The Archivisation, Presentation and Dissemination of Cyber Art on the Web

Text first published in: „Art Inquiry” vol. X (XIX).”Virtual Art/Virtual Domains of Art”. Ed. Ryszard W. Kluszczyński. Łódź 2008.
 

A conference devoted to digital archives took place during the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz in 2005. The conference was held by the newly founded Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital Culture and Media Science. The Institute is based on the active cooperation of three institutions located in Linz: Ars Electronica Center, University of Art and Industrial  Design and Lentos Art Museum. One of the primary tasks of the Institute is to document, describe and protect digital art and the objects of new media art which are collected in the Ars Electronica Festival archives. The number of works that have been gathered since the first festival in 1979 estimates to around thirty thousand. Since 1987 Prix Art Electronica – the most prestigious new media art competition – has accompanied the Ars Electronica Festival. The aim of the event is to consolidate the achievements of artists, technologists and scientist in order to elaborate on a long-term strategy of cooperation for the most significant world-wide institutions dealing with the issues.  The basic tasks of the institute are: 1.the scholarity description of digital works of art in the context of art history; 2.archivisation and preservation of the works and making them accessible to the public; 3.the development of computer tools and heightening standards of unified net-related interchange of different institutions’ data; 4.the popularization historical and theoretical treatises by means of multidimensional system of Web dissemination; 5.the furthering of the exchange of information, dialogue and mutual network communication between artists, scientists, technologists and institutions. The field of documenting activity includes computer graphics, animation, computer and digital music, interactive art, internet projects, software, mixed reality, applications of virtual reality, media performances, biological, cybernetic and genetic art, robotics, video art(1).  
 The representatives of several leading online platforms (Media Art Net, Datebase of Virtual Art, The Exploratory Media Lab MARS, only the representatives of ArtBase which functions under the auspices of Rhizome.org were missing – I will elaborate on those four platforms later in this text) were present at the conference. Now it is also worth mentioning that in 2005 Refresh!(2)   – the first international conference on the history of media art, science and technology – was held at Banff New Media Institute (Canada). The conference gathered a great number of new media historians and theorists, researchers and lecturers who were debating in fourteen sections devoted to a wide spectrum of issues connected with historiography, methodology, documentation, guardianship, media art collecting and various relations that are established between art, science and technology as well. Exemplary topics include: “Database/New Technological Tools”, “Collecting, Protection and Archiving of Media art”, “Art as Research/Artists as Researchers”, “High Art/Low Culture – the Future of New Media Science?”, “Which Lessons Can be learnt from the History of Science by the History of New Media?” Those two events show that new media art, and cyberculture have not only become an extremely important element of contemporary culture understood globally, but also that their development has already transgressed the “infancy” period and is now in the phase of stabilized functioning. The situation stems from the need to consciously and with  dilligent care protect the works of art prone to fall into oblivion due to their “unstable” nature, constantly shifting recording formats and, most of all, the unusual speed with which changes occur. Everything that is connected to the Web happens as if at a double speed. The net art itself is the best example of this. The first online realizations are commonly believed to appear in 1994. At the turn of 1995 and 1996 Vuk Cosis introduced (as is often repeated) the term net.art which seems to be the name of the early net art signed by Cosic, Antonio Muntadas, Alexei Shulgin, Natalie Bookchin, Heath Bunting, Olia Lialina, Jodi or etoy – to mention only some of the pioneers and “classics” at the same time(3). The history of the term net.art does not in fact stem from the e-mail written by Shulgin to Cosica where an incidental sequence of signs „J8~g#|\;Net.Art{-^s1” appeared and was to provoke Cosic to name the new artistic trend in this way. As explained by the Slovenian netartist and Web activist – the creator of ASCII Art and plenty of Internet projects, who also represented Slovenia at the Venetian Biennale in 2001 (the event seems to be the consecration of the whole trend) – the term was used for the first time by Pit Schultz in 1995(4). Schultz is a netartist, but also a critic and the co-author of “nettime” which is one of the most famous and most influential discussion lists devoted to online communication and cyberspace issues – McKenzie Wark called it “the European counterpart of Wired”. Yet, quite soon, at the beginning of 1998 Tilman Baumgärtel stated that „a certain era is coming to a close. The first form-shaping period of Web culture is over”. A year later Alex Galloway writes: “Net-dot-art is dead”(5).
 And indeed the canon of net.art which had been popularized several years before for instance by an important event Net.art per se organized by Ljubljana Digital Media Lab in Trieste in 1996 was replaced by net art. The exhibition net_condition(6) organized by ZKM (Center for Art and Media Technology) in Karlsruhe in 1999 can be said to be a symbolic moment. Around one hundred projects created by netartists were presented there. The artists were chosen by a board of curators headed by Peter Weibel (the director of ZKM). It may be stated, without any exaggeration, that it was the greatest manifestation of the new art, although it was during documenta X (1997) in Kassel that the net art appeared for the first time at such an important event. Weibel said then: “nowadays net art is a great power which radically transforms a closed system of object aesthetics into modern art – into an open system of postmodern (or new modern) space of activity” (7)
  Only a few years after the first experiments and activities performed by the artists using new art territory – Internet, curators and museum workers have tried to form programs and work out methods of presentation and preservation of both net art and art in the net. Peter Weibel(8), experienced in organizing a net exhibition, mentioned several basic criteria to be met by curator practice. Firstly, the works which adequately use the attributes of the Web itself as a medium should be appreciated. They should be able to function in the same space as the audience, outside their original space. Till then the “common space” had been required by the contact, but the Web introduced a huge change due to spatial separation – dislocation of the audience and the work. Secondly, the process of selection is very important – just like in the case of traditional art and traditional means of exhibiting it – it is the curator that somehow authorizes the works of art they present. This might seem to contradict the commonly emphasised “democratisation” of reception enabled by the Web, however the vision of unlimited access to a huge number of projects, works of art and artists, however splendid is, of course, utopian. The third characteristics of proper attitude to presenting art on the Web is conscious treatment of new technologies as tools and not as a goal in itself. The fourth one is the need to search for new formats, that is new forms of presenting art on the Web.
 The thorough knowledge of the theoretical background is differentia specifica of curator practice related to the media and new media art. Theory serves as a tool, or a map which enables travelling in a highly complex universe of art using new digital technologies. Theoretical data is absolutely necessary, historical knowledge, consciousness or aesthetic sensitivity are no longer enough; the fact that theory is also very often intertwined with science brings the requirements of curators even higher . Apart from this – as Weibel claims – the role of a new media art curator may be compared to the role of a producer (a film producer, for example). (Virtual) museums should not only be “repositories” for works of art, but should stimulate artists as well – hence the need to rethink the functions of culture and art patronage. A modern museum, present in both, physical and virtual space, should fulfill the function of a production studio thanks to which artists could carry out their projects supported not only in a financial, but also in technical and scientific way. Curator-producers should become coordinators of various activities which aim at creating new values and artistic objects.
Database of Virtual Art

