Ross Harley: [Not recorded: Makes a few introductory remarks about the context of the roundtable as part of a larger ARC funded research project into the role of Australian media art in an international context, and also mentions the position paper that has been circulated to invited participants before the roundtable was convened.] So Oliver, over to you.
Oliver Grau: Yeah, so this paper has developed over a longer time, actually. It was already discussed a little bit in previous meetings, at the Swiss Conferences, and then at the ISEA there was some discussion at the keynote. And now we have finally taken the chance and the time to make it now, and then present it to you guys here in order to discuss it.
The general perception is, for those of us who are 10, 15, maybe even 20 years in this field, that we don’t have appropriate research tools. And it was perceived by funding institutions and by cultural politicians in the beginning of the millennium and the end of the 20th century, that well, there’s this new media art, and they need some help to document and to archive what was shown in these festivals, the outcomes of art schools, of exhibits, of new media art programs and conferences, and so on.
But this funding so far has been mostly project based, so two years here, three years there. There were even longer projects like the Boltzmann Institute, which was called an institute, but it was only seven-year funding, and it even disappeared before. So most of these projects, these archives, these databases, our research tools, they are not updated any more, they are outdated, and some of them even disappeared from the web in the meantime. And there’s no clear strategy, neither to preserve media art as we know – there are some key studies here and there, but there’s no concerted international strategy – and there’s also no concerted strategy for tool development in the humanities and in our field, in media arts histories.
So I think we all know about this, and we can also talk about this. So then we can ask what can we do in order to change that. The idea of this White Paper which might become a declaration of this conference, and then could be publicised also, could be a kind of a communication, an outcome of this conference, where we have a clear message to the cultural politicians, the funding institutions and so on. So what can we do? We can look, for example, to the natural sciences, how they deal with their international issues – and media art is an international issue; it is the international art of our time. For example, in astronomy – and some people have talked with Roger Malina about this – in astronomy you have something called Virtual Observatories where a number of nations pay into a common fund, and then all these participating nations, they can use the data which the astronomers come up with this data, and they can collectively use that and they can also collectively build this up. Maybe something like that could be also a structure for media art histories. We might want to discuss that. And, well, I should end here at this point already.
Ross Harley: So maybe at this point, what I might do is just ask the invited participants just to very quickly identify yourselves and say who you are and where you’re from, and then I think we’ll continue. So maybe we’ll start with Sean.
Here’s the list. Can you all see that, if I make it a bit bigger?
Sean Cubitt: I’m Sean Cubitt, and my involvement is mostly through the Rewind British Video Art History Project, which I’d worked on with Steve Partridge here, and Rewind Italia, which we’re currently launching, and with the AMAHA Group, the Australian Media Art History. I also helped Chair the Melbourne Media Art History Conference [RE:LIVE]. But I suppose I’m an end user in this scenario.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Sean. Okay, we’ll just move around, so Steve, even though your name’s not up there. You’re in the front row.
Steve Partridge: I’m Steve Partridge, and I initiated the Rewind project which concentrates on British video art. The interesting thing is that I started out talking about that with Sean when he was in residence, about 11, 12 years ago. Our ambition was quite big then; it was media art and not just video. And I actually then wrote the application with Jane Proctor, and we started off talking about electronic art. And of course, it became so huge. It was the panacea to all our problems here today. And we needed about £20 million pounds. So in the end we narrowed it down, not because of nationalistic reasons but because of these sort of practical reasons. And we did the first project on British video. Took us about six years. It’s expensive, I’ll say that.
Ross Harley: Okay, we’ll just keep moving around. So …
Frieder Nake: My name is Frieder Nake, from Bremen, Germany. I have done some work in what then was called computer art. Other than that, I have not initiated anything.
Stephen Jones: Only the whole damn show!
Frieder Nake: But, I’ve worked many years with a small group and with a limited amount of funding, and I’ve been lucky enough to start a database on currently only “early” digital art that, I hope, will survive at least me.
Ross Harley: That’s great, thanks, Frieder. We’ll keep moving around.
Martin Warnke: My name is Martin Warnke from Luneburg, which is near Hamburg in Germany. And I’m involved in the documentation of complex artefacts of mainly pieces of art by digital means, so by inventing pictorial footnotes to pictures. And this maybe could be of use, and whether from archiving complex video art as well.
Ross Harley: Do you mean pictorial, like tagging, pictorial tagging?
Martin Warnke: No, not tagging, just interlinking image details, as a footnote puts text to text, we put image details to image details. It may be useful. I don’t know whether that’s the reason why I’m here. Anyway, I’m interested in media art, and I’ll have my observations to share with you, and I also find it very important that an archive has to be done. Having been in Linz this year, at ARS Electronica, there was a very big hole in, you know, interactive media art, there’s no any longer an archive of that. So …
Ross Harley: Yeah, this is a big issue. Thank you. Moving on to Lanfranco.
Lanfranco Aceti: My name is Lanfranco Aceti. I am the Artistic Director for ISEA2011 Istanbul, and the Editor in Chief for the Leonardo Electronic Almanac. And I work at Goldsmiths and Sabanci University in Istanbul. What for me, the direction I’m coming from, we have a big project called the Leonardo Electronic Almanac that we are placing on line, and it has been a huge struggle in order to move between the different platforms. And also, what we’re doing is we’re doing (with Vince Dziekan) a series of exhibitions online, using social platforms, but the exhibition is then materialised in real spaces. So there is this little issue of how to archive online, how to keep the presence online, and then how to actually disseminate the outputs in physical formats.
Oliver Grau: One more thing to add. Also, you may know that I was serving as the first Director of this conference series. And then we also developed the database with the Virtual Art Archive since ’99, still ongoing. So I also hope that it will survive, maybe at least a little bit. Maybe not me, I don’t know. And unfortunately I have to leave in one hour, so don’t be surprised that I just leave.
Ross Harley: Oliver has a plane to catch, so thanks, Oliver. So we’ll just keep going quickly, Paul?
Paul Thomas: I’m convening this with Ross, and I won’t say much. I’m at the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales.
Pip Laurenson: So I’m Pip Laurenson. I was head of Time-based Media Conservation at Tate. So I had the responsibility of a team of about six people for works that were accessioned into the collection in film, video, audio, slide and software-based works and performances. And then last year, I moved over to be the head of Collection Care Research. And I guess I’m also here in the capacity of being one of the people being involved in Matters in Media Art, which is a small initiative with MoMA, SFMOMA and the Tate. The current phase is looking at software-based art, and also file-based storage.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Pip.
Darren Tofts: I’m Darren Tofts from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. Apart from being involved in the project that Ross talked about, that’s ostensibly the focus of this seminar today to some extent, I’ve been writing on Australian media arts since the early ‘90s, and I’ve been making it my business – I’m still only second to Stephen Jones – trying to collect the biggest assemblage of ephemera, because that’s one thing that Stephen and I have talked about a lot. Once that stuff goes, a lot of memory about history goes. So I’ll try and get there in the end and I hope can pip you over the line Stephen, but for the time being, I’m happy to defer to you.
Ross Harley: Thanks very much, Darren.
Mike Stubbs: Mike Stubbs, chair of the Rewire Conference for Media Arts History conference for this year. Chief executive of FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, where we will be going when the conference finishes tonight. A beneficiary of the Rewind Project. I’m an early British artist working with video and have benefited from that, but I’ve also got a small archive of digital content, the FACT Archive, which is kind of dormant, and under-resourced, like many, many archives. There’s a whole load of them out there. They’ve had great energies put into them, sometimes with three years’ research funding, occasionally I’ve had a dedicated worker to animate them. I’ve also had a little to do with GAMA, the Gateway Archives of Media Art, which I think we need to mention in this context. And if anyone’s a member of GAMA it’d be great to hear from them actually.
Ross Harley: They’re on our links on the blog, there’s a whole lot of those resources there. Thanks, Mike.
Nina Czegledy: I am and I was the curator for Canada which was – and I say ‘was’ because we have been supported for three years by Canadian Heritage to build up this database and archive of Canadian digital culture – but I think we share the fate of many other archives. But as soon as we have it up, they realised that Canadian Heritage, how expensive it is to maintain it, and it was shut down, so it’s sitting on a shelf, sorry to say.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Nina. Max?
Maximilian Schich: I’m Maximilian Schich. I’m an art historian working with a bunch of physicists, aiming to understand the ecology of complex networks in art history, which is all kinds of relationships between objects, people, locations, time, arrangers, periods, events, documents, stuff like that. And I guess the reason why I’m working with very different, disparate types of datasets, and what we learn from them is that we can have universal patterns in art history. But at the same time, I think it’s utopian to think that something like a central service is possible, where you have the situation where we all work into one giant infrastructure. I think it would also take the fun out of the business though.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Max. I think we’ll skip Vince [Dziekan] and go to Lisa.
Lisa Gye: I’m Lisa Gye from Swinburne Institute, Swinburne University now, of Technology. I was one of the guiding facilitators of Fiberculture, some of you might know, is a large Australian-based internet artist/academic/research network, and we spent a lot of the 2000s trying to archive both new media education resources and research, and art and ideas, with no budget and pretty much on the back of people’s goodwill. And most of that has now coalesced into the Fiberculture Journal, which continues to run, but I think, like most projects, started as a wonderfully utopian, open, interesting program and ended up as a kind of, yet another version of the kinds of things we all have to do in order to get tenure and get promoted, and the rest of it. So I would like to see that open up again and go for the utopian archive again.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Lisa. And lastly I think Stephen.
Stephen Jones: I’m currently a visiting fellow at the School of Media Arts at CoFA, with Ross. That’s only just happened recently. In 1998 I started doing a series of – we did a two-day symposium where we got eight of the major people producing various classes of new media, and gave them an hour each to talk about their work. And that turned into a – well, it didn’t turn into anything, but eventually it turned into my thesis, or it sort of generated my thesis, which, thanks to certain people in the room, has turned into a book that Leonardo have recently published. I maintain a private archive of ephemera; I have the fortune to be at least partly a reasonably good engineer, and so I’m also very much involved in the construction of artworks, and in the conservation of early video and things like that. So I have a very major collection of early Australian video, all of which is digitised. I have particular positions on that, which I’m more than happy to talk about. I am becoming quite concerned about the apparent loss of much of the post-1985 new media, which is also something that needs to be discussed in some length, I think. But the fact that I maintain a private archive means that I can really … I’m almost completely independent of any of the exigencies of the funding bodies and the academic environment, and things like that. It ain’t easy, I don’t live very well, but every now and then I have the great fortune to get some really good support. So I think that that’s really been what’s made it work for me.
