Online Implementation Using Drupal». Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 30, no. 2 (2011): 4-13.

Conceptual storage of art objects: on the basis of which elements we analyze the idea

By Alina Zalyaletdinova, Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies of the School of Advanced Studies (SAS), University of Tyumen.

In the frameworks of the CYLAND Intern Program

Contemporary art challenges the classical museum approach to storing art objects and forcing it to evolve. In this regard, many world museums and art archives turn to conceptual storage, which considers not only the object itself, but also its concept as a unit of archival storage. Keeping a concept means that the public will see the work ideologically first of all. In turn, the idea of ​​an art object is closely intertwined with the artist’s intention and the eternal question “What was the author trying to say?”. This opens up both a huge scope of possibilities and a series of problems for a potential curator. This is especially true when the artist is no longer alive. Under such circumstances, conceptual storage is obviously difficult to implement (unless by some miracle authors have left a detailed description of their work and corresponding storage instructions). Fortunately, in addition to the author’s view, there are other factors that set the direction of the concept of an art object. We will talk about these factors, methods and the world practice of conceptual storage in this article.

Why is traditional museum storage practice no longer a universal solution for all art objects?

It is worth briefly reflect on the reasons why classical museum storage is becoming more and more problematic in the art community.

Firstly, contemporary art sets itself the task of changing the norms of traditional art, and this implies the use of new forms, tools and of course materials.  Since the early 1960s, artists began to redefine the role of an object of art as an immortal relic, which made their work too complex for the traditional method of museum storage.  For example, Lady Gaga borrowed the idea for her famous meat dress from Canadian concept artist Jana Sterback. For obvious reasons, her Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic is hard to imagine as a classic museum item.

Jana Sterback, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987, Walker Art Center: https://walkerart.org/collections/artworks/vanitas-flesh-dress-for-an-albino-anorectic
Jana Sterback, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987, Walker Art Center

Secondly, many genres of contemporary art (for example, performances and installations) are directly related to the time and circumstances of their creation. Conservation of the physical part / basis of a work is usually not sufficient to preserve its contextual links / site-specificity. Moreover, the meaning and perception of a work can change many times from the moment of its first exposure / showing.  It is worth mentioning the installation by Marianne Vierø Indoor Gardening, which was recreated by the artist four times. With each new version, the forms of objects used by the author and their location were radically changed. The artist stated that all four times she solved different artistic problems, and lost interest in the art object as a result.

Installation image. Marianne Vierø, Indoor Gardening, 2009–2011, painted wood, book, ceramic, glass, plastic, dimensions variable (Courtesy of Marianne Vierø): http://marianneviero.com/html/Modern.html
Installation image. Marianne Vierø, Indoor Gardening, 2009–2011, painted wood, book, ceramic, glass, plastic, dimensions variable (Courtesy of Marianne Vierø)

Artist intention

Contemporary conservatives use different tools to mediate author’s meanings, and the most frequent is interviewing the artist. Voices in Contemporary Art (VoCA), a nonprofit American organization, trains museum staff in interviewing artists.  Their partner, the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA), promotes a collaborative approach between curator and artist. This approach has a significant advantage, since it allows the museum to convey the meaning of the art object the way the artists themselves wished to convey it. However, for all its convenience, interviewing is not the ideal solution to retaining concepts. Glenn Wharton (who worked at MoMA), in the article “The Artist’s Intention and the Preservation of Contemporary Art,” talks about the long-term practice of collecting and studying the preferences of artists. She noticed that the questions she asked had a lot to do with the artist’s response: “I sought their opinions on current options for treatment and display. Sometimes I realized that their responses reflected other concerns in their mind, including their present career advancement and their future reputation… my framing of topics and guiding the conversation influenced what they said. These recognitions of additional agendas and my own impact on what was said further complicated my references to their comments as expressions of original intent.” Wharton also voices concern that the artist will be more concerned with the initial idea of ​​his project than with its final implementation (Wharton 2015, 2).