I shall begin the presentation of  the four online platforms with the description of Database of Virtual Art(9) initiated by Oliver Graua. This project was created at the Humboldt University, the Department of Art History in Berlin in 1999 and has been sponsored by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Science. At present the Database functions under the auspices of Danube University in Krems (Austria) where Grau moved. It cooperates with many European, American and Japanese institutions and gathers the most significant researchers, theorists and historians of new media art. It is worth to mention at least some names as they guarantee the high level of texts published here. Roy Ascott, Tilman Baumgärtel, Andreas Broeckmann, Edmond Couchot, Florian Cramer, Dieter Daniels, Alain Depocas, Sara Diamond, Monika Fleischmann, Rudolf Frieling, Jean Gagnon, Ken Goldberg, Erkki Huhtamo, Jon Ippolito, Anne-Barbara Ischinger, Christina Jacoby, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, Machiko Kusahara, Herbert Lachmayer, Andreas Lang, Tim Lenoir, Roger Malina, Lev Manovich, Gunalan Nadarajan, Frieder Nake, Joseph Nechvatal, Christiane Paul, Xavier Perrot, Daniel Pinkas, Itsuo Sakane, Christine Schoepf, Christa Sommerer. The “localization” of this platform is important because it is a distinct proof of new media entering also traditional academic institutions. It is not accidental as Grau develops consequently such a model of research on new technologies of art in his texts (for example in his famous book devoted to virtual art(10)). Such a model is rooted in history and tradition. Although in one of the interviews the author clearly states that he does not claim that “new technologies of images, such as for example CAVE, have existed before in these or other forms”(11); yet his version of “the archeology of media” presented in the above mentioned book is based on searching the past for phenomena which foreshadowed the present artistic and aesthetic ones. This attitude has a rich tradition presented in numerous literarary in different manners by researchers such as Siegfried Zielinski(12), Erkki Huhtamo(13)  or Norman M. Klein(14).
The issues connected with new media must be studied in the context of historical research, although there is a tendency to use the term “digital revolution”. It is important to remember that the digital epoch was preceded by a long-term evolutionary process of discoveries in technology and media. The past should be investigated in order not to erase significant achievement from the cultural memory. Database of Virtual Reality tries to store and make the knowledge on new art available to the public.  This new art would be impossible without phenomena such as panorama, cyclorama, magic lantern, diorama and many other inventions deriving from the culture of picture and imagery. The two aspects – communicative and informative – are equally important. Image Science (Bildwissenschaft) is a project stemming from “imagery-science” which refers to the history of visual media evolution, to the Aby M.Warburg’s concepts and his unfinished Mnemosyne-Atlas and to the Erwin Panofsky’s iconology(15). Warburg’s Atlas may be treated as a peculiar anticipation of inter- and transdisciplinary activities aiming at protecting new media art. This very interesting project was realized in the 1920s and it preceded and foreshadowed the subsequent ideas of hypertextuality, searching for new kinds of nonlinear navigation and creating new ways of collecting visual, photographic materials which referred to the so called visual clusters. Visual clusters are connected with searching for complex networks of mutual semantic tensions composed and reconstructed by an actively co-participating viewer, or rather by a user – according to contemporary terminology.
“The Database of Virtual Art documents the rapidly evolving field of digital installation art. This complex research-oriented overview of immersive, interactive, telematic and genetic art has been developed in cooperation with established media artists, researchers and institutions. The Web-based, cost-free instrument – appropriate to the needs of process art – allows individuals to post materials themselves. Compiling video documentation, technical data, interfaces, displays, and literature offers a unique answer to the needs of the field. All works can be linked with exhibiting institutions, events and bibliographical references. Over time the richly interlinked data will also serve as a predecessor for the crucial systematic preservation of this art”(16) – this declaration can be found on the Database website and it is a concise description of the essence of its activities. Of course, to become its co-author one has to, according to the brief information directed to potential co-workers, undergo the “legitimizing” procedure which allows to verify competence and substantial preparation. It is one of the possibilities to implement the ideas of openness and collaboration.
Nowadays the Database founders’ range of interests goes far beyond digital installation art. To make it more vivid it is worth analizing the genre category in the structure of Database searching which is divided into four main areas: aesthetics, genre, keywords, technology. In the second catalogue there are terms such as bio art, computer graphics and animation, data base art, genetic art, net art, immersive environments, interactive art, sound installations, telematics, telepresence, transgenic art, virtual reality, robotics. In a kind of manifesto which refers to methodological presumptions of virtual art platform Oliver Grau claims that the aim of a base “which is the first step towards systematic collection of the newest art forms” is “to document works of art together with comprehensive data connected with them; it is equally important at the same time to enable users to acquire the searched information in an easy and quick way”(17). To make the information exhaustive, each record undergoes “expanded documentation” containing: bio- and bibliographic data referring to an author’s work – such as main achievements and awards, register of places where an author’s works have been exhibited (with a title, place, date and organizers of exhibitions), drawing of installation structure and scheme, digital images (in different file formats – JPG, GIF, TIF), details on software (programs, file size) and hardware. Video documentation, if available, is another important element (different formats: VHS, DVD, NTSC, PAL are adapted to Quick Time format), technical instruction, types of interface and display screen, audio documents, interviews, viewers’/users’ comments, links and literature on artists, information on technical team and institutions of media art, index and copyright.
The users of the base are able to become comprehensively acquainted with specificity, characteristics and rules of action, in the case of multimedia installations, of works of art thanks to such descriptions. Grau writes: “this useful system can be applied to other art forms such as installations, films or video. Thus documentation as a unilateral activity based on filing only the most important data turns into an active knowledge transfer process”(18). Such a profiled platform seems interesting not only for new media researchers or experts, but – as its creators put it – also for teachers, students and researchers in different branches of humanities, librarians, archivists, museum workers, architects, photographers, writers, designers, journalists, publishers, media designers and technicians, and all those who are fond of contemporary art and culture.