Ross Harley: Great, thanks, Stephen.
Sean Cubitt: There are actually two other speakers, Kuljit Chuhan and Andy Williamson.
Kuljit Chuhan: My name is Kuljit Chuhan, or Kooj. I’m a digital media artist, and a filmmaker and cultural producer and activist. I’ve been working for about 25 years around issues to do with migration and race. And I’m also involved in a group as a leading member, a founding member, called Virtual Migrants, which is a digital media group based in Manchester. For some years I’ve been working around museology and museum-based work, not specifically around digital media at all, but particularly around collective memory and democracy and museology, with a woman called Bernadette Lynch, who some people here may have heard of, who’s done some quite leading work in the UK at least, round democracy and museology.
I originally wasn’t sure whether I was really qualified to be on the roundtable, and Sean nudged me and said, “Look, I think it would be really good to have your perspective”. And I think that was because I think when we talk about international archiving, then I think we’re – you know, in the concept of digital media, and the progress of digital media generally – I’m probably one of the darkest coloured skins in the entire conference. I’ve been struggling to find anybody else, to be honest – I feel I’m a little bit on my own here. So I think there are issues which I think are rarely addressed in terms of representation. And also, as to what is art, digital media art, and what isn’t, in terms of cultural aesthetic practice in countries that are outside the West, if you like, and also within digital divides and cultural divides within Western countries, in terms of race. And I think that those are underexplored and not really tacked on very well. I’m not sure whether we’re able to even scrape the surface of these issues. But I think that’s why Sean was particularly interested to have my contribution, even though I don’t feel an expert in that. But I don’t know if anybody is.
Ross Harley: Thanks very much, Kooj, welcome. So there are a lot of other people in the room who are experts in the field. But there are a few more people who are formally invited. I just wanted to ask, Andy and then …
Andy Williamson: Yeah, Hi. Andy Williamson. I’m a little bit of a fox in the henhouse here. My background is I’m a digital strategist and researcher, and my area of interest and, I guess, some expertise, is around the democratisation of knowledge and information. And particularly open government, open publishing systems, looking at really the relationship between taxonomies and folksonomies the availability of knowledge, how democratic systems are inherently closed and inaccessible, and how open knowledge prises them open. So I guess my interest in this, and my reason for being invited here is the knowledge that I’ve got around making information accessible, looking at large collections of data, looking at metadata, metadata standards, that kind of thing.
Ross Harley: Wendy [Coones]? No? Sean, was there anyone else? There are lots of people in the room. For the purposes of trying to move along, and especially because Oliver has a plane to catch, can I suggest that we have a number of orders of business. The real purpose of the roundtable is to have this general discussion about how we can work together more internationally. Just in the introductions that we’ve heard, we’ve already touched on many of the issues that we’re dealing with in our own areas. But before we move into that discussion, one of the things that we did want to do is to get your feedback on this position paper that we’ve written. And one of the things that we’d like to do is to present that to the plenary tomorrow, and for this to be a kind of declaration that comes out of the Rewire Conference. So, shall we do that, have a look at that document?
So some people have already seen this document — all of the invited participants have seen it. But perhaps, can people read this, or is it worth actually going through?
Darren Tofts: I think if you highlight the main points, it would help.
Sara Diamond: Yes, maybe you can also blow up the size of the text?
Howard Besser : Can you put the URL back up there?
Ross Harley: So the URL is blogs.unsw.edu.au/amaha [LAUGHTER] … forget all the rest of it. You just have to go up to there, up to AMAHA, Australian Media Arts History Archive. Okay, so I will go back to reading the …
Mike Stubbs: I want to intervene. Can I suggest, I think that probably everybody in the room has got a very strong sensation that there’s a need, yeah, and that this paper outlines very well why there’s a need, and what we should do, yeah? What can we do in this room together – there’s some amazing people in the room — time’s short, I’m going to have to leave not long after Oliver. We’ve got together a conference of world-leading experts in our field. So in terms of an objective for the meeting, it would be great if there was some general agreement this is a good thing to do, and then perhaps we could brainstorm some of the ways in which we could do it. And obviously in terms of the range of strategies as to whether it’s achievable, or to say that currently, the world economy is broke, yeah, and it’s a waste of time to fundraise for it, we’ve got to just do it ourselves: that’s strategy A. Or strategy B: we’re going to actually lobby our politicians within our own respective national countries, and lead this into a much bigger kind of coalition of forces.
Ross Harley: Yep, so does anyone have any objections to Mike’s proposal?
Sara Diamond: Can you just tell us high level what the proposal is?
Sean Cubitt: I think the central one is, one, two, three, four – fifth paragraph down: “Therefore it is essential to establish some kind of international institution, network, that can guarantee the persistence of archives and other knowledge bases that we have, to make use of network collaborations.” Basically it’s a proposal to set up something in some kind of institution to be discussed.
Andy Williamson: I’m quite interested in that word ‘institution’ actually, because we’re talking about organisations and networks, and suddenly we’re using the word ‘institution’. And for me, institution means a particular body in a particular point. So I just wonder whether that was deliberate or whether it’s accidental that you’re talking about institution rather than network?
Oliver Grau: No, this can be discussed, of course. It’s not thought that there should be a – it can be also – that there should be one ‘house’ where this institution could be, something like the Virtual Observatory, which is a virtual institution which connects many existing archives, for example, which also need funding, of course. It could be anything, and this could be discussed. But to keep it a little bit neutral, so that we can change the policy later, whether we are successful with this first idea at this stage.
Howard Besser: It seems to me that we could have almost a sliding scale on this, that we can call for something that is more institutionally based, however we want to call that, but we can also start to work on something that is just a set of links on a particular web page, that will at least build momentum while we’re waiting for funding, or for someone to jump up to being a curator of this.
Lisa Gye: Can I jump in there and say as the person maintaining that set of links for many years for Fiberculture, they’re not just links. There’s this embedded labour, unnoticed and unrewarded labour, that goes with that, and I think that we have to acknowledge that. And we have to say – look, I was happy to continue to do it, and I still am happy to continue to do it, and I’m sure many others are too – but we need to be clear about the fact that that labour is, even if it’s volunteer labour, it’s really valuable, and invite people to give that labour to us, rather than … Because otherwise, I think that’s where these things break down, that people do all this work and then feel unappreciated because nobody recognises that it is work.
Ross Harley: Got lots of hands going up. So Stephen and then Sarah, and then …
Stephen Jones: Your comment and your comment undercut each other, but I understand the basis of both. It strikes me that the original reason for building the World Wide Web was to solve precisely this problem. Only it was called science and physics, it wasn’t called media art. Same process structurally. So it seems to me that if we were to simply adopt that low level behaviour of each node looking after its own construction of linkages to all the other nodes, then we actually have what we’re looking for. And it really basically then requires a couple of mirrored servers in a few locations so that you don’t get – if somebody blows up — you can still get back to it.
Ross Harley: So that’s a great idea. Pip, and then over to Sarah.
Pip Laurenson: I just wanted to step back a minute, because I think there’s something that we’ve been engaged in which I think is relevant to this discussion, and I think it’s important we don’t leap to imagining the solution before we’ve really understood what the problem is. And we’ve had this in a microcosm, working with three institutions: one which spoke the language of large-scale digital repositories and imagining what that would look like for art works; and my institution which felt extremely pragmatic, and we like to work with little elements that can be updated quite nimbly and maybe fit together but aren’t dependent. So a big systems approach to the sort of rather pragmatic have-a-go, build-it-up sort of approach. And those two cultures in the same sort of institution – so, I mean, the translation that needed to go on between understanding the language of the media archives, museum conservation for fine art, you know, and where we all fit on that, has actually proved much more about the issue than the technological problem or the how-do-we-talk-to-each-other problem. It’s about translation, you know, all that in effect.
Stephen Jones: That is how you talk to each other.
Pip Laurenson: That is talking to each other, sorry. That was the …
Stephen Jones: What you’re asking is the talking-to-each-other question.
Pip Laurenson: Yeah, so that was the wrong way. How do we link is not the issue. It’s how do we understand what we’re talking about and where we fit…
Stephen Jones: What we’re saying…
Pip Laurenson: … within that, that I think has been extraordinary, given that we’re institutions who work together for years, and this has been a real struggle.
Ross Harley: Sara? Sorry, for the people that haven’t introduced themselves – I forgot to say this before – if you could just say who you are and where you’re from, because we do have a lot of people who are representing institutions.
Sara Diamond: So, Sara Diamond, I’m the President of an institution, OCAD University, but I also was the Director of Banff New Media Institute for years. And I’m the co-PI on a really extensive data visualisation network, and PI on a new project which will be a kind of interdisciplinary data warehouse and analysis network. So coming at it in part from an institutional perspective, but also very much from the Canadian experience which is Banff. You know, we’ve essentially lost – almost lost – another media archive, which is a digital media archive, we lost the Langlois Foundation Archive. And I’m underscoring this for a reason, and it’s going to come back in some form or another. The Banff New Media Institute Digital Archive, which is massive, half of it was lost by the institution, and the other half has been recently saved, but it is very temporary in terms of its stability. And my concern is how to work to create enough institutional valance or mirroring in order to build a kind of robustness end-to-end project that we commit to. Because a huge amount of effort went into Langlois Archive and a lot of trust. And I really – I agree with the mirroring piece, and building the cloud, and having servers that are internationally distributed, but I think there’s an architecture piece to this that is really going to be critical, as well as the commitment to work across cultures which Pip talked about.
Ross Harley: Thank you. Andy, did you want to make a comment on that?