Analysis of the art object

William Kurtz Wimsat and Monroe Beardsley, in their essay “The intentional fallacy” (1946), argued that the best way to evaluate a work of art should be through direct analysis of the subject. In their opinion, lengthy descriptions of the author’s intentions only distract from the work itself (Wimsat and Beardsley, 1946). On the one hand, freedom from the category of the author’s intention provides a museum or archive with more room for interpretation. On the other hand, this approach raises the question of boundaries, principles and ethical norms in working with a work of art.  In order to avoid a conflict of interpretations arising from the different social and professional positions of the artist and the curator, it is necessary to focus on the formal characteristics of the work and clearly outline the methodological guidelines on the basis of which it is contextualized. Analysis of the work itself is undoubtedly an important part of preserving the concept, as it determines the parameters of its future exposure and perception by the public.

Determining the position from which an art object is interpreted is important in cases where the author’s intention comes into disagreement with the form of its public display. For example, the work of the famous Dutch conceptual artist Jan Dibbets The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum was provided by the artist in the form of slides that were to be projected on the wall. The idea of ​​the work was to demonstrate the change of day, which was unattainable in practice: the work was so extended in time that the viewer left without waiting for the transitions planned by Dibbets. To solve the situation, the Museum asked the artist to create an additional collage, which was placed parallel to the projection (Stigter 2016, 12).  It was decided that this form of exhibiting the project would not lose its original idea, since the photo collage would still reflect the concept of variability.

Jan Dibbets, The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum, 1970, color photograph on acrylic board, 170.2 x 176.5 cm: https://vanabbemuseum.nl/en/collection/details/collection/?lookup%5B1673%5D%5Bfilter%5D%5B0%5D=id%3AC860
Jan Dibbets, The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum, 1970, color photograph on acrylic board, 170.2 x 176.5 cm

External context

Finally, there is a third factor important for understanding the concept – context. Technical innovations, political events or cultural changes have a large impact on production and subsequent perception of work. Is the question of methods of contextual reading of a work central to the work of a conservative? An example of a work requiring mandatory conceptualization is the work “Belarus” by Artem Loskutov, painted with a police baton.

Artem Loskutov, "Belarus", 2020, Canvas, Acrylic, Police Baton, 60X40 cm: https://theblueprint.ru/culture/art/artem-loskutov-belarus
Artem Loskutov, “Belarus”, 2020, Canvas, Acrylic, Police Baton, 60X40 cm

Computer scientist John Maeda suggests filming the reaction of visitors interacting with the work, and showing these videos when the work is subsequently exhibited (Wharton 2015, 6): the way visitors react to an art object is a direct demonstration of the dialogue between the artist and society.

Russian experience of conceptual storage

Conceptual storage is still quite a new and emerging approach in museum practice. In Russia, this type of storage exists in the Pushkin Museum, which also collects digital art.  The museum holds public events through which artists can comment on their own work. Also, during the process of transferring work to the collection, the administration and the author reach an agreement that complex art objects must have a conceptual description.  The artist can provide additional information, including initial sketches of the project.

Another example is the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, which preserves tickets, posters and other paper ephemera as evidence of the institutional life of a work of art.

Bibliography

Stigter, Sanneke. “Between concept and material. Working with conceptual art: a conservator’s testimony.” (2016).

Wharton, Glenn. “Artist intention and the conservation of contemporary art.” AIC Objects Specialty Group Postprints 22 (2015): 1-12.

Beardsley M., Wimsatt W. K. The intentional fallacy //Literary Theory: An Anthology. – 1946. – P. 30-35.

A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Paul D. Miller (CYFEST-3 Participant)

Join in the conversation with artist Ai Weiwei and Brooklyn Rail Editor-at-Large Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), CYFEST-3 (2009) participant. 

9 a.m. Eastern / 6 a.m. Pacific

In this talk

Ai Weiwei

Renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that resonate with timely phenomena across today’s geopolitical world, from architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai Weiwei uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values. Recent exhibitions include: Ai Weiwei: Resetting Memories at MARCO in Monterrey, Ai Weiwei: Bare Life at the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum in St. Louis, Ai Weiwei at the K20/K21 in Dusseldorf, and Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with the Public Art Fund in New York City.

Ai was born in Beijing in 1957 and currently resides and works in Berlin. Ai is the recipient of the 2015 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation.

Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky 

Composer, multimedia artist, and writer Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) makes work that immerses audiences in a blend of genres, global culture, and environmental and social issues. Miller has collaborated with an array of recording artists, including Metallica, Chuck D, Steve Reich, and Yoko Ono. His 2018 album DJ Spooky Presents: Phantom Dancehall debuted at #3 on Billboard Reggae. He is an Editor-at-Large of the Brooklyn Rail.

