The Digital Oblivion
Substance and Ethics in the Conservation of Computer-based Art
Thu, November 04, 2010 – Fri, November 05, 2010, Symposium
As part of the three-year EU-funded research project digital art conservation, this international symposium aims to investigate the future of our digital cultural memory, focusing in particular on the preservation of computer-based art. For a couple of decades now, digitalisation has allowed the content of cultural memory to be more easily processed and circulated. However, the preservation of digital contents is fundamentally conditioned by the need to adapt to an ever more rapid sequence of new technical systems. This functional obsolescence presents a systemic threat to digital cultural memory. Again and again, previous criteria of cultural memory such as longevity and authenticity are led ad absurdum.
The practice and theory of the acquisition and preservation of art have seen a paradigm shift, presenting institutions, curators, conservators and scholars with a new set of as yet unsolved problems. Whereas traditional media and tools remained in the hands of artists and curators, new digital media have reduced the autonomy of these cultural actors.
Parallel to day-to-day museum and exhibition practice, conservation theory has recently seen a normative debate on the ethics of preservation. This discussion is comparable to developments elsewhere in the humanities and natural sciences, as well as in bioethics and environmental ethics and aims to overcome the current uncertainty surrounding the preservation of digital media art as part of our cultural heritage.
This set of interconnected themes forms the context for the questions posed by the first of two symposia within the framework of the project digital art conservation: What consequences will the ongoing systemic change of cultural memory have for our consciousness of time and of history, and for our image of ourselves and the world? Are traditional criteria for conservation – a work of art’s originality, longevity and inherent economic value – at all applicable to new media art? Should standards of best practice be developed for the conservation and collection of new media art?


Prof. Dr. Hans Belting
Professor emeritus for the science of art and media theory, Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe
Prof. Dr. Edmond Couchot
Professor emeritus Université de Paris VIII
Alain Depocas
Director of the Centre for Research and Documentation, Daniel Langlois Foundation, Montréal
Herbert W. Franke
Artist, scientist and writer, Egling
Rosina Gómez-Baeza Tinturé
Director, LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries, Gijon
Prof. Dr. Hans Dieter Huber
Head of degree programme conservation of new media and digital information, Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart
Antoni Muntadas
Artist, New York
Daria Parkhomenko
Director, LABORATORIA Art & Science