Andy Williamson: Yeah, I just thought some of those initial – just creating links, I think is incredibly naive. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because people move on and get fed up. People don’t talk. And you’ve got to step right back. And this talk about mirroring and servers, it’s a no-brainer. You don’t have to have that conversation. You can do that in five minutes flat. Amazon cloud, done. It’s a technical solution. You’ve got to understand first of all, why do you want to do this? Why do you want to create any kind of networked set of archives? What’s the value proposition for doing it? And for me, a big part of that is interoperability. You’ve got to be able to curate these collections. And to do that, you’ve got to step right away from the let’s-dive-in-and-do-it, and start at the metadata level of how do you classify what it is you’ve got. How do you rate, rank, sort, interrelate what you’ve got? None of those are technical issues. Those are all human communication issues. You’ve got to step right away from the digital and then look at, well, okay, how do these things get maintained? They get maintained here, here, here and here, by a person who’ll do it for a year and move on. So how do you make them sustainable? And that’s about crowd sourcing and looking at the value of the network. It’s about creating a network of nodes, but being able to link them together.
Ross Harley: Great, I think we’ve got Martin over here, and then up the back.
Martin Warnke: My first question would be what we would understand of media arts, since I come to the conclusion that in a way it came to an end, let’s say momentarily, that would make archiving much easier.
Male speaker: I disagree but …
Martin Warnke: So from my point of view it’s an historic phenomenon you would have to archive. I would propose that. But then if you do that, we should have a look at where the centres of gravity are that conserve and make accessible conventional art, 2D, say, painting or whatever. And it’s hard enough to maintain that even in the international realm. So I think the best strategy would be to flock to these centres of gravity, to underpin them with even more valuable material, because they are the ones that are least to fail.
Ross Harley: Okay, so Darko, and then Max.
Darko Fritz: Just a short comment I want to say first. There was a conference organised by Frieder Nake a few years ago in Bremen about these problems of metadata and combining across different databases … there is also data, some documents … and Pip will know more about that.
So what I’d like to say about the paper, and I didn’t read it completely, but I think it’s important to underline, if everybody agreeds upon it, that the outputs of the results of the institution umbrella network being proposed will be free of charge. And I think it’s essential to underline that because people … it’s not implicit if you don’t underline it. To be very straight up and to the point, the output should be free of charge; anybody can use it without any kind of a log-in that costs something, whatever, systems they are present at the moment. In this knowledge distribution … As well, on the second part of that, somehow to be clever about the copyright issue, to not propose like Copyleft or Creative Commons, like not to promote one issue, but to reflect that there will be copyright issues that will need to be judged on a case by case basis, or something like that, considered within the context of such outputs.
Ross Harley: I think we’ll just go to Max.
Max Schich: Pretty interesting. I have two attachment points. One is if there is no profit involved or no cost, then it’s all about managing a non-profit organisation, like in the kind of, how Peter Brooker describes it, right. So how do you run a mega church, how do you run the Catholic Church? That’s what we are doing, right?
Stephen Jones: That’s a profit organisation. [LAUGHTER]
Max Schich: But we have a lot of people working for free for them.
Stephen Jones: I know, but it’s still a high profit organisation!
Max Schich: But that’s the point. If you want to have a product which doesn’t cost anything, then you have to actually basically create the apparatus and the people who actually contribute without getting anything back. And so that’s question one. The other thing is Jeffrey West gave a very nice talk at Google recently about, ironically, “Will Google Survive?” And he was talking about biological systems, and so basically the key take-home message of that talk was: any system that wants to survive needs to hierarchicise. And so our bodies are the best example: we have the hierarchical blood stream, we have the hierarchical nervous system; a lot of things in our body are actually hierarchical, and modular. And that kind of thing is also true for institutions. The basic example is the Vatican, which is a hierarchical institution. Now, if you have a company which starts out like Google, which is very flat, and now you want to sustain it, and you want to keep it for 30 years, does it go the way like Microsoft? Yes or no? And the answer he has was, either it goes bust or it becomes hierarchicised.
And so the question is, how can we merge that with our notion that we all want to be independent actors, have our own understanding of media art, have our own understanding of whatever, but at the same time basically make it sustainable. And if you look at the projects which basically we all cite as the keystones of being the best examples of open source whatsoever — the Apache Foundation, very hierarchical, Wikipedia, very hierarchical. And in fact you always have these kind of structures. And the question is how do we create that structure and nevertheless basically have the freedom to not basically crystallise into something where we basically can only work with classics. So we have Nam Jun Paik who’s also a media artidt, so he can be there, but all this messy stuff which doesn’t fit my data model can’t be there. So that’s something we have to work out, I think, and the question is, what’s the hierarchy? How can that be maintained and who would be on top?
Andy Williamson: Is it ‘hierarchy’ or ‘hive’?
Stephen Jones: It’s ‘heterarchy’ not ‘hierarchy’ for a start.
Lisa Gye: The whole question of hierarchy came up with Fibreculture, because it kept hierarchicising – is that a word? Probably not. And people kept trying to flatten it down. So another metaphor we could think about that I think is actually quite apt and hasn’t been fully adapted to, is the organised criminal network, which is not a hierarchy. [LAUGHTER]
An organised criminal network is extraordinarily effective in running drugs or arms or whatever, but remains a network. So how does it do that? [GENERAL CONVERSATION AND LAUGHTER]
I’m not sure that it is. I think you’ll find if you look at the structure of criminal networks, one of the reasons they’re so successful is that they are able to, in the same way that the internet can, displace resources in such a way that they’re not easy to keep track of. And so the thing that drives them is that they have very clear goals. They know what they want. And I think that gets back to what we were talking about before: what is this for? What is its purpose? And is it just to preserve, or is it to leverage? What is its purpose? And if people are clear and agreed, then we have a criminal network that we can go with.
Darren Tofts: So the word ‘heat’ would have a very different meaning then? [LAUGHTER]
Max Schich: There is a counter-example. There is a sociological study about organised crime in this very famous Freakonomics book, where basically he brings evidence for the fact that the whole drug market is organised like a supermarket. So basically you have these kind of distributed franchises, and internally they actually work like supermarkets. So you have a guy at the top who does the bookkeeping and all of the stuff like in the supermarket. The only difference is that the cashier can be shot at the street corner.
Lisa Gye: I think it depends on the lens you’re looking at the research through. I’ve seen quite contrary research as well, so I guess, yeah.
Ross Harley: Can I just bring it back. Oliver wants to say something.
Oliver Grau: I think some of this discussion now goes really deep into what should this institution look like, or this network of institutions. This would be something we can — in part two of this meeting — discuss and brainstorm, etc. Part number one, I would still opt to go back to this white paper. And this paper transports for the first time – and we should remember that to our culture politicians, etc – that we are losing media arts. Some of them still don’t know; they think it’s still there. They don’t know that we are even losing the documentation, and that we don’t have an appropriate research structure for the humanities in the 21st century. So this is for many politicians and many institutions even, it is news. And so if we can bring this across, number one. And number two, then okay, and they want something, they need an appropriate funding, which is also comparable with arts, and historic arts – paintings, sculptures, prints, film, archives, etc. So this would be already a big step forward for the field, if we could bring this across. And then, as you said, campaigning after this is supported by the field and by the conference and by you and by the conference, then we can have maybe one month or so where we get all the signatures from institutions like ZKM, OCAD, others in Australia, etc. And then we can have this one pager, with as many as signatures as we can get. And then we can go to the national funding institutions and to the politicians, and say, “This is the problem, it’s an international problem, and please do something”. And where we can do something individually, or where we can do something in each nation, or if we can do something together, that’s great. But I think the first point would be that we bring this problem across.
Ross Harley: I think just in terms of a point of order as to where we’re going, and going back to Mike’s point, and Oliver’s point, I think can we just generally agree that, yes, we need some kind of meta organisation that lobbies for all these things that we’re expressing here? No? [LAUGHTER]
Katja Kwastek: I have two objections. First is the first sentence, … “the art of our time”. I think if you want to put that outside the media arts community, it’s an important art form of our time, but it’s definitely not “the art of our time”. There’s lots of other important contemporary art things. So I wouldn’t let that go outside. Even if it’s a political statement, still I think it’s too much.
And then I think it’s important – my name is Katja Kwastek, I’ve been the Vice Director of the Boltzmann Institute, and I’m working on the aesthetics of interaction. And that’s also my point, that I think media art is often “installative” and there’s artefacts and things, and we have to make sure not to reduce media art only to things that can be digitised. So of course this is another thing, that’s not online archive issue, but preservation has to somewhere come up, even if it’s another issue. We have to make sure, that’s not the solution for the whole media art, but there has to be institutions like the ZKM or whatever, who really try to preserve. All we can say is we can’t preserve media art, and that’s why we have to document it. It’s not my opinion, but maybe …
Ross Harley: Okay, good point. Sean?
Sean Cubitt: There’s a lot of this which we threw together pretty swiftly, and I think, yeah, I’m safe in saying we got a bit carried away. I think at the heart of it is we also cut out, because we were putting more detail than was useful, some reflections on two things: one was the question Martin mentioned before, of what is media art? And we loosely went along with that, and I think I can paraphrase it there: it’s probably film, video, electronics, and digital, probably robotics, and very probably bio/nano and other kind of art/science collaborations with no really fixed borders. In particular, because maybe in big countries like Canada. The UK or the US, it’s feasible to think about these things as separate, and separate scenes even, in the smaller countries like Australia and New Zealand – and I think it seems in many cases true in Canada – people work across these forms, the institutions migrate between them, and so on and so forth. So that was one issue, and I think it’s really important to bear in mind because that could be different in – you know, one institution that’s a member or one researcher or one artist’s work doesn’t need to define the entire project, but it should be reasonably open house.
The second was the idea of an association. We ended up using ‘institution’. I can’t remember why. But I think something like an association or assemblage if you want to be very contemporary, [LAUGHTER] or a loose aggregation of individual researchers and artists who have no particular institutional kind of appontment, individual scholars, academics, et cetera, who might have an institutional home but are not really able to call an institution in with them; and then institutions who we hope to target and get particular curators or departments involved.
So what we’re thinking of is an institution which can act as a focus for activism around these areas. In certain cases there are national, cultural policies that we would need to agitate in, just to say something like artist’s film is worth noticing. Sad to say that for many years artists have been ignored by the British institutions, for example, both the Film Institute and the Arts Council. There are all sorts of odd and quirky things that happen in each country. What would be nice to have would be an association that provides key contacts in any geographical or generic area, and also has the weight of an international body who can pile in and help on local issues, and also that can prise open critical issues for archives, such as the absence of indigenous people or migrants in most archival projects as they have grown over the last 200 years or so. [Mobile phone ringing] We have also a problem of my mobile phone.