Read more: https://brooklynrail.org/events/2020/12/22/a-conversation-with-ai-weiwei-and-paul-d-miller

Announcing New Festival Dates!

Boris Shershenkov (Russia), Etheroforming, 2020
Boris Shershenkov (Russia), Etheroforming, 2020

Dear festival participants, friends and colleagues, 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this has had on the city of St. Petersburg, our team has decided to move our annual CYFEST festival to November, 2021. Having spent the whole year preparing for the show with our curators, managers and partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is not declining, and our priority continues to be the safety of our audiences, colleagues and artists. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and we look forward to further cooperation next year.

Yours faithfully,

CYFEST-13 team

CYFEST-13 Open Call for Multimedia Artists: Results Announcement

Cooing
Alena Tereshko, Valentina Lutsenko, Vadim Elichev (Russia), Cooing, video installation, 2020

CYLAND Media Art Lab is pleased to announce the results of the Cyfest-13 open call. Festival theme: Cosmos and Chaos.

CYFEST is one of the biggest international festivals of media art in Eastern Europe, founded by a group of independent artists and curators in Saint Petersburg in 2007. CYFEST unites art professionals, programmers, engineers and media activists all over the world, expands territories and possibilities of contemporary art, intertwining it with various disciplines of science and technology.

As part of an open-call for participation in the CYFEST-13 International Media Art Festival, we received 154 applications from artists and collectives from 27 countries, including South Korea, USA, Mexico, Spain, Egypt, Belarus, Czech Republic, Peru, Iran, Italy, Turkey, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, France, Russia, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, Iran, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Macedonia.

The curators of the festival express their deep gratitude to the artists and art collectives for their interest in the festival and high artistic and professional level of applications.

“Today we’re announcing the winners of our international CYFEST-13 open call. Thanks to all the artists who submitted their projects. It was not an easy choice by any means. We have assessed the applications against all relevant criteria. Many of the proposals are worthy of a separate exhibition. In addition to the conceptual framework, we paid attention to the possibility of adapting each project to the festival format. And, of course, when selecting artworks, we took into account how each artist reveals such a broad philosophical topic as Cosmos and Chaos.”

— Elena Gubanova, artist, co-curator of the CYFEST festival

Short List

Marina Alekseeva and Vladimir Rannev (Russia)

Karin Andersen (Italy)

Pedro Fraguela (Spain)

David Hochgatterer (Austria)

Lingdong Huang (China / USA), Ziwei Wu (China / UK)

Daniil Kaminker (Russia / USA)

Damla Kilickiran (Norway)

Anastasia Koroleva (Russia)

Rebecca Merlic (Germany)

Daniela de Paulis (Italy / The Netherlands)

Danita Puskareva (Russia)

Tivon Rice (Netherlands / USA)

Mariateresa Sartori (Italy)

Scenocosme: Gregory Lasserre & Anaïs met den Ancxt (France)

Boris Shershenkov (Russia)

Alena Tereshko, Valentina Lutsenko, Vadim Elichev (Russia)

Emilio Vavarella (Italy)

The results of the open call for students will be announced on December 21st.

We will contact each of the open-call winners personally after January 15th.

Partner News: LASER 9 Hexagram Montreal

LASER_Hexagram_Montreal_poster — копия
Image: Old-growth production shoot Forest! with artist director Leila Sujir (left) and cinematographer Christian Kroitor (right), Big Lonely Doug location near Port Renfrew, June 2016. Photo : Christian Kroitor. Used with permission.

Forests Drawing Close

LASER 9 Hexagram Montreal

Co-Chairs Nina Czegledy and Gisèle Trudel

Wednesday, November 11th, 7pm – 8:30 pm

Tiohtià:ke | Montreal

Free online video conferencing via Hexagram’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrkTxcWUd83yrgt9f67qCUQ

This edition of the LASER series proposes to build on current artistic, anthropological, architectural and scientific research about forest ecosystems for enriching discussions about biodiversity and creativity. Forest agencies of humans and more-than-humans point to manifold affordances, combining their inner and outer workings to inhabit convergent worlds. The speakers will discuss the following topics: visualizing respect and memory of old-growth forests with high-definition video and stereoscopic technologies (Sujir and Zavagno), deciphering the inner network of tree sap flow functions with 3D microscopic imagery in periods of drought (Lourenço) as well as recent trends in architectural designs in Finland pointing to the resurgence of wood, a qualitative housing endeavour to kindle the senses (Howes). 

