The Whitney Artport is an archive of net art which will naturally pose some questions for the future. In the backend of the system all the versions of Flash, CGI scripts and PHP scripts are documented.
None of the commissioned projects exhibited online made it into the Whitney collection because the the Whitney either did not pay enough money for the projects or there was no real preservation. There’s one exception THE WORLD’S FIRST COLLABORATIVE SENTENCE project, a simple HTML page that did make it into the collection. Even though it is just a simple HTML document 15 years after it’s creation it is facing several problems.
The major issues imposed by Artport:
- The page is unformatted, the font and link structure vary. This posed the question whether we should do something about it? Or should we consider the dirt style aesthetics and as a comment on the internet.
- There is a lot of link rot. Do we leave it or do we go to the Internet Archive and recreate the link structure?
- Some pages are completely garbled because the project was included in a project in Asia and received contributions from Asia with characters the system cannot handle. Do we leave it as a comment on language barriers or do we translate?
- Storage (collecting software and hardware as it continues to be developed) – least elegant solution but sometimes cannot be avoided.
- Emulation (“recreating” software, hardware and operating systems through emulators – programs that simulate the original environment and its conditions) – MoMa is going to establish a virtual server which would not directly emulate but would run the particular version of software, hardware and operating systems needed to run a program. All these versions would be included on the virtual server.
- Migration (upgrading the work to the next version of hardware/software)
- Reinterpretation (“restaging” a work in a contemporary context and environment)
We need to find the lowest common denominator on a case by case basis with the help of an author. The Forging the Future initiative aims to rescue digital culture and the Variable Media Network is working on a specific tool to do so, the Variable Media Questionnaire. The questionnaire contains organized data gathered through interviews about a specific piece of work. Questions include if and how the work should adapt to future devices?
Q: How to choose what to document? The past will never be the past again in the future. Many things in the past are passing away. We are never able to replicate the past?
A: This question is independent from media and is not attached to the digital itself. It has always been a poignant question. Every curator and every organization continually thinks about these questions.