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"Digital Art Works. The Challenges of Conservation" at ZKM Media Museum in Karlsruhe
Nam June Paik “Internet Dream”, 1994 ZKM-Collection © ZKM | Karlsruhe, photo: EnBW, Steffen Harms.

KARLSRUHE.- How can digital data be stored over the long term if the new notebook is already obsolete as soon as it leaves the store? This phenomenon also presents problems in art: What happens to media art when the Internet environment for which it was conceived, changes? Is it admissible to show works that were once developed for the PC now on an iPad? The exhibition “Digital Art Works. The Challenges of Conservation” at the ZKM | Media Museum fundamentally explores questions related to collecting, exhibiting, and maintaining computer-based art works and makes the work concerning digital conservation visible.

For a few decades now, digitalization has enabled and simplified the processing and distribution of data; digital data are available on the Internet for all users at all times. Basically, however, the conservation of digital content has been subject to an increasingly rapid adaptation to new technical systems. This circumstance creates uncertainty concerning the sustainability of our cultural memory.

Since January of 2010, ZKM | Karlsruhe, together with five partners from France and Switzerland have developed strategies for the conservation of digital art works in the framework of the EU research project Digitale Medienkunst am Oberrhein.

Konservierung – Restaurierung – Zukunftssicherung, or digital art conservation. The project originated above all as a response to the wish to further develop the collected experience in the area of media art in the region of the Upper Rhine and to extend the project on regional levels to promote networking and the exchange of information, thus contributing to an international discussion.

Using ten case studies, concepts were developed for the long-term conservation of the type of art works, which have become fragile due to rapidly changing technology. The ten case studies as well as other works from the ZKM collection form the core of “Digital Art Works. The Challenges of Conservation”; they open up the broad spectrum of problems in the conservation of digital art and point to the necessity of preservation. Embedded in the didactic supporting program, the art works themselves will stand at the center: classics such as Nam June Paik’s “Internet Dream” or Jeffrey Shaw’s “The Legible City” will be available to visitors of the exhibition as will be the latest computer hackings by the Dutch artist duo Jodi, or the diagram poetry by the French Antoine Schmitt. “Digital Art Works”, then, stays abreast of an art genre that is representative of our age and art form’s life of its own both inside and outside of the museum.

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