Through the interplay of sensing bodies and technologies, Forests Drawing Close will be an encounter with conditions of proximity about tree relations, up close and afar. 

This LASER edition is presented in the context of Hexagram’s 1st Interdisciplinary Summit Web Platform entitled Sympoietics : The Sharing of Agency and Autonomy. (https://rencontres.hexagram.ca/).

Invading Forests

David Howes will discuss the implications of Finnish architect Juhanni Pallasmaa’s work – most notably The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1996) – for the recent re-valorization, by architects and designers, of wood as a building material (formerly dismissed as a fire hazard and constructions made of it deemed “vernacular”). For a long time, humanity sought to domesticate or “manage” forests. Might this new trend in wooden architecture be a sign of forests drawing closer and sylvanizing us? This presentation complements Howes’ essay on Whole-Body Sensing: Encountering the Forest with Henry David Thoreau on Hexagram’s Sympoïétiques Web platform.

Hydraulic Architecture of Trees: Adjusting to Survive in a Changing World

Jehová Lourenço Jr will present the use of novel approaches such as laser microscopy for 3D imaging of cell structures and trait-based ecology in understanding how trees adjust their hydraulic architecture to cope with environmental constraints through time. Recent studies conducted with Jack Pine trees on celllevel adjustments and their effects on the safety and efficiency of water transport allow us to understand the outstanding growth performance of this species and its ability to withstand drought.

Walking in 3D Stereoscopic Forest Spaces (2016-ongoing)

Leila Sujir and Jorge Zavagno will talk about the development of a series of video projects focusing on the old-growth forests, collaboration with the community in their practice, and the possibilities brought by considering walking rather than seated viewers. The monumental scale of the video projections and the “elastic depth” of the 3D images render the work immersive, integrating the spectators’ corporal movements into its reception.

BIOS

David Howes is a Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at McGill University, Montreal. His teaching and research span many disciplines, including anthropology, art, law, architecture and marketing. He is a forceful proponent of the comparative method. David is a research member of Hexagram and he is currently directing a project entitled Explorations in Sensory Design.

Jehová Lourenço Jr is a Brazilian plant ecologist with expertise in the Atlantic rainforest ecosystem. His work and research provide new insights into how environmental change influences forest functioning. He is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre d’étude de la forêt at UQAM. He was recently awarded a Newton International Fellowship by the British Royal Society.

Jorge Zavagno is a Concordia INDI Masters candidate in Intermedia Practices whose research focuses on the use of 3D and 360 video to encapsulate and narrate the decision-making processes of documentary filmmakers. With over ten years of experience as a post-production supervisor for documentary films, Jorge is part of the Elastic Spaces research group at Concordia as the technical director. 

Leila Sujir is an artist, Associate Professor in Intermedia and Chair of the Studio Arts Department at Concordia University. Over the last thirty years, she has been building a body of video/video installation artworks exploring immigration, migration, nation and culture. Sujir is a founding member of Hexagram. Her works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Tate Gallery in England.

Presentation partners: Médiane Canada Research Chair in the Arts, Ecotechnologies of Practice and Climate Change and Hexagram Network.


Since September 2020, CYLAND Media Art Lab is the official representative of the LASER Talks project in Russia.


 

LASER_Hexagram_Montreal_poster

Goldsmiths University: Fight pandemic with virtual vaccine in new computer game

a screenshot from The Vaccination Game showing a map of the world with different countries connected by lines

A free online game developed by a Goldsmiths, University of London MSc student led by senior researchers at the University of Oxford helps the public to understand how vaccines work on a global scale. The placement of the game was set up by Professor William Latham, CYFEST International Media Art Festival participant. 

The Vaccination Game, which launched this month, challenges players to figure out how they can deploy limited doses of a vaccine to best control a disease modelled on influenza. 

A virtual vaccine in the game is available in limited doses per week and the player has to decide who to vaccinate in each of the 99 cities worldwide that are part of the game. At the end of the campaign, the player receives a report as to how well they played the game and how many lives were saved by the vaccine. 