Ross Harley: Thanks Sean. There’s lots of people wanting to say something. Alessandro.
Alessandro Ludovico: Briefly, I’m editor in chief of Neural Magazine, since 18 years, and as for building the Neural archive, there are only two things really related to the statement which I would like to know if they could be clarified or not. One is I understand this umbrella of different organisations. But what these different organisation would build would be a shared common resource, international one. I mean, I don’t know, I haven’t read the paper, but I think that that should also be clearly stated. And another thing should be related to the many cases – one was mentioned by Sara before about what has been lost. I would also state that the people who are building this kind of research should take responsibility of them, in terms of kind of personal responsibility, as small institutions or as an act of what they are doing, in order to guarantee the preservation of what they are doing in the long term, eventually with somebody else in the same umbrella organisation taking over this kind of responsibility. I think that would be also a statement that should be included in the paper.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Alessandro.
Lanfranco Aceti: There was actually something about I loved about Mike and Oliver and Sean in a way connected, which is probably (I’m obsessed), but it’s money: it’s the sustainability part of all of this. And I’m probably going to be criticised for this, for what I’m going to be saying, but you know, take it with a pinch of salt.
Darren Tofts: Speak into the microphone, Lanfranco. [LAUGHTER]
Lanfranco Aceti: Yes, I just feel that this is another academic endeavour directed to academic institutions with, you know, very little hope of making big change. And I’m actually – I have been thinking, and I’m trying to think about ways of making money, of producing revenues. And crowd sourcing is not going to work. And it’s not going to work because people are fed up with being exploited, don’t have time, and will have less time, to dedicate to all kinds of different sorts of projects. The volunteers are extremely complicated to manage. So in a way, I think what we should be addressing is how these organisations are going to be supporting institutions to create funding, how it’s going to be acting as a criminal network – I’m Italian, so I know a few things about that – in order to make money, in order to push and to use all the different synergies between people. And my guess is that if we start looking at it in a different way, between all the people that are present here, that we could share resources first – as Alessandro was saying – and we could have a common shared structure that is already in place so nobody has to reinvent the wheel. Two, there should be a branding strategy to, let’s use the word ‘attack’ big international corporations. And I know that, for example, in Istanbul there is something coming up which is a centre for new media arts with a big investment in that arena. And there are other things that are happening in other cities around the world, like Singapore. You know, they are mainly towards the East, there are European grants, et cetera. So what I feel is that probably we should have more of a CEO kind of approach that is focusing more on marketing, money, sustainability. And also we have to think seriously if it’s possible to keep an open system. And actually what I receive in my correspondence with many people is writers complaining that they do not get a percentage of, you know, of the work or the writing that they produce, that you sell at the magazine, but they don’t have anything that comes to them, the designers that are working for free, et cetera. So I believe that the issue of sustainability is actually a very, very important issue.
Ross Harley: It is, it’s huge. Okay, Pip, and then ten more people.
Pip Laurenson: I’ll be really quick. Because there seems to me to be quite a lot of confusion about what – I mean I actually like the idea of a sort of umbrella advocacy organisation. That sounds to me more realistic than the uber archive. The other thing is that I don’t do archives. What I do is the conservation of the art work, and you have to recognise that that’s two different ambitions. And then I just want to mention the experience of PrestoPRIME, which is a European-funded body which is funded for the preservation of broadcast archives, and assumes – when I think of them, I tend to think big, Italian, large amounts of money, broadcast archive kind of thing. And they have a huge amount of money and we are boutique operations. But, I guess, and there we go back to the issue of scale, because – and this is where relevance comes in, which goes back to your value piece – is what I desperately need is tools that me and my six colleagues can use to do what we need to do with our collections, which are not the Library of Congress. It’s a small amount of works that I want to do well. And so I think the advocacy framework to enable bits of funding for those sorts of projects or to bring people together to deliver those tools to the community actually might be quite interesting. [Multiple voices]
Ross Harley: In fact, part of the background for the particular research project that we’re involved in is connected into those bigger initiatives around e-research and collaborations nationally and internationally, and so on. So I think right at the back, Morten and then …
Morten Søndergaard: Morten Søndergaard, and I’m from Copenhagen and I’m Head of Research at the major Danish media art archive called LARtM where I’m head of research, of what’s called the unheard avant garde archive, which is really the … media art. I just want to put in two pragmatic points. One is, it’s actually – you mentioned it a little bit, Lanfranco, and you may not be popular saying this, but actually the major cultural heritage media partners seek some kind of systematic and some kind of partnership with those kinds of organisations. We just did that with our archive in Denmark. I don’t say that it will survive because of that, but the Danish publishers – public broadcast company, that’s the Danish BBC – are trying to work out the financial and technical platform for the archive. And when you have that, then you can move on to actually do what we’re actually discussing the content and how to build this umbrella of different archives, to sustain the individual archive. Yeah, so that was just …
Ross Harley: Thanks, Morten. And then right at the back.
Baruch Gottlieb: I am Baruch Gottlieb the digital archivist at the Transmediale, and also working on the digital contents aggregator for the Europeana Project. And the Europeana Project, for those who know, is an umbrella organisation with 30 members, arts institutions, which do not share content directly, but it provides little thumbnails and little descriptions of the works that are in there. And it’s very highly oriented around meta-tagging and descriptors, and this is the only way to get that many people to work together with all their different systems which have already been doing archiving for 50 years. Anyway, one thing I’d like to see included into this, more of a motivation is just to strengthen the message that it’s the cultural heritage; the media art is coalescing a lot of knowledge, a lot of cultural knowledge, and that researchers of various kinds, not only artists, art students and art researchers, but all kinds of sociological research, it has an educational value. The last thing is that I don’t see any libraries mentioned here in the thing. I think they’re a natural partner to this project. And why libraries? They also charge fees, by the way, and you can get fees back if you like.
Ross Harley: Thanks very much. Howard, just jump in.
Howard Besser: I’m Howard Besser, I’m Director of a Masters degree program in preservation and archiving of film, video and new media. [LAUGHTER] Two main points: one to follow up on something that Sean said. If this document is going to go to people outside our own community, I think it is important to have examples of what we mean – you know, film, video, electronic art – but have those in such a way that it goes da, da, da, so it’s not circumscribed. But other people are just not going to understand what we’re talking about. Second, as we go round the room, I feel like the blind man and the elephant who is, like, feeling the trunk and thinking it’s a snake, and feeling the legs and thinking it’s something else. People are talking about totally different things. Some people are talking about a massive archive that either aggregates or somehow encompasses every collection of every type of archived material out there. Frankly, that’s not going to happen in any time in the next five years. That’s a huge undertaking. Other people are talking about how to make money off of this thing; other people are talking about just a clearing house. So I’d like us to maybe focus on what we’re talking about that is doable.
I’ve been involved in a lot of international projects. If you start out trying to do this massive thing, we’re not going to get anywhere. If we’re – again, going back to my first statement which just got totally blown into something that I didn’t mean it to be blown into – if we’re talking about a clearing house, the first steps that we need to do is to gather the information about those of us in this room, what we do, what we’re interested in, what kind of collections we know about, what kinds of threats there are, that that is the first kind of stage, and that’s a more doable – it’s a more fundable – but it’s also doable without a significant amount of funding.
So the idea of being able to start jumping in, maybe have, you know—let me throw out a straw man—concretely, we just list six different things that we know we might want; we have three or four people sign up for each of those; we circulate an email list and we can actually have this kind of decentralised setup: Okay, here’s information about the collections we know about; here’s information about the tools; here’s information about the research; and here are all the people who are interested in it who need to communicate.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Howard. Paul will be next.
Paul Sermon: I’m Paul Sermon, I’ve a worked as a media artist for 20 years. My work is archived on a number of different digital archives, including the Langlois Foundation and the Media Arts Histories network. I’ve also got a collection of my own work. I keep them on as documentation of my own work. Talking about ephemera, I have lots of ephemera, in my pockets as well, but I have it everywhere, and I have lots of things that document my work and archive it. But really none of it documents my work, none of it archives my work. What archives my work is when I meet somebody and they say to me, I saw a piece of work of yours, and they tell me all about it, what they did, and what their experiences were like. That documents my work. It’s those stories. It’s just storytelling that documents what I do. And I wonder how do we archive storytelling? [Multiple voices]
Sean Cubitt: One answer to that is that the critics, myself included, have been very relaxed about actually giving an accurate physical description of the experience of an artwork. And I think that’s one of the… that’s the sort of practice I would like to try and endorse and encourage, because that’s precisely what’s missing. And we can get this …
Andy Williamson: It’s what keeps it open, it’s what makes it alive. Otherwise it becomes a dead archive of things that are just there. They’re there to just be there.
Howard Besser: We look at the practice of interviewing people just after they’ve seen the work, and talk to them about what did they see in the work, and just collect an aggregate of those.
Max Schich: So what you’re saying is part of – what you’re saying is that there should be different aspects, right, and I think it should totally also have this aspect of like – you know, the Palm computer was wired up and there was no software in there to preserve it, right, so that is another aspect. But, I think – can you scroll down to this key thing. If this document can be something, I think first and foremost it can be the first page of a funding application in a sense. And then your things would be like what is branching out.
And then I think there’s two things missing: one is the big question; and the other thing is the big gap. So the big gap is actually pretty obvious because that’s obviously the missing stuff, that we are losing artworks, right. So basically …
Ross Harley: That’s the top paragraph.
Max Schich: Exactly, but basically that is the key thing. But then the question is – and I think that’s the reason why we debate it so hard here, but we’re not going to find a solution in this discussion – is the first sentence: “Therefore it is essential to establish an international contribution that can guarantee …” So it’s totally not clear what can guarantee the persistence of these valuable resources. And that’s actually the thing we should actually work on. And I think it’s viable in a sense if you think – I mean, one could think along the lines of, say, an IP project at the Framework Program of the European Union, where you have a bunch of partners and they basically work together systematically – and that’s obviously something we have to come up with – to actually solve that question, and say, “Okay, these are the solutions, and there are probably multiple solutions, which will actually sustain the persistence of these valuable resources”. And there can be something like an association, there can be something like something like a key for a scientific paper. But if the artist can just shoot their stuff in, and then get preserved by being cited and whatever, and more documented and whatever. But that’s something that’s totally not clear now, and I think we have to come up with that.