ArtBase
 

Rhizome.org(19) is an online platform which serves new media art global community. Its founders, headed by Mark Tribe, aim at supporting creation, presentation, discussion and protection of contemporary art that uses emerging technologies in significant ways. Rhizome.org was founded by Tribe in Berlin in 1996. Then the artist, curator and lecturer moved to New York (in 1998). Tribe sees his project as a kind of “social sculpture”(20) which integrates different forms of activities of new media artists, curators, critics and archivists. Since 2003 it has been affiliate of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which paradoxically is one of only few institutions in New York that devote a lot of attention to digital art, video experiments and audio projects. In its beginnings Rhizome.org functioned mainly as a discussion list, a kind of weekly newsletter (Rhizome Digest) and a newsletter distributed three times a week (Rhizome News). The platform gradually broadened the scope of its activities. In contrast to Database of Virtual Art, the aspect of fast and frequent updating is very significant in the case of Rhizome.org. The very name – which stems from botany – refers to the famous concept by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari – not only often mentioned in the context of postmodern debates, but also widely used to describe the Internet as a reality resembling rhizome, or rather hyperrhizome. The name emphasizes nonhierarchical or rather antihierarchical structure of the platform – which evidently reflects similar nature of the Web.
 ArtBase(21) was created in 1999 within Rhizome.org – it is an online archive of new media art now (i.e. in the middle of 2008) containing over 2110 art works (the number is still growing) encompassing a vast range of creative activities: from net art, computer games as artistic objects, to documentation of media performances and multimedia installations. After signing on to the website one is able to participate in conversations in the discussion section and to add one’s own works to the data base provided that the work or its documentation meets the criteria of “potentially historical significance”. The work’s aesthetic innovation, conceptual sophistication or political impact is taken into consideration as well as the work’s relevance to the discourse of new media art. Any discussion of the work itself on Rhizome.org or other relevant networks or publications is equally important. Moreover, the work should be important in the artist’s oeuvre and it should have been exhibited or be a part of a collection.
 The works assembled by ArtBase can be divided into two categories: cloned objects which consist of information about an artwork and an archival copy of the work, and linked objects. In the second case information about an artwork (“metadata”), such as the artist’s name, the date the project was created, the project’s title, original URL, keywords, technologies used and an artist’s statement are included. The managers of the base present artists who are prone to submit their artworks with a quite detailed description of “rights and obligations”. The agreement was introduced by Rachel Greene who has been involved with Rhizome.org (she is the author of a well-known book about the Web I referred to). The agreement is in accordance with the American law and it has to be accepted by artists.
 Richard Rinehart – a digital media artist, lecturer at many American universities, exhibition curator and the director of digital media department in Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive – is the author of a kind of manifesto(22) which describes the assumptions of ArtBase. The network was primarily supposed to gather net art objects, but it soon became open to other forms of new media art as well. Rinehart writes: “The term ArtBase refers to both the tools and system used to document the artworks as well as the artworks themselves”(23). The basic strategy that influences the means of protection and documentation of artworks in changeable and unstable media is to use emulation effectively. It depends, to make things short, on re-creation of the works from the past with the help of modern tools used in the present time. It is not about a descriptive reconstruction, but about a possibility to “run old, obsolete software and documents on new systems”(24). Rinehart describes it in this vivid way: “if one wanted to run a piece of software from 1999 (say a work from the ArtBase) on a computer in 2050, then one would write a piece of software called an “emulator” which would cause a 2050-era computer to appear to all software as if it were a computer from 1999. The original software would run because it interfaces to the computer itself through the emulator which translates all the requests of the original software into contemporary terms for the computer hardware and vice versa”(25).