The idea of developing a game was conceived by Professor Hal Drakesmith and colleagues at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford (MRC WIMM), who are part of a research network focussing on immunising babies and mothers to fight infections in low and middle-income countries. Following funding from, and in collaboration with the IMPRINT research network, they were able to begin development of the game in 2019. 

Goldsmiths MSc student Giacomo Mazza took a summer work placement to work on coding for The Vaccination Game with the Analysis, Visualisation and Informatics group at Oxford which is led by Steve Taylor and based at MRC WIMM.

The placement was set up by Professor William Latham and Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie from Goldsmiths’ Department of Computing who have previously collaborated with Taylor and MRC WIMM on a number of DNA / RNA visualisation tools and scientific papers, including a recent VR 3D visualisation of Covid-19 with the University of York.

Managed by Richard Leinfellner, lecturer on the MSc Computer Games Programming at Goldsmiths, Giacomo has helped to produce a final version of the game based on mathematical models of how a virus spreads, and what effect a vaccine might have. 

Read more: https://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-vaccination-game/

The Vaccination Game can be played online here: https://bit.ly/3d5dwh0

Partner News: The Archive to Come

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An exhibition of short time-based works
by more than 50 artists!
On-line, In Social VR, and In the Gallery

October 22nd – December 17th, 2020
Opening this Thursday, October 22nd, 4:00 – 7:00pm [PDT] REGISTER HERE TO RECEIVE LINKS TO THE ON-LINE RECEPTION
Watch the works on our website: www.tttelematiccc.com
Curated by Clark Buckner and Carla Gannis

Featuring works by: Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Alicia Escott, Antonio Roberts, Auriea Harvey, Bayeté Ross Smith, Caroline Sinders, Christina Corfield, Clareese Hill, Claudia Hart, Danielle Siembieda, Darrin Martin, David Bayus, Faith Holland, Faiyaz Jafri, Gabriel Barcia-Colombo, Genevieve Quick, Gretta Louw, Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Jamel Chapel AKA Jam No Peanut《MC 听不懂, James X Patterson, Jenifer Wofford, LaJuné McMillian, Laura Gillmore, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Laura Splan, Leila Weefur, Liss Lafleur, Lorna Mills, Lynn Marie Kirby and James Kirby Rogers, Mads Lynnerup, Maggie Roberts [Orphan Drift], Mark Amerika, Mark Klink, Martina Menengon, Mary Flanagan, Minoosh (Raheleh) Zomorodinia, Mohsen Hazrati, Molly Soda, Noth (Qinyuan) Liu, Penelope Umbrico, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, R. Luke DuBois, Ranu Mukherjee [Orphan Drift], Rosa Menkman, Ruben Natal-San Miguel, Sean Capone, Shaghayegh Cyrous,  shawné michaelain holloway, Sherie Weldon, Snow Yunxue Fu, Surabhi Saraf, Susan Silas, Tamiko Thiel, Tiare Ribeaux, Yuliya Lanina.

As an outgrowth of Carla Gannis’ wwwunderkammer, Telematic Media Arts is pleased to present, The Archive to Come, an exhibition – both on-line and in the gallery – of short time-based works that address questions of loss, memorialization, crisis, and re-invention, through the lens of contemporary networked culture and digital media.

The current crises we confront raise fundamental questions about what we value and want to preserve as we work to recover from their ravages and build for the future.  How will we memorialize those whose lives have been lost?  What could do justice to the fact that so many have died needlessly, as a result of government inaction and political maneuvering, or worse, as victims of racist terror and state violence?  How can we redress the unequal distribution of suffering and work to dismantle systems of oppression?  What histories demand to be foregrounded and what legacies should be left behind? What have we carried with us as we’ve withdrawn into isolation and emerged in protest? What are the sources of precariousness and resilience in our personal and collective constitutions?  What kinds of work do we honor as essential?  What do we need to preserve our sense of well-being?  What novel modes being and relating have we developed to maintain our social connections?  What do we hope for the future? 

These are questions of the archive, which both founds and sustains the authority of discourses, institutions, and practices. They concern the construction of memory, knowledge, experience, and power; and they present themselves now, amidst these crises, as both problems and possibilities: revelations of the previously unconscious contradictions in our way of doing things, as well as opportunities to re-orient our attunement to the world.

