Conservation Of Media Art

Best Practices For The Conservation of Media Art From An Artist’s Perspective

Raphael Lozano-Hemmer

“Dear colleague,

“For most artists I know “Art conservation” is a troubling affair: we are already too busy maintaining operations as it is, we think of our work as a “living” entity not as a fossil, we are often unsure if a project is finished, we snub techniques that may help us document, organize or account for our work as something that stifles our experimentation and creative process. In addition, especially when we are resentful that institutions are not collecting and preserving our work in the first place, we reject the whole concept of an Art collection, —agreeing with critical historians for whom collecting and preserving contemporary Art represents an obsessive-compulsive vampiric culture of suspended animation and speculation that is grounded in a neo-colonial, ostentatious, identitarian drive: Nietzsche’s “will to power” mixed with Macpherson’s “possessive individualism”.

“For this text let’s assume you are already at peace with the contradiction that is conservation: you are now interested in both creating the work and overseeing its death or zombiefication. Perhaps despite being a staunch democratic socialist you now have your own Art collection. Or maybe you have met a few collectors who take risks with you, acquire your work and help keep your studio afloat financially. Most importantly, especially if you are an insecure megalomaniac like me, you don’t want to disappear from history like so many great artists who are not collected by important Museums.

“So here we are, thinking about the topic of conservation in media art. As you know, there is a plethora of existing initiatives to preserve media artworks, but these are always from the perspective of the institutions that collect them. While most institutional programs include excellent artist-oriented components like interviews and questionnaires, the programs are all a posteriori, almost forensic, as they look at the work in retrospect, as a snapshot of time.

“This text is written to outline what artists may choose to do on the subject in order to i) simplify our life in the long run, ii) generate income, and iiii) take ownership of the way our work will be presented in the future. I welcome variations, additions and comments. Yes, it is absolutely unfair for the artist to have to worry about conservation of their work. Now let’s get on with it… [to read the rest click here].”

Dear Collector

In November 2015, for the exhibition Mankind / Machinekind at Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna, Domenico Quaranta wrote an open letter to art collectors:

Dear Collector,

“I’m writing you a letter because what you do is very personal and what I have to say fits better to the form of a private conversation than an essay…

The first thing you have to realize is that there’s not such a thing as digital media art, or whichever label is used to describe it. There are just artists, responding at different levels to the topics of their time, and using at different levels the tools of their time… The second thing you will soon realize is that what you are looking for is not easy to find in the usual venues where you go to look for art. Even if, in recent years, a number of artists, curators, gallery owners, collectors and institutions had your same epiphany, in the art market and the mainstream contemporary art world this number is still pretty small. It’s one of the paradoxes of the weird time you are living in, my dear collector: in a world where politics, economics, social relationships and private life, and with them most cultural ecologies (think about books, music and cinema), have been changed dramatically by the advent of new means of communication; in this world the art world, that has always played the role of the cultural avant-garde, has become a sort of conservative, elitist niche. The art world, not art, which is often flourishing outside of the art world’s borders, in more experimental, borderline situations and, of course, online… [more here].”

Courtesy Domenico Quaranta and Krinzinger Projekte.

Purchasing a website – frequently asked questions

What does the purchaser buy?

The Artist provides the purchaser with (i) a data storage device containing digital files of the source code, (ii) a certificate of authenticity for the work generated by Ascribe (a system that tracks the ownership and, hence, effectively guarantees the provenance of the work), (iii) a video file that documents the website – the ‘look and feel’, the individual pages and the functionality, and (iv) the right to lease the domain name (URL) with the first three years paid up.

Does the purchaser have any responsibilities?

Yes.  The purchaser is contractually bound to renew the domain name and hosting to ensure that the work is continuously online and publicly accessible.  In the event that the purchaser does not fulfill these responsibilities, the ownership of the work reverts to the artist.

Is the purchaser credited in any way?

Yes. The name of the purchaser is added to the source code of the work and the tab and address bar may be amended to included the name of the purchaser.  For example: – the collector is credited in the tab, the history cache and the source code; – the url has been updated to include the name of the collector

What if the cost of fulfilling these responsibilities becomes onerous?

The purchaser may, at any time, transfer ownership of the work to the artist.

What if it is no longer technically feasible to maintain the work?

If, despite the best efforts of the owner, the work can no longer function as a web-based work then the work will become the source code and video file that documents the work.

How can I obtain a copy of a sales contract?

In general, sales are based on Evan Roth’s Web Sales Contract.  The contract builds upon Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky’s The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement and Rafael Rozendaal’s Web Sales Contract.