 It seems an easy and obvious task only in theory, in practice it is very complicated. Generally, emulation is a strategy used not only in the context of new media art, Rinehart had co-created another project before: Archiving the Avant-Garde(26) whose aim was to develop universal methods of archiving variable media art. Rinehart himself was particularly interested in “formal notation for scoring works of digital and variable media art”(27). The above mentioned quotation is also the title of one of Rinehart’s texts in which he focuses on the issues of implementation practice and he outlines the concept of notification system parallel in a way to musical notation. The system would allow recording and preserving digital art works and objects which use new technologies and new media, and which are ephemeral in themselves. Developing standards and models of archivization is a fundamental question in the process of creating scientific basis for gathering and elaborating digital art materials. A part of such projects cannot be “stored”, similarly media performances cannot be in this matter compared to painting or sculpture, however, a significant part can be not only preserved, but also recreated in the future due to emulation systems. It should be emphasized that elaborating standards is a process. “It took centuries to evolve a system of notation for musical scores,” Rinehart says. “We need to create that same kind of consistency and invent a form of standardization that is to digital art what notation is to music”(28).
 ArtBase uses a special questionnaire to gather information necessary for presenting artists’ works on the platform. Its task is to elaborate metadata (“data about data”) on original works, software and technologies required to activate them. Each of these two areas can be divided into three levels: descriptive (connected with artists, types of objects, etc.), administrative (copyright, place of storing a work, basic requirements to make reconstruction of the object possible in the future), technical (technology necessary for a work to function). In fact, ArtBase has been realizing only the first postulate so far – descriptive metadata of collected works have been created. It is worth to remember that the word “collect” is used in a metaphoric way as the platform does not collect physical artifacts.
 Although plenty of various methodological suggestions, some of which stem from practical solutions of particular platforms and curators, have appeared in recent years, there are several rules that are accepted by all involved, including ArtBase. The four basic strategies of presenting ephemeral new media art is one of such rules. It encompasses: documentation, migration, emulation and reinterpretation. Mark Tribe(29) explains their functioning using simple examples. Documentation is the only strategy common to digital art and the art of traditional artifacts – it may be recording in a form of a film, an interview with an artist, an author’s statement, etc. Migration involves a shift from an old to a new format of notification. “Let’s suppose that something was written in HTML 2.0 and most of the tags do not work in Netscape 6. They are obsolete and useless. The only thing to do in this case is to use Perl script and to replace the obsolete tags with the new one”(30). I have elaborated on emulation above, but on the simplest level it is, for instance, adapting an Atari game to PC environment. Reinterpretation is the most complex and radical strategy because an original work has not always been described or documented in details, and if it has, there are problems with adapting (which is a kind of reinterpretation) net art works, e.g., to a completely new technological environment. To successfully complete this task ArtBase artists fill up the detailed questionnaire so that a cloned object could preserve the most significant features of an original work. Obviously in many instances it is impossible and then only documentation in the form of a metadescription can be prepared.
 It is worth to mention that ArtBase, apart from functioning online, holds exhibitions also in physical reality since it became affiliate of New Museum of Contemporary Art. One may question exhibiting net art in particular, but it applies to the whole new media art, in galleries or museums, yet every exhibition is without any doubts a creation resulting from a curator’s preferences and choices. I have mentioned earlier that a curator “authorizes” a collection(31). The exhibition Rhizome ArtBase 101 (2005) is an example of such a project – it presented net art in the museum as a phenomena which could introduce innovative solutions to contemporary art. 40 ArtBase projects were exhibited – each project was presented on a separate computer – and they were divided into ten sections: Dirt Style, Net Cinema, Games, E-Commerce, Data Visualization and Databases, Online Celebrity, Public Space, Software Art, Cyberfeminism, Early net.art. It was, however, a special event, usually exhibitions are held on the platform website and they are prepared by both, invited guests and artists who are members of ArtBase community.