Carla Gannis’ wwwunderkammer appeals to the 16th – Century “Cabinets of Curiosity” to consider the uncanny complications of grounded reality and virtual reality, nature and artifice, science and science fiction in contemporary digital culture, while building virtual worlds, founded upon de-colonizing, post-human, and feminist archives.  The Archive to Come, accordingly, opens these concerns to consideration by a broad field of other artists, inviting them to construct archives of their own, to reflect upon the correlative issues of historical trauma and displacement, and to consider how the digitalization of memory has changed the experience of what we remember – indeed, memory and experience themselves?

Partner News: Cultural and Educational Project GROUNDING, ITMO Art&Science

Grounding Open Call

Grounding is a cultural and educational program aimed at cultivating interdisciplinary interactions in the Art & Science community by means of artistic practices, laboratory research, and public discussions. We welcome artists, scientists, and students to participate in the open call. The public program includes an exhibition and educational events.
 
Artists, scientists, researchers, and students are invited to participate in collective Grounding, a process of sharing knowledge and exhibiting art projects that focus on soil in various contexts, from environmental to philosophical. Participation can take the forms of art projects, lectures, and workshops.
 
Based on the results of the open call, we will select up to 15 projects for a group exhibition at the Dokuchaev Central Museum of Soil in St. Petersburg. Completed artworks and unrealized projects alike are welcomed in open call. Selected workshops and lectures will be included in the educational program. We don’t restrict participants in the number of applications. For realization of their projects participants can use resources of ITMO university laboratories: of computer technologies, robototechnics, AI, advanced materials, biotechnology, photonics and others (full list).
 
The mission of Grounding is to build connections between contemporary art and traditional science. During the selection process, special attention will be given to the projects that connect with the scientific and historical exposition of the Museum with its glass cases, historical artefacts, soil profiles, and other objects. We also invite artists to think about possible ways to carefully interact with museum exhibits in their projects. Here we provide creative freedom with the only condition that the exhibit should remain intact.
 
Application deadline: until October 20 (inclusive)
Announcement of results: October 25
Opening of the exhibition: December 5 (World Soil Day)
 
For more information, follow the link: http://groundingwith.space/en/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groundingwith

 

ITMO_Grounding_Logo

Public Conversation on Learning/Education

Learning-Education-1280x532

Invitation
Post Pandemic Provocateurs

Public Conversation on Learning/Education
SEPTEMBER 26/27, 2020

On behalf of the Post Pandemic Provocateurs (PPP) initiative we invite you to participate on September 26/27, 2020 in a special Public Conversation on the topic of Learning/Education.

Soh Yeong Roh (South Korea)
Fred Paulino (Brazil)
Adam Somlai-Fischer (Hungary)
Marcus Neustetter (South Africa/ Austria)
Jo Wei (China)

– will tell us about the current COVID 19 learning environment from they own local context.

They may not share disciplines, BUT they share the conviction that it is urgent to teach learning (beyond established curricula) such as eliminating racism and world?wide Xenophobia, but also how to learn to forget some social customs (e.g. handshakes) that help propagate COVID19.

PPP – Nina Czegledy, Roger Malina, Vania Negrete, Joel Slayton and Marcus Neustetter

The public conversation will be joined by a live participatory performance Whose Imaginary Future? by Marcus Neustetter and collaborators in South Africa with a call and response to one another from across space and within multiple artistic disciplines, supported by the imaginaryfutures.org <http://imaginaryfutures.org/> partners.

Timeline:
Saturday September 27 1:00 AM Moscow Time

which is the same time in:

Saturday September 26 17:00 Dallas, Texas US & Mexico City. Mexico
Saturday September 26 18:00 Toronto, Canada
Saturday September 26 19:00 Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Sunday September 27 00:00 Budapest, Hungary & Johannesburg, South Africa
Sunday September 27 06:00 Beijing China
Sunday September 27 07:00 Seoul, South Korea

*Please note that for some in different time zones the date is extending to September 27

RSVP please: ppp@imaginaryfutures.org
mailto:ppp@imaginaryfutures.org> to receive the ZOOM link.

More: http://imaginaryfutures.org/

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