|Symposium I, Text|
As part of the EU-funded research project digital art conservation, this international symposium aims to investigate the future of our digital cultural memory, focusing in particular on the preservation of computer-based art.
For a couple of decades now, digitization has allowed the content of cultural memory to be more easily processed and circulated. However, the preservation of digital content is fundamentally conditioned by the need to conform to an ever more rapid sequence of new technical systems. This functional obsolescence presents a systemic threat to digital cultural memory, which has rendered the traditional criteria of longevity and authenticity ineffective.
The practice and theory of art collecting and preservation has also seen a paradigm shift, presenting curators, collectors, scholars and conservators with a new set of as yet unsolved problems. Whereas traditional media and tools remained in the hands of artists and curators, digital media have under certain aspects reduced the autonomy of these cultural actors.
Parallel to day-to-day collecting and exhibition practice – necessarily pragmatic – conservation theory has recently seen a normative debate on the ethics of preservation, a discussion comparable to developments elsewhere in the humanities and natural sciences, as well as in bioethics and environmental ethics. The conference's discussion of the ethics of conservation aims to overcome the current uncertainty surrounding the preservation of digital media art as part of our cultural heritage.
This set of interconnected themes forms the context for the questions posed by the first international symposium of digital art conservation, a three-year research project funded by the European Union: What consequences will the ongoing systemic change of cultural memory have for our consciousness of time and of history, and for our image of ourselves and the world? Are traditional criteria for conservation – a work of art's originality, longevity and inherent economic value – at all applicable to
new media art? Can standards of best practice be developed for the conservation and collection of digital media art?