netzspannung.org

 Another platform I would like to discuss is netzspannung.org(32). It was initiated by Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang Strauss who have been spiritus movens of the platform and for years have been working (together and separately) using new media technologies in the area of artistic activity and of scientific research. They were co-founders (in 1988) of a very famous and influential team of designers, artists, scientists and technicians ART+COM. At present Fleischmann is the head of MARS (Media Arts Research Studies whose „physical” headquarters is localized in Bremen) which is one of four main segments of Frauenhofer Institute of Media Communications. The Exploratory Media Lab is the section of MARS which deals with issues of media art, design and information – and the works aiming at creating an online platform started in this section in 1998. Netzspannung.org appeared on the internet in 2001. MARS supervises a number of research projects connected with electronic culture issues (eCulture) and problems of art are only one of many areas of its research. Fleischmann and Strauss’ interests are focused mainly on “new forms of communication and interaction among the human body, art and technology as a means of developing multi-modal interfaces as «tools for the art of tomorow» and as the cultural technology of mobile life”(33).
 The main area of research is art and media referring to scientific knowledge and searching for solutions and technologies which would be able to completely change our communication and environment. In order to make the changes positive, integration of various environments is needed – transdisciplinarity, cooperation of designers, artists and scientists, as well as matching social needs are the necessary conditions to develop technoculture in an effective way. The Internet is one of the means and areas where the processes occur – therefore netzspannung.org has a significant function in widespread activities of MARS. Since the very beginning of the platform the educational aspect was very important and a great emphasis was placed on creating tools to effectively “visualize knowledge”(34). The platform contains numerous records devoted to particular artists and their projects – which is in accordance with its documenting profile. However, its creators claim that there is one aspect that differs netzspannung.org from other online platforms – continuous search for new and more adequate e-learning applications. The idea that stands behind it is to develop the skills of “reading media art” among society so that the realized projects could meet the audience. In fact, a lot of attention is paid to those issues and it makes the platform distinct.
     In the context of discussing different means of new media art archivizing on the Web, the most significant part of netzspannung.org is publicly accessible data base which collects information on artistic projects. An interesting solution introduced by the platform designers is the possibility to search the base with the aid of four interfaces, four different ways of finding information. They are: a)”classic” interface of data base which enables to explore its content according to a table of contents, but various criteria can be used (date, projects, tools used); b)browser of the archives uses mainly the key of authors and particular works, texts, lectures (presented in a streaming form; it is possible to download them); c)”randomizer” automatically generates thirty random images, each of them, after being clicked on, links a user with a casually chosen object in the data base; d)semantic map is the fourth interface.
 The fourth interface is worth elaboration because it introduces an innovative means of searching the platform – it refers to visual navigation that enables different types of linking phenomena by the agency of semantic associations and references. Linguistic map of hyperlink navigation is designed in two versions – German and English. It is crucial that all data gathered in the base are placed in one “space” without the division on theory and practice, historic compilation and projects realized at present – thus aesthetics may adjoin technical issues and art may adjoin science etc. within MARS and in other places. The reference to graphics of a map enables free movement without the necessity of following the rules required by a linear reception. The immanent features of network environment are used in this case as a structural model of the base. In order to construct interface in this way one had to precisely catalogue all the documents collected in the base, classify them according to their semantic specification referring to, for example, keywords of a given document/record. Then one had to transcribe graphically the whole base into the net of interconnected data focused around basic central notions which at the same time were visual centres. Therefore, the map resembles a neural network. The exemplary notions are: space, sound, knowledge, art, user, image, communication, information, culture, interactivity, virtuality. After using a special zoom a map user notices around the basic centres of meaning keywords connected with a given notion; after choosing a particular record short information about the issue is displayed on the right side of the screen. Roger Malina aptly compared this interface to “a telescope used for browsing and assessing cosmos of data”(35). One may move from this place to the data base where detailed data of a given project can be found together with the URL linked to its official website. The primary goal of such an interface form is a possibility to contextualize, also visually, data collected on the platform. Navigation (its creators call it “sniffing”) with the aid of a map is to serve an individual discovering sundry links, interrelations and contexts.

