Connections and Gaps between Artists’ and Institutions’ New Media Preservation Efforts
Media art, which frequently involves data, software, or electronic devices, continues to face the challenge of technological obsolescence. In a previous article, this research project reviewed example models and strategies that media artists have personally developed to prevent artworks’ technical failures and to restore artworks on the edge of obsolescence. The preliminary study also touched on why artists may or may not devote themselves to preservation proactively. For example, an artist may have essential assumptions about their artworks’ life span. Or, an artist may recognize personal preservation efforts as a kind of assistance offered to potential collectors, including institutional conservation initiatives. However, given the diversity of media art, my preliminary research on three artists does not sufficiently reveal variations in or similarities between media artists’ understandings of preservation. Since preservation and conservation are fields often dominated by museums and similar organizations, a contrast also exists between personal and institutional practices.
Among the 21 artists contacted, seven artists (see Figure 1)—Ellen Sandor, Jeffrey Shaw, Marcello Mercado, Mark Reaney, Paolo Cirio, Susan Collins, and Yiannis Melanitis—participated in the semi-structured interviews and answered questions listed in Appendix A. Although the non-response rate (see Figure 2a) is admittedly high, the participants were able to provide information that may apply to other cases given the variety of their artistic practices (see Figure 1). Nonetheless, one limitation is that the distribution of participants’ gender is imbalanced (see Figure 2b) even though the numbers of female and male artists (10 vs. 11) among the 21 potential interviewees were very close.