And there is one initiative I’d like to point to. The social sciences are currently working on an application for a so-called flagship program in the European Union, which is for €1 billion euros over 10 years, and they made it into the last, into the top eight. Obviously the other guys are great scientists and astronomers, and whatever. So there is some chance that actually the social scientists will have €1 billion euros over ten years. And it’s very interesting to think about what kind of goals they might come up with. One thing is the whole earth simulator. Like simulating 6 billion people, what are they doing? Phone calling, travelling, having ‘flu, whatever. And at the same time, you can have something like a crisis monitor, right, which would obviously make sense. When there is a war springing up somewhere, right, you can see by the activity pattern, and can you model that? And the question is, can we do something like that? What are the multiple goals? Doesn’t mean we need a whole arts simulator, but what are the things we can do about it?
Ross Harley: Just to bring this back. So really, this document is meant to be a very simple call for some kind of umbrella association that brings us all together in some way. And it needs work, which I think we’re all acknowledging that. The second reason why we’re all here is that we’re all involved in a range of projects ourselves, and so the question is how can we collaborate and work together, whether it’s at the level of linked data or sharing resources, or all of the rest of it. So I just wanted to bring us back to those two. Pip and then Sara.
Pip Laurenson: I just wanted just to go back – I sort of agree, but I think the interesting thing that is missing in here, which is why is art not included in all the other archives – why isn’t it covered already? You know, there are big archives. Why isn’t it covered? God, we’re funding you Europeana, for goodness sake, what’s different? And I think that actually is a really tricky thing to articulate, and I think if we could articulate why all these people who are completely comfortable running large digital repositories, then get hit with the reality of an artwork like our friend and colleague here, and go, Whoa, this was actually a lot trickier than we ever thought. And I think that’s what would be really a special value case, and news case, within the funding applications.
Ross Harley: Sara and then Kooj, and then there are another ten people.
Sara Diamond: I just think the value proposition is slightly misguided and I think it needs to be reframed. I think the value proposition is too narrow and it needs to be reframed. And I did enjoy your remarks about research capacity, but if we’re really narrowing our nutritive resource as something that essentially serves a historic community, and an existing very narrow community – some would argue it’s a dead community – or a set of scholars studying a dead community – I myself would question my own institution’s investment of significant resources in. So I think it has to be reframed: it has to be reframed as the need for a resource that serves scholarship across a wide range of disciplines; it serves curatorial practices, and it serves popular media and access. And then it becomes something that you can take to a framework, you can take to an international centre of excellence in various contexts. But it also serves the local communities. It’s really narrow.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Sara. Kooj?
Kuljit Chuhan: Yeah, when are the museums and heritage institutions and galleries and film archives, many of the ones that I’ve been in touch with at some point in the last 10, 15 years have realised that their collections have been very partial, and have misrepresented histories, misrepresented communities, and have gone – and I’ve started to invest in trying to change their priorities, trying to acquire material that previously they thought wasn’t there, and trying to include that in their collections. Also, some material is not possible, I mean, if we’re looking at, for instance, the history of Africa. A lot of material that’s available now is artefacts that were collected by colonialists. A lot of the indigenous stuff was destroyed because of the instability of those communities.
And I think that it feels to me that there is a kind of opportunity here, if we’re trying to look at things afresh, to do things differently to the way heritage in the broader sense, in film archives and so on, have been done before. And I just wanted to say one other thing, that myself and Mike were at a conference, a day symposium a few weeks ago, and somebody had a very interesting story about theatre in the UK. And a lot of students have imagined that there really hadn’t been any black leading theatrical productions or writers and directors in particular. And in actual fact, some research has been done, and there were. And it’s obviously in the relative minority, but in proportion to the number that were there, the number that are represented is almost nil, or near nil. And so we have this picture of there being activity that may be less in certain groups than there is for other groups, for the dominant group in the UK – white English people – but even what is there is being suppressed. And so you have black kids and white kids growing up with this idea that actually, you know, this doesn’t go on, these communities aren’t particularly able to do this.
Now, to me, you know, I think there’s not only an opportunity to do things differently if we’re doing something that’s slightly afresh. But also we could go one further and actually make a kind of big statement and actually say that we’re going to invest in trying to research and look at underrepresented areas. Now, that, unfortunately, doesn’t happen naturally. It’s not just going to happen. It will require effort and will require critical thinking, as well as investment, to try and uproot that, which is what all the other institutions who have kind of tried to redress the imbalance have done. And for somebody like myself, if those kind of things don’t happen, then I’m out of the room really, because to me it’s that important. Okay. And I, at the moment, I don’t know whether anybody else has got any views on it, but if I don’t hear anybody talking about it, to me it’s like, well, maybe it’s not important to anybody.
Doug Dodds: I should introduce myself. I’m Doug Dodds, I’m a senior curator at the V&A in London. Just two things actually. First of all, we’ve been collecting early computer-generated, computer-assisted works in the Prints, Drawings and Paintings collection which is where I’m based. I just wanted to pick up on previous speakers. We’ve also systematically been going through our collections and identifying works that have some relationship with black history, and making sure that that information goes into our database. So we’re doing what we can to rectify that. But I really wanted to go back to some of the discussion that took place earlier about what this whole thing is about, what we’re trying to put together here. And one of the things that strikes me, and I work in a big museum environment where we have – we don’t just have media stuff, we have architecture and we have graphic design and we have furniture and we have all these other types of products as well. So firstly interoperability is really important, at a technical level, sharing data, but also sort of at an intellectual level, being able to engage with people who are involved in related fields but not the same field that you happen to be in.
So there’s a whole range of issues that we’ve been talking about here, and one of the things as we’ve been talking that strikes me about it is that other groups like us have their own gatherings that they recognise as the focal point for their discussions. So architectural historians, for example, all get together on an annual basis or a bi-annual basis, and people pay subs to a group. And the same model operates in other areas. Graphic design, for example, graphic arts. I’m sitting here thinking why isn’t there an equivalent group. Because if there was an equivalent group with that sort of broad brush approach to it, then the kinds of more detailed things that we’ve all been talking about might actually begin to happen. And in fact there’s a hell of a different discussions going on here. I’m sitting here thinking if there was a subgroup on this and a subgroup on that, and a subgroup on the other, then we might actually get things done. But when we jumble the whole thing up the way we have done, then we’re not going to get very much done at all.
I’ve also been sitting here thinking about the architecture, different layers to it. You know, and there are different layers to what we’ve been talking about. There’s the pure data level that some of us kind of engage with; there’s at the top level, like political aspects to it. So we just need to tease these things out a bit more before we’re going to be able to go forward on a common basis, I think.
Max Schich: A quick comment on this. I was very surprised recently. I was looking at structured data in Wikipedia, and I found out that in certain areas German Wikipedia editors are way more prone to put information which you also find in other Wikipedias into structured form. That means the German Wikipedia, DBpedia, the structured extract of Wikipedia, is heavily biased towards German-speaking and Anglo Saxon-speaking areas. So now you can say it’s discrimination against the black view, or African people. It’s simply not on the radar of these people, because it’s not in their – at least in Germany, it’s not on their daily kind of radar, right, they don’t see it. It’s just like you could say they discriminate against the US, except for New York and Los Angeles, because they don’t know any other cities, right. So it’s just how you pick your example. The question is if we find out there is some under-represented areas – and that could be African art, it could be knowledge about tourist sites in China and the US for Germans — which is not necessarily cultural discrimination — how can we lift it up, how can we point it out? Because I think it’s necessary to point out a gap and then fill it, right. But I think this kind of discussion is very dangerous always going back and forth between the two extreme arguments, where Noam Chomsky says there is only good and bad science, I don’t believe in this kind of racial segregation; on the other hand, obviously if you live in the US, you see there is racial segregation and there is people discriminated against. So there is almost no natural science led by black people, right. Which is not because they’re bad scientists, it’s just they’re neither pulled nor pushed. Right? So I think it’s an important problem which you raise, but we cannot simply state that the guys who collect the data are discriminating against them, because that was not the case, and I think it is not the case. It’s not like the regular German Wikipedia editor is racist and doesn’t put in – I don’t know – notable historic African facts, right. It’s just not on the German radar. That’s the point.
Kuljit Chuhan: Yeah, but that one example, does that mean that you think that there is no institutional methods of discrimination that take place in lots of different ways? Do you think it’s all down to accidental systems that are …
Max Schich: It’s both. There are patterns which emerge from local actors, and then these patterns are enforced, where it’s just like if you look what’s going on in the former Yugoslavia, there are certain things which are raised, and then somebody draws a line around it, and then the line is enforced, even though there might be overlap.
Ross Harley: Sorry, there are a couple of people wanting to say something. Ernest?
Ernest Edmonds: Ernest Edmonds, University of Technology Sydney and the Leonardo Transactions. I really wanted to pick up on Paul’s comments which I hope we don’t lose, and it relates to what Pip said. I mean, what’s missing in a way is, “Why, what’s the problem?” And a thing that we’ve been working on for about ten years in Sydney is looking at interactive art from the point of view of audience/participant experience. And I think experience and engagement is the big issue. And we’ve been developing research methods in how to do this, and I really feel it’s very important we shouldn’t be alone doing this. Everyone should be doing this. And one of the things we need to do is to focus on how do we record, find out, in fact, in a rigorous way about participant experience of interactive art. And that’s one of the key things we need to be archiving. That’s half the problem, that the object isn’t really very interesting. It’s the experience that we want to archive.
Anna Blecker: My name is Anna Blecker, I’m from Holland, involved in both policy side as well as the practical side of preserving and archiving. I’d like to go back to the call that’s out now, the letter. And what I really miss here is the urgency for policy-makers to take this on. And as the situation, as most of you probably know, in Holland is quite severe, everything is cut. They’re not really waiting for these kinds of calls. And I really think we should look for other ways of making ourselves sustainable. And I know crowd sourcing is really difficult, but I also think – and that also comes back in a way to the way of how to capture experiences – we really should go to our publics as well as to our artists, and really try to hear those voices and make them part of our work. And that way it will be more dispersed and more distributed, and hopefully more sustainable in the end, as well. And I really think we should think about newer models of how to sustain our archives.