 Media Art Net

 The origin of Media Art Net(36) can be found in the conviction that, paradoxically, in most cases the contact between the audience and (multi)media art is possible only in book form. Exhibition catalogues, books, online texts – all of them are based on the ideology of a linear text as a medium of conveying messages and, thus, they seem to be completely inadequate ways of teaching and popularizing knowledge on the topic. It is crucial to create totally different conditions enabling contact with media art – the conditions have to comply with a new artistic and communicative situation introduced by media. The platform aims at presenting the 20th century art whose history is significantly influenced by tendencies of media technology development. Searching for new media through art is signum temporis of contemporary art defined in a broad sense. The platforms that have been discussed above place new media in a central position, yet in the case of Media Art Net a broader context of (multi)media art is taken into consideration. The concept has two authors: Dieter Daniels and Rudolf Frieling – both related with among others Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, and the project was commissioned by Goethe-Institut and Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig with funding from the German Ministry of Research and Education.
 Daniels and Frieling began their work connected with creating the platform with formulating four theoretical hypotheses referring to possibilities of participation in media art events(37). 1. Processuality and interactivity of time dimension in media art imposes usage of multimedia forms. 2. Media art necessitates a theoretical discourse combining art theory, media studies and media technology. 3. Multimedia character of presentation implies the need to communicate with and to relate to other platforms and studies. The three hypotheses result in the fourth one: 4. In order to successfully present media art it is inevitable to use Web in a broad sense and the idea of online cooperation among many institutions.
 Creating a platform in cyberspace is not tantamount with radical resignation from traditional (in book form) publishing of gathered materials, although “the online book” is the most important. Therefore, as a reference to the academic ethos, several books have been published – they include materials prepared exclusively for Media Art Net or those which were adapted by the authors of the platform(38). This type of cooperation of two different means of conveying knowledge creates a multiperspective approach to media history, and is a lesson on Web possibilities for readers of the books and users of the platform. Online hyperessays use dynamic links, images, photographs, film documentations. To get acquainted with hypermedia essays it is advisable to visit the section Milestone of Media Art(39) – materials   collected there are devoted to innovatory works representing different disciplines of media art, for example intermedia (Nam June Paik), installations (Peter Weibel), immersive environments (Char Davies), net-activism (etoy), net art (Cornelia Sollfrank) or video (again Nam June Paik). The intention is to enable traditionally oriented readers an access to hard copy, i.e. physical book which might be read while referring to online materials presented on the platform, and, on the other hand, it may also function as an indication for “Google generation” (to use the term mentioned by Frieling and Daniels) that not all information can be found online. An important problem that has to be faced by media researchers (and others) appears here. “Net culture and book culture – as Frieling and Daniels write – can combine their respective potentials instead of functioning as mutually exclusive alternatives”(40).
 Media Art Net is distinguishable from the platforms discussed in this text thanks to the scope and high standards of theoretical and historic research on media and new media art. Apart from a very interesting compilation of over 1400 works (of almost 1000 artists) which are presented in a competent way with the use of widespread possibilities of dynamic links and references to other works, literature, genre categories – the platform includes eight thematic modules compiling elaborations and essays written by specialists on different disciplines of media studies, they refer not only to artistic practice, yet it is, of course, the dominant area of interest. Selection is very important here – in the context of both, particular works and thematic modules. In the case of the first area the authors write: “Preference is given neither to pure quantity, nor to the detailed case study, but to presenting judiciously-selected, meaningful connections that make it possible to grasp the material in both an intuitive and an intellectual way and methodically offer a number of different perspectives in terms of content”(41).
 The first problem-model appeared on the platform in 2004 – it was a kind of introduction to media art studies (Overview Of Media Art) with (hyper)texts (later published in the book mentioned above(42)) which had mapped out research area for modules and records presenting artistic realizations added afterwards. Up till now not every entry has been elaborated on but most of the works are described and submitted through photographic and video documentation, there are also links to original websites (if they exist), genre categorization (for example interactive environment, video, installation, sculpture, film, virtual reality, television, computer graphics, performance, action, photography), references to thematically related websites and keywords. Acknowledged authorities in media disciplines accepted the invitation to support the platform and thus, apart from documentation and presentation of the 20th century media art, Media Art Net meets all requirements of a scholarly elaboration. Particular modules were prepared by acknowledged experts representing leading European institutions (American in one case) who independently chose associates and compiled a set of publications. It is worth to briefly describe the eight thematic modules in order to learn the scope of interest of the elaborations; each module consists of several hyperessays. The topics are: aesthetics of the digital (curator: Claudia Giannetti, Mecad, Media Centre of Art and Design, Barcelona), sound and image (curator: Dieter Daniels, Academy for Visual Arts, Lipsk), cyborg bodies (curator: Yvonne  Volkart, Institute Cultural Studies in Art, Media and Design, HGKZ Zurych), photo/byte (curator: Susanne Holsbach, Academy for Visual Arts, Lipsk), generative tools (curators: Tjark Ihmels, Julia Riedel, IMG Institute for Media Design, University of Applied Arts, Mainz), art and cinematography (curator: Gregor Stemmrich, Academy of Fine Arts, Drezno), mapping and text (curator: Rudolf Frieling, Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe), public sphere (curator: Steve Dietz, ISEA, San José). A separate module is devoted to projects of interactive online works representing different net art strategies – the projects are realized exclusively for Media Art Net.
 The four online platforms discussed in the text diversely implement the mission of documenting media art and in some cases (for example ArtBase) also of collecting it (the accent is put on new media art, but not only – as Media Art Net proves). Actually each platform formulated its own standards of functioning, methodological assumptions and methods of organizing materials, yet they have a lot in common. One of the primary features of all platforms is a key concept which can be seen as a realization of an “open culture” model – described by Felix Stalder(43). Moreover, each of the platforms, in different manners, introduces cooperation between users and authors – both, practitioners (artists) and theoretists (media researchers); ordinary users are also asked to be active according to Fleischmann’s and Strauss’s approach visible in netzspannung.org – treating “user as producer”(44). Besides, it is an important feature of all online practices, not only in the context of art.
 It seems that the problem of integrating actions and developing a model of cooperation is a subsequent challenge for the creators of the data base platforms. A source of inspiration and guidelines in this scope can be activities connected with transgressing limitations of “isolated digital collections” to achieve “interoperable digital libraries” – as Howard Besser(45) writes in the article on problems of conventional libraries that collect books. For quite a long time in the field of digital librarianship new strategies of conceptualizing libraries have been developed – they are seen not only as mere storage, but as “information guards”. As early as in 1994 the federal government in the United States allocated a large sum of money for the mission of creating digital libraries. It is obvious now that ephemeral, volatile and changeable (new) electronic media art necessitates probably even more protection. The meeting in Linz and the Refresh! conference that were mentioned in the introduction to this article are a sign of forming a common front in aid of the integration of documenting, archiving, spreading and popularizing cyberart. Fleischmann and Strauss write: “The interconnection of archives and databases raises important technical questions. First of all there is the question of shared standards that would allow for «interoperability». The next, even more complex, question is that of categorisation and standardised keywords for database indices. The same term might mean something different in another context. […] The challenge is to develop a kind of dynamic data-adapter for semantic mapping between the different types of data structures and categorisation systems of the various archives”(46). These questions will hopefully be resolved in the (near) future.   

FOOTNOTES:
1. See: w. a., Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital Culture and Media Science in Linz, in: Hybrid. Living in Paradox, G. Stocker, C. Schöpf (eds.), Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2005, pp. 386-387.
2. See: http://www.mediaarthistory.org/, url: 25.12.2005 and http://www.banffcentre.ca/bnmi/programs/archives/2005/refresh/, url: 25.12.2005.
3. This pioneering period is well characterized by post-manifesto signed by Bookchin and Shulgin, Introduction to net.art 1994-1999, http://www.easylife.org/netart/, url: 15.04.2002. See also  the chronological description prepared by Bookchin, http://www.calarts.edu/~line/history.html, url: 02.07.2006.
4. See: Interwiew of Vuk Cosic, http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/008056.php, url:  05.07.2006.
5. A. Galloway, net.art Year in Review, http://switch.sjsu.edu/web/v5n3/D-1.html, url: 04.06.2008.
6. See: P. Weibel, T. Druckrey (eds.), net_condition: art and global media, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London 2001 and  http://on1.zkm.de/netcondition/start/language/default_e, url: 15.01.2001.
7. P. Weibel, Art/Politics in the Online Universe, http://on1.zkm.de/netcondition/curators/weibel/default_e, url: 07.07.2006.
8. See: S. Cook, Interview with Peter Weibel, http://www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/phase3/pdf/intvw_weibel.pdf,  url: 08.07.2006.
9. http://www.virtualart.at/common/info.do, url: 10.07.2006. Grau indicates the pioneering character of this enterprise, yet it is probably not so important which one of the described phenomena was really the “pioneering”. It is a fact that plenty of similar initiatives were undertaken in different places almost at the same time. See: 
O. Grau, Database of Virtual Art, in: Hybrid…, op. cit., p. 404. 
10. O. Grau, Virtual Art. From Illusion to Immersion, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London 2003.
11. Oliver Grau Interview. The Image –  from Real to Virtual, http://switch.sjsu.edu/nextswitch/switch_engine/front/front.php?artc=273, url: 05.06.2004. 
12. S. Zielinski,  Deep Time of the Media. Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London  2006.
13. Huhtamo wrote many Texas on the archeology of media. Now He is preparing a book devoted to the 19th century moving panoramas as a forgotten medium. See, e.g.: E. Huhtamo,  Elements of Screenology, in: Screens. 9th International Media Art BiennaleWRO 01, V. Kutlubasis-Krajewska, P. Krajewski, A. Kubicka-Dzieduszycka (eds.), Open Studio/WRO, Wrocław 2001.
14.  N. W. Klein, The Vatican to Vegas. A History of Special Effects, The New Press, New York, London 2004.
15. See: O. Grau, Art History as Image Science, http://www2.hu-berlin.de/Grau.pdf, url: 18.03.2004.
16. http://www.virtualart.at/common/info.do, url: 10.07.2006.
17. O. Grau, For an Expanded Concept of Documentation: The Database of Virtual Art,
http://www2.hu-berlin.de/grau/database.htm,  url: 16.10.2004.
18. Ibid.
19. http://rhizome.com, url: 11.07.2007.
20. Quoted after: R. Greene, Internet Art, Thames & Hudson, London 2004, p. 57.
21. http://rhizome.org/art/, url: 11.07.2006.
22. See: R. Rinehart, Preserving the Rhizome ArtBase, http://rhizome.org/artbase/report.htm, url: 03.06.2004.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/about_bampfa/avantgarde.html, url: 27.11.2004.
27. R. Rinehart, A System of Formal Notation for Scoring Works of Digital and Variable Media Art, http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/about_bampfa/formalnotation.pdf, url: 12.07.2006.
http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/about/formalnotation.pdf, url: 5.08.2008
28. Quoted after: K. Mayfield, How to Preserve Digital Art, http://www.wired.com/news/culture/1,53712-1.html, url: 13.07.2007.
29. M. Tribe, Presentation, http://www.newmedia.sunderrland.ac.uk/balticseminar/tribe.htm, url: 13.07.2006. The our strategies are also used in a famous project Variable Media Initiative I wrote about in another text. See: P. Zawojski, Wirtualna sztuka, wirtualne muzea – realne problemy, in: Muzeum sztuki: od Luwru do Bilbao, M. Popczyk (ed.), Muzeum Śląskie, Katowice 2006. It is also worth to read a text written by one of the co-authors of the Project. See: J. Ippolito, Introduction to the Variable Media Initiative, http://variablemedia.net/e/preserving/html/var_pre_ippolito.html, url: 08.05.2005.
30. M. Tribe, Presentation, op. cit.
31. Different online and connected with the Web curating strategies are discussed in: S. Dietz, Curating (on) the Web, http://www.archimuse.com/mw98/papers/dietz/dietz_curatingtheweb.html, url: 05.06.2008 and P. Zawojski, „Muzea bez ścian” w dobie rewolucji cyfrowej, in: Muzeum sztuki. Antologia, M. Popczyk (ed.), UNIVERSITAS, Kraków 2005.
32. http://netzspannung.org/index_flash.html, url: 15.07.2006.
33. M. Fleischmann, W. Strauss, The MARS Interactive Experience Lab at the Fraunhofer Institute of Media Communications, in: Hybrid…, op. cit., p. 406.
34. See: W. Strauss, M. Fleischmann, J. Denzinger, M. Wolf,  Knowledge Spaces: Cultural Education in the Media Age, in: E-Education Applications: Human Factors and Innovative Approaches, C. Ghaoui (ed.), Idea Group Publishing, Hershey 2004. Detailed assumptions of netzspannung.org are presented in the text from the platform founders’ perspective. The discussion also includes MARS various research initiatives in the field of popularizing knowledge thanks to innovative educational ideas that use new interfaces, tools, workshops and telelectures.
35. Quoted after:  ibid, p. 295.
36. http://www.mediaartnet.org/, url: 15.07.2006.
37. See: R. Frieling, D. Daniels, Medien  Kunst  Netz, in: Hybrid…, op. cit., p. 400.
38. See for example: Media  Art  Net 1: Survey of Media Art, R. Frieling, D. Daniels (eds.), Springer, Vienna/New York 2004 i Media  Art  Net 2: Key Topics, R Frieling, D. Daniels (eds.), Springer, Vienna/New York 2005.
39. http://www.mediaartnet.org/themes/overview_of_media_art/milestone/1/, url: 15.07.2006.
40. See: R. Frieling, D. Daniels, Medien…, op. cit., p. 401.
41. R. Frieling, D. Daniels, Introduction. Media Art Can Only Be Conveyed by Multimedia, http://www.mediaartnet.org/themes/overview_of_media_art/editorial/, url: 16.07.2006.
42. See: Media  Art  Net 1…, op. cit.
43. F. Stalder, Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks, New Media Center, kuda.org, Novi Sad 2005, p. 8.
44. M. Fleischmann, W. Strauss, Multiple Roles for New Media Arts, http://netzspannung.org/about/mars/publications/, url: 30.05.2005.
45. See: H. Besser, The Next Stage: Moving from Isolated Digital Collection to Interoperable Digital Libraries, http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_6/besser, url: 02.12.2005.
46. M. Fleischmann,  W. Strauss, Multiple…, op. cit.