Kuljit Chuhan: This is just a point to do the stuff that Paul was saying originally in the previous session this morning, which Mike was chairing. I raised a question about the cultural use of digital art, really. There were some examples where somebody had got some screenshots off a virtual environment, and one of the questions was, “Well, when I’m playing games, for example, if I want a certain screenshot which is one of the most important parts of the game, it takes about three or four hours for me to get onto the level so that I can get that screenshot. But for somebody to – all the archive stills are always from the early part of the game where you don’t actually get that environment.” And Beryl Grey made a point that there was a research project which was to do with an oral history of using digital art – I don’t know if she had a particular link for that, so I don’t know if you remember or not – but anyway, that was quite interesting. But I just wanted to reflect on some of the work that I’ve done in museums. With the Manchester Museum we did a project called Collective Conversations which is continuing, and that was modelled very roughly on something that the Natural History Museum are doing, which is where they have a number of discussions with members of the public around particular artefacts in the museum. And those are videoed and webcast and archived. So they’ve got a huge archive, so they do two or three a day. And basically we developed conversations around artefacts in the Manchester Museum that were self-run with participants in a particular context. Then the British Museum got hold of the idea and expanded it. And then later on they talked to Radio 4 who produced a series called History Through One Hundred Objects, which some people in the room have probably heard of. So that’s a kind of interesting idea, and it’s based on the idea that any object or digital media artefact doesn’t really have any meaning. What gives it its meaning is how it’s used. And so we realised that the ultimate end of that would become a museum of conversations, rather a museum of actual stills or artefacts. So I think there are moves already in other areas of heritage and archiving which are going in that direction. But there are ways to develop that in a kind of semi user-generated or facilitated manner as well.
Andy Williamson: I just wanted to pick up one point about the lack of cultural history. One of the exciting things about the conversation here is if you can create a shared model for archiving in metadata and recording, you remove the elitism from the process. And the reason for that white Anglo Saxon dominance is the elitism of the institution who recorded the history. So I think one of the big values in this is you take away some of that old-fashioned rigid academic – and I use that in a quite formal sense – power-broking hegemony of the taxonomies of knowledge and how we record and share knowledge. And you introduce the opportunity to record a number of different forms of knowledge which the old systems have dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant because they basically filter. So I think metadata – metadata as I understand it, creates that space for open systems – that means anybody can record and can record in a way that can feed into a bigger system. And that system isn’t being controlled. It’s much more democratised. So I think in the conversation about opening up archives across institutions, across organisations, across countries and across cultures, you automatically democratise the knowledge.
Max Schich: But that’s not true. If you measure how people actually do this, then if you get a broader system, what actually happens is that the really popular stuff becomes even more popular. People talk more about Mona Lisa and less about the variety.
Andy Williamson: That’s a different issue. That’s about the propagation and the aggregation of information, not recording it.
Max Schich: But the causality between open system and democracy is just a myth. There’s no evidence.
Andy Williamson: No, it’s not.
Max Schich: There’s no evidence.
Andy Williamson: There’s a difference between a myth and no evidence. [LAUGHTER]
Lisa Gye: That point – quite a few of these points also touch on education, because of course all of this is vital – I mean, who are we presenting this for? Obviously we’re not presenting it for ourselves because we’ve experienced it. We preserve it for people to come, and they’re the people that need to be educated. I’ve often had that experience with students – you send them to see an art work and they go, I didn’t know people made stuff like this. And so they’re the people we have to think about as well, in terms of how do we develop educational resources around these materials to ensure that people continue to teach it.
But I want to go back to Lanfranco’s idea as well, that is where is the money going to come from, and how is this conversation going to continue? Because clearly nothing will be resolved here. So is there going to be a mechanism for this conversation to go on so that – you know, these are really vital questions.
Lanfranco Aceti: One of the things that has come to my mind while everybody was talking is everyone is using a different system. For example, Pip is using a system, Doug is also using a different system. And some of these systems are – and I’m speaking about archival systems – some of these actually, you know, could possibly be a first step to have some sort of access entry and speak with a department of engineering, and try to find out what are the issues in the archival process, and think about something that is easy to be implemented, it’s friendly for the curators or the operators, so it suits a small-scale but it can be easily scaled up. So it would be a question of looking at what is available on the market, if it’s open source or not, how much does it cost. So probably what I’m trying to suggest is to get more into possibly the practicality itself of the archival. And then we could start doing it on a very small budget as an institution or a collaboration, and then look for possibilities of funding, and then, you know, transform it, and it could even become a new proprietary software system. So, I’m much more of a, you know, let’s get out there, let’s do the stuff, let’s put the energy together and let’s try to solve things. That’s my approach. And these are the things that I have taken up from these discussions. So some of you will receive an email from me and say, Okay, let’s see how we can move on. I’m thinking about the department of computing at Goldsmiths, for example, they would be interested. We could find somebody else, some other departments, and try with a small bid, nationally, in different nations. If we get together with Denmark, there is Holland, you know, there is Italy, there is Turkey, so you have already – if we apply to each single national group for a grant of €50,000 euros, for example, just to have seed money and to move on, that’s already – if we get two of them, or if we get one, we’re well off. And then we can look at a larger bid, and a larger structure, and move things on.
Paul Thomas: My thought would be that this conversation is going to continue whether we continue it or not. So the question is, do we want to be players in the continuation of this conversation? So it’s going keep happening. Do we want to try and work towards some sort of resolution so we don’t keep on having to have it, so all the wonderful things you might want to do with your life, you can get on and do. And it seems to me that media art …
Lisa Gye: No, you can get on and do, Paul.
Paul Thomas: But it seems to me that media art has done a number of different things in its experimentation, and some of these things get lost, and some of these things didn’t work, and didn’t happen. But we need to have some sort of reflective, conscious understanding of sharing of this information, even if it’s just as a memory or a discussion that this thing happened.
Lisa Gye: At this point could we suggest that some kind of list serve gets set up to continue this dialogue?
Ross Harley: I think these are great practical, pragmatic outcomes that can come out of this meeting, and again just to reiterate what Paul’s saying, we’re not trying to solve all these problems today; we’re trying to put people in the room who are actually already actively working on these problems. And I know that it’s hard for us to stay focused, but the question is, what kind of organisational structure can we propose that will allow us to work together. Whether we have to seek funds or whether we do it with precarious labour and crowd-sourcing, they’re other questions.
Morten Søndergaard: Just a very small remark. Are you aware of CHAOS – not chaos per se, it’s not a … – It’s Cultural Heritage Archive Organisation System? You know that? Because that’s a major European initiative, and this is the thing that the unreal avant garde is hooked up on, through this broadcast company, which was a huge revelation suddenly. You know, it felt like sailing into a harbour, then you could actually start being … . Before that it was all strategy, right. But I agree with Lanfranco completely, I think that this is …
Ross Harley: Yeah, we can probably – because I’m not sure I do agree with that actually. But we could come back to that. So Martin, then Pip and then …
Martin Warnke: Maybe it’s just my problem, but I’m losing focus the last half hour. So the question for me is, do we try to vote and hope and invent an institution from the scratch to solve all the problems, or are we heading for a manifesto which is not necessarily the end of all discussions. I think this should be a pragmatic decision we should take, and that would steer our contributions and discussions.
Paul Sermon: I think you’re trying to rush this a little bit. I appreciate that you you’ve brought this together, but I think I’m hearing some really interesting things coming from this room about what it is we’re trying to do. And I think you’re pushing to get us to kind of say, Go with it. And I’m not sure – I for one am not ready to do that just yet. Yeah, keep talking. And I think actually, you know, when you say we’re not here for ourselves, I think we are actually. I think we are, because I think what we’re desperate for is just to say it’s there. My work is in the Hall of Fame. But actually, all this stuff, I mean, if it’s going to be different from what you can find on YouTube or Vimeo, or somewhere else, then fine. But if it’s not, then I think it’s a question of whether it’s – well, how worthwhile is it?
Female speaker: Museum, Amsterdam. And I work in Collections and Research now for two years, and what I found when I came there – as the museum has been closed for seven years – is an organisation completely focused on the back end of conservation and preservation. And we have a very hybrid collection so not only media arts. And for me, the focus would definitely be also on going out there with question-driven, content-driven, not only focusing on conservation per se, because it takes up so much money, specially at a time with budget cuts and everything. It’s highly relevant, but only I think question-based, and looking at the urgency of what kind of questions do we have and stories do we have to tell. So that was just one remark, and I of course fully embrace this, but still I have my doubts.
In the Netherlands we have this organisation, Contemporary Art, Who Cares? It’s a very good, I think, symposium or conference each year or each other year where everybody shares their knowledge and expertise on media art presentation and on …
Pip Laurenson: It’s actually a one-off …
Howard Becker: It was once, just once.
Pip Laurenson: … that was the response from a European-funded project. Now, the first one was Modern Art, Who Cares? But the important thing to know …
Howard Besser: Yes, and ten years later, it’s Contemporary Art …
Pip Laurenson: … is that the organisation was exactly that kind of funded European project that resulted in that. Just for those who were going for that model.
Female speaker: Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to say. Please, let’s think of that, because I like the idea it was formulated over there, and I think in a symposium, and a structure that we can meet up and talk to each other and focus on that. Because I don’t believe in any big system.
Pip Laurenson: Well, think of that maybe as a three-year funded multi-site international research project that then you come and say where you’ve got to. I mean, I think it’s really important that we have money to do some of the work as well, you know.
Female speaker: Yeah, then we should work … go for it and then, you know, present it at a conference like that.
Howard Besser: At the risk of alienating some people …
Ross Harley: Off you go, that’s okay. [LAUGHTER]
Howard Besser: … okay, I don’t understand the advantage of trying to make one big archival search system.
Ross Harley: I don’t think anyone is suggesting that.
Howard Besser: Or even to make things so compatible that one can search across all of these systems. The cost of doing that is probably in the millions of euros and requires cooperation from every one of those entities that is managing that. How difficult is it if we, for researchers here, to have a list of all the places you would have to look and then just go and do individual searches? Is that worth the millions of euros? And furthermore, in any case, there are literally hundreds of other sites that have a few of these, a few of those, that would never participate in something like this. The libraries, the archives, the special collections. So in any case, someone would never be able to search everything across one try.
Martin Warnke: Two possibilities. If we don’t aggregate to some central point or some portal that manages the searches, we end up with Google, which is fine. But does another job than, say, some sort of organised metadata with access to good material. We have this problem I think in every nation…
Pip Laurenson: Look, guys, this is a subcommittee for overall ambitions of this group. I think we should just remember that we’ve got lots of different things, and what is the central organising thing – although I don’t know, Sara, were you saying you didn’t want this to be focused on media art? Because if it’s …
Sara Diamond: No, I said we should be absolutely focused on media art. But the framing device around it I think it has to be very radically different than it currently is. Because, you know, the Transmediale Intervention is right, because it’s very much about creating a resource that’s verification, for advocacy as you said, but also for multidisciplinary access into our very narrow field.
Pip Laurenson: Right, okay, portals in, yeah.
Sara Diamond: So I think the rationale really, even in the first instance, has to shift.
Ross Harley: Mike, did you want to have a last word?
Mike Stubbs: I don’t think I can say anything that wouldn’t last at least 30 minutes. But it’d be great if the group could resolve a short statement we could bring to the plenary session at the end of the conference.
Ross Harley: Thanks, Mike.
Max Schich: One little comment, the systems question. I think, yes, it is about a lot of other things except for the system. But there are two standards which are so dominant that we cannot ignore them. One is HTML and Google, and the other one is the Semantic Web. If you want to say ‘X is an artwork done by Y’, you can state that in a machine-readable form in a very easy way, as a semantic triple in RDF, or whatever are the languages. Just put it out, use your own data model, whatever. Other people will take care of doing the rest of the stuff, because like the data model and all the aggregation and stuff can be done by data scientists, which is actually also a group of people that should be taken in, if you collect data, because we’re interested in how to analyse the stuff, right. And one interesting thing about the big system which was for 30 years the goal of cultural informatics, in a sense, one interesting thing is if you have these kind of systems that actually cover a number of things, then you find out the single curators use the same data model but they all understand it in a different way. So basically that’s not something which needs to be solved. Not everybody needs to understand the same data model in the same way, but actually we want to find out how people understand the world. And that means, if they use the same data model or not, we want to measure how do they understand this, how do they understand this. But there are some notions, like, for example, ‘Author X wrote book Y’, that’s so trivial, it’s so easy to actually just use a double link to state that, right. So there shouldn’t be any discussion about these kind of simple things, right.
Pip Laurenson: Right, but it’s still a subcommittee of the bigger problem. I’m not saying it’s not really important work, and it may have a lot of synergies with all sorts of other groups that are grappling with that issue.
Kuljit Chuhan: We need to bring together these kinds of challenges, and work out who’s going to go away and work on it.
Sara Diamond: I’m just trying to see where there seems to be some unity in the room, and there does seem to be further need for an advocacy group that can facilitate funding through support for each other for individual projects. There does seem to be some agreement about the need for at least a kind of metadata structure where we can find collections, you know. And that means knowing what exists. I think many of us even in the field don’t know what exists. But those are sort of lower-hanging fruits, so to speak. And I think the third is, there’s a really valuable discussion about the nature of the kind of research that needs to be done in order to give birth to a larger project, and the kind of research questions that even that aggregate archives would allow. So I mean, those are the pieces that I’m seeing. And I think there is a general will to – I know I’m speaking from my own position – but to frame this as a resource that has, not as a crisis resource. I think there’s a problem when groups at the margin put forward projects like this with a kind of set of alarm bells going off, because it’s perceived as extremely self-serving – as opposed to saying, you know, there’s this incredible resource that’s needed for science, scholarship, engineering, humanities, social sciences, absolutely for the cultural space for institutions. This is a set of objectives that will help to preserve it. And it will serve our community to build up for the wider community.
Ross Harley: We’re lucky we recorded that, Sara. I think that was very focused.
Sean Cubitt: May I check in with a couple things – just to add one or two other things. One is about the – something Lisa said about the part of the audience for this – Sara’s quite correct – has to be something recognisable to policy makers. But what Lisa’s suggesting is it’s also something that’s recognisable to most of the people in the room, at least certainly those involved in education, which is about future audiences, and future makers and future enjoyers of this kind of practice. One of the things that strikes me about the debate around meta-tagging and the risks of folksonomies, for example, is that they can be either normative, which I think is a bigger risk, that people all agree that the more people you get, the more they all tend to agree that the important issues are the author, the date and the title. And that the less interesting thing is about the appearance of let’s say African figures in Hogarth. It’s only in the last little while that you would think of adding that kind of data, the sort of data that Martin’s project I believe is looking for, that kind of iconographic data.
My research at present is largely about environmental footprints of various works and practices. And that’s not stuff we saw data about. The problem is the archive is that we don’t know what people are going to be interested in the future. So the thing is, you need to collate as much information as you possibly can, qualitative research as well as quantitative research. That, I think, is a really, really interesting challenge.
Pip Laurenson: And perhaps keep the art works as well? Not throw your hundred objects out?
Sean Cubitt: Which I think all of us know is a very specific challenge. The Palm was an example of that. We know that the work designed for a 5 inch floppy or for that matter an oscilloscope is going to be increasingly difficult.
Lisa Gye: This group can’t do that but it can teach people how to do that. So rather than this group being about doing that job which you’re obviously doing really well, it’s about how does the next person come along and do it? What can they learn from you and what can you learn from the other people doing it?
Sean Cubitt: A little organisational point about the symposium concept, this is the fourth or fifth …
Ross Harley: Fourth.
Sean Cubitt: … Media Art History Conference, so some of us have been around this scene since 2005, and the Banff Conference that Sara hosted. It’s really interesting how the conversation has changed, but also how some of the things remain the same. It’s wonderful that we’ve almost not had one of the most bitterly argued conversations at Banff which was about cannon formation, the idea that we should list the 40 or 50 most important works and concentrate on preserving and go on from there. You can guess which side of the argument I was on. But those are really interesting debates. I think personally that the time is here to set up a loose association, associated in particular with this symposia which we already have as a successful, an increasingly successful, place where researchers, practitioners, curators and archivists are able to come together to discuss materials, to try and make a bridge between them. Because at present we meet every two years and relatively little happens on an international level, except at these events. So my suggestion is this is actually…
Darren Tofts: But that bridge-making, Sean, you picked up the idea of nomenclature, and I’m hearing a lot of the time here that we’re sort of discussing a software project or something. The idea of social capital around storytelling, and folksonomy has been used, heritage, the kind of social investment in this is something that nomenclature is very important. So we’ve got to be careful about how we describe what we’re doing, what discourses we’re using. Even if we want to use one that is problematic, at least we’re signalling what that is. And for me, the software one, the idea of exclusion, the idea of those kind of issues, are kind of key but they all come back to a kind of social capital in the project.
Max Schich: For the guys who were invited, we got another text from Humanities Quarterly, and I think that’s exactly raising that point, where he was talking about cyber infrastructure all the time and basically not really making a difference between cyber and regular infrastructure, or whatever. But that’s also this kind of thing, you always have the feeling, Oh, my god, there has to be some database, or whatever, but you don’t really need it, right. I mean, you can do immediately archive on paper with a pen, right, in a sense.
Pip Laurenson: I just want to go back to this ‘loose organisation’ because I think from just – one of the interesting things about being here is that we’re – it’s about desperately needing the permeability of discussions between the academic institutions, the museums, the archives, the media arts organisations, the practitioners, the artists, because we are completely dependent on the programmers and the artists’ works that we collect. They are serious collaborators in terms of being able to understand what we’re trying to preserve and do it. So I think the proposal on the floor is really interesting because I don’t think we have that as an organisation yet. We might have a number of different ones that belong to those constituencies, but an organisation that actually sets out to create those collaborations between those types of – I can’t think of the word – constituents, I guess – would be really valuable. Yeah.
Baruch Gottlieb : Yeah, I’d just like to bring it back to the document again, and say, like, okay, we’re talking about an advocacy situation where we’re trying to coalesce needs and direct them towards supports, right? And that we, alluding to Mike’s last wishes – I mean before he left [LAUGHTER] – come up with something that we can sign, or something that we can agree on by the end of the conference. Maybe, I don’t know, it’s too late to put it as a Wiki, but maybe we can all email somebody our addendum or whatever, and then whoever wants to sign can sign. I mean, we can also think about a Media Arts History Working Group or some title for what we will be as an assembly.
Ross Harley: I think that’s a great …
Baruch Gottlieb: It’s important to take responsibility on this policy.
Max Schich: But you can be part of the group without agreeing on the documents, right?
Baruch Gottlieb: Oh yeah.
Max Schich: Because that’s a point, right. If you want to discuss something that you don’t agree on, then …
Lanfranco Acetti: I don’t agree, but I’m still going to be in it.
Martin Warnke: Strongly disagree?
Max Schich: But you know what I mean.
Lanfranco Acetti: No, I’m teasing, I was just, you know. I’m concentrating about the failure of the European Union in these days. [LAUGHTER]
Nina Weinhart: I don’t know if you have this saying in English, to put the saddle on the wrong end of the horse?
Ross Harley: No, but its good, we should! [LAUGHTER]
Nina Weinhart: I think there is so much discussion about creating another organisation, or what type of organisation it is, but there were hardly any ideas what to do differently this time with this organisation, or either focusing on what the individual problems are. And I think, talking with so many friends around here who all have some tiny projects or ideas, and work on that. I have this little allergy against institutions, where a talk can take two hours and in the end it’s just more confusion. And I’ve always been seeing these five or six friends here, where there are almost quite precise things to discuss, and it would be such a nice opportunity to really discuss these things, instead of where does the next institution sit and who’s going to be the director. [LAUGHTER] So I hope it’s not provocative because I enjoy this conversation.
Ross Harley: No, I absolutely agree.
Nina Czegledy: So I just would like to ask after all this, what are you going to say at the planning session?
Ross Harley: Well, I’m thinking about that. [LAUGHTER] I’m thinking that the document we’ve got needs more work. Given the time – so it’s 4 o’clock now; we’re scheduled till 4.30 if people still have the energy – is it worth trying to collaboratively now write something? There’s part of me that just goes, don’t even suggest it. [LAUGHTER] And then there’s another part of me that thinks, well, maybe there’s this document which has got – in general there’s some support for it but it needs to be reworked, and that needs time, and we probably need to do that outside of this particular framework. What do people think?
Lisa Gye: Is there some way to do that and maintain the momentum? Because momentum is a big thing, and I think that’s what Mike was getting at, and Oliver as well, that don’t lose the momentum by not having something to say tomorrow other than, “We’re working on a document, we’ll get back to you”. Is there a phrase or …
Howard Besser: I kind of think that this document is good enough to take it back to the entire group tomorrow and to say, “In concept, do we endorse this? The details will be morphed a little bit, but in concept, do we endorse this?”
Wendy Coones: And maybe even just highlighting some of the phrases that say, “These are the points that are in contest: the word ‘institution’, the word ‘out of our time’. These are going to be in discussion in the future, but the general layout is okay.”
Sean Cubitt: I think we could probably that some of those words just cut out, easy. And I think we should also agree that some terms go in: ‘advocacy’ and ‘collaboration’ seem to be the most important terms; and Sara’s idea of the kind of broader constituency to which the work that this group undertakes is addressed to. So as well as to ourselves and to the technicians, archivists, et cetera, it’s also going to be something that we can actually send to a policy body with some hope of getting some money.
Max Schich: And I also vote that we put in the gap and the question. Because then the institution issues is out of the room. Because we could put that in a question, if that is the thing which is going to sustain the persistence.
Ross Harley: Can I suggest then that maybe we just have a couple of volunteers from this meeting to actually stay back after school [LAUGHTER] and to write that paragraph? I was going to volunteer Sean and myself as original writers of that draft document. Who else would be interested in helping to draft that?
Lisa Gye: I volunteer Darren, because he’s quite good with words.
Sean Cubitt: He is, I’ve noticed that.
Ross Harley: Was there anyone else who would be – okay. So I think it’s easier to do that rather – if we go into the document now, it’s just …
Sean Cubitt: Not to be … now that I know what my homework is. I thought some of the discussion around meta-tagging and taxonomies was actually beginning to fire off. And are there others of you who’d like to meet and talk about that for ten minutes to see if there’s enough common interest to keep your conversation going?
Ross Harley: So what I wanted to say, as far as point of order is concerned, it’s 4 o’clock, there are other sessions that some people may or may not have to or want to go to. We’ve got the room till 4.30 or longer. How do we feel about continuing our conversation for another half hour, or whatever we feel like?
Darko Fritz: When is the time for signing something? Are we going to sign something or not?
Ross Harley: So the proposal is that we will take into account all of this feedback, we’ll reword that document as something that can be presented in the plenary tomorrow as something that could just be endorsed by Rewire 20 …
Alessandro Ludovico: Yeah, but I think that at this point it’s not trivial. We are able to rewrite it and to rework it, and tomorrow everybody who’s here or has been here, would want to personally, I mean, undersign it, would be a bolder statement. It would be endorsed by a community more than just by the more abstract, by a conference.
Nina Czegledy: That’s what I have to say, that the momentum is really important. Back in 2004, at ISEA we created a group of us, the Helsinki Agenda, and this was presented to the European Culture or Ministers Conference, or something, and quoted many times, and it was done right there. That was good.
Lisa Gye: And is there going to be an email list?
Ross Harley: Yeah, I think we need to do that. One of the things I was thinking actually is that we should get everyone’s email so we’ve got a list of names. Maybe one practical thing, I might just get that list, and Paul, maybe we might just take that off the door and circulate it, so we’ve got all of your names and emails. I know that’s something that Nina does in her workshops and it’s great. So I think we should form some kind of list.
Sean Cubitt: We also have presumably a list of the participants of the conference, so we should be able to send … so we can just mail everybody, say, as an electronic document and you can sign it.
Pip Laurenson: Can I just ask, if we’re thinking – and I don’t think it always has to have a director – but if we’re talking about an international network – and I was struggling with what the word is, and I don’t know if it’s ‘longevity’ or something – anyway, the International Network for Something of Media Art, which is to do with the continuation, supporting – I don’t want to use the word ‘preservation’ or ‘conservation’ or ‘archiving’ or any of those, but there’s some other word that needs to go in there – then I guess the important thing is that if we explore the feasibility in what it would actually take to create that sort of body, then the next step is this whole permeating these different areas so that it goes to the museum people through their list serve, it goes to …
Multiple voices: Yeah.
Pip Laurenson: … is that, structurally, is that what we feel is the shape of what we’re moving towards? Or are we going for – is that the first step? And then we start looking for collaborations for the funding, for the practical elements? Because although I sort of jumped on the thing about Contemporary Art, Who Cares, because the interesting thing about that is that those activities came out of the fact that the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art was set up, and then that went to Europe and got money. You know, it’s, just on a very structural shape.
Lisa Gye: It could be the Future of Media Art; rather looking back it’s looking forward to the future of media art?
Howard Besser: I think it’s a mistake to start circulating this to wider communities unless we have some place for them to respond to. You know, we need to have a committee or a mail box or a website, or something, before we start circulating it because otherwise it goes out to the museum community and they say, Oh, yeah, this is good. Well, what do I do about it?” You know, we have to have something more concrete.
Sean Cubitt: I think once we get an agreement in principle, we can start filling in some of the gaps. If we try to invent not only the manifesto but also write the constitution at the same time, we might not get out of here before teatime.
Paul Thomas: At 5.20 we’re all going to march down to FACT [LAUGHTER]
Max Schich: But isn’t that also like a key mission which could actually drive the momentum, so basically creating this place where you can actually post something, right? Because if you send it out to the museum community, and it comes back, maybe somebody, whatever, has some difficult to preserve art work, right, and then, they say, okay, there is a community; I’ll send it there. What will you do with that, for example? And that would create a conversation which would be ongoing, right.
Paul Thomas: Sean made an interesting point about the Media Art History happening every two years. But we also have ISEA, and we’re going to have ISEA next year and the year – so there are a number of these events that could become the nodal structure for sharing information as well, that keep the community, as it were.
Sean Cubitt: And there are undoubtedly, and there are already panels at other specialist conferences in art history or cinema or media studies and …
Paul Thomas: But it just gives us a way to keep the conversation jumping to the next event, and therefore if there is a kind of manifesto or organisation, it then can be linked in the same way that ISEA – Nina’s been linking education as a construct in electronic art in all the different electronic events, and kept that alive as an ongoing discourse. And we haven’t created a manifesto, but that’s next.
Wendy Coones: I would suggest – I’m Wendy Coones, working with the Database of Virtual Art and Media Histories Archive – is that the conversation that we’re having now, other disciplines have had a similar conversation before us. And so it might be also appropriate that those of us who have contacts with people from other disciplines, that we do some interviews, or just ask them, people who were working with genome projects, or people that were working on the astronomy project, “How did you guys go about it? Did you set up an association first and get a post office box where people could send things to?” Or was it just all understood that there were a couple of people? And see how they were doing that, because there are already, particularly in the natural sciences, these larger structures that have been set up. And Max you can say something …
Max Schich: There is a very nice kind of parallel to that. Molecular biology has this thing called KEGG, which is about molecular pathways. And everybody uses it, and it’s always the community, right, always it’s the thing you have to buy, whatever – don’t know the precise modalities. But one of the key aspects of it is people download it and then they append it with information they have generated themselves. So basically they get it as a standard, and then they change it. And so basically it seems to be the fate of every standard in biology. So it’s this kind of toothbrush kind of thing: everybody wants to have one, but everybody wants to have their own, right. And that’s something we have to live with, I guess, and that’s something we need to embed there.
Ross Harley: So Paul’s saying he thinks we should wind it up.
Paul Thomas: I wasn’t trying to … [LAUGHTER] … the time to actually write the thing up might be a good time to start to get the groups. And Sean suggested a meta-data discussion which could happen in the café somewhere.
Alessandro Ludovico: I’m particularly keen of this signing thing tomorrow. What I mean is, when we end up with the manifesto and we print it out, we were just passing around in order to be signed by all the people, how we will do it?
Ross Harley: Yeah, I’m not sure how we will do that.
Lanfranco Acetti: Send electronic signatures.
Ross Harley: Somebody mentioned it, there is a list of all the delegates, right.
Paul Thomas: This could just be an in-house thing that we’re doing now, and this could be done that this will be ready at a certain time and posted outside on the front when you come in to register, and then you can sign it. We’ll leave it with Omar, and Omar will have it there for you to sign it.
Max Schich: Can’t you do it electronically? Because there’s people who will be there, and not there any more.
Paul Thomas: Yeah, of course we could do that.
Ross Harley: I think it needs to be done electronically as well. And it raises the whole fundamental question of what is this thing that we’re talking about creating, and then how do we manage that, not just in physical meetings, but on-line and virtually.
Morten Søndergaard: I’m just thinking of the word ‘infrastructure’. I mean, that’s the idea of, basically the running idea behind this project, but we did an infrastructure that kind of umbrellas a number of institutions just in Denmark, that’s just to make ten different institutions and artistic spaces as well work together. So the term we use was ‘infrastructure’.
Ross Harley: It really is very much about linking infrastructure that currently exists, we want to address the problems that all of us have in terms of the sustainability of these projects which are all in dire straights really.
Lisa Gye: Isn’t that an exoskeleton rather than an infrastructure?
Darren Tofts: Yeah, maybe.
Lisa Gye: It’s like a protection and something to adhere to.
Sean Cubitt: That’s incredibly invertebrate of you.
Lisa Gye: Thank you.
Sean Cubitt: I have a draft statement. Short is good. “Given the challenge of the imminent lost of digital heritage, we propose – this conference proposes, or something – to establish an international association of media art histories and futures to promote advocacy and collaboration, to disseminate best practice and to debate new challenges.”
Ross Harley: I know we said we weren’t going to do this, but I am getting the feeling that the energy is like we’re wrapping up. Why don’t we in fact try and do this statement now. Those of you who are going, “Oh, my god, he said he wasn’t going to do that”, I think float away … but I think can we agree to do that, and let’s get this statement? So Sean, can you …
Howard Becker: If you’re going to leave, sign – put your email address on this before you leave.
Ross Harley: Yes, make sure you sign the document. So I think some people are going to be taking us up on that. So thanks very much everyone for coming along. We do hope that this is the beginning of something much longer and larger. Some of us are already working on these projects together, so we’ll be continuing to work together. And thanks very much especially to all of the invited participants for coming along. So can we just thank them in the usual way. [APPLAUSE]