REFERENCES

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Bookchin N., Shulgin A., Introduction to net.art 1994-1999, http://www.easylife.org/netart/, url: 15.04.2002.

Cook S., Interview with Peter Weibel, http://www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/phase3/pdf/intvw_weibel.pdf,  url:
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Dietz S., Curating (on) the Web, http://www.archimuse.com/mw98/papers/dietz/dietz_curatingtheweb.html, url: 05.06.2008.

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Grau O., Virtual Art. From Illusion to Immersion, The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, London 2003.

Grau O., Art History as Image Science, http://www2.hu-berlin.de/Grau.pdf, url: 18.03.2004.

Grau O., For an Expanded Concept of Documentation: The Database of Virtual Art,
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Ippolito J., Introduction to the Variable Media Initiative, http://variablemedia.net/e/preserving/html/var_pre_ippolito.html, url: 08.05.2005.

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Rinehart R., Preserving the Rhizome ArtBase, http://rhizome.org/artbase/report.htm, url: 03.06.2004.

Rinehart R., A System of Formal Notation for Scoring Works of Digital and Variable Media Art, http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/about_bampfa/formalnotation.pdf, url: 12.07.2006.

Stalder F., Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks, New Media Center, kuda.org, Novi Sad 2005.

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Weibel P., Druckrey T., (eds.), net_condition: art and global media, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London 2001.

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Zawojski P., „Muzea bez ścian” w dobie rewolucji cyfrowej, in: Muzeum sztuki. Antologia, M. Popczyk (ed.), UNIVERSITAS, Kraków 2005.

Zawojski P., Wirtualna sztuka, wirtualne muzea – realne problemy, in: Muzeum sztuki: od Luwru do Bilbao, M. Popczyk (ed.), Muzeum Śląskie, Katowice 2006.

Zielinski S.,  Deep Time of the Media. Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London  2006.
                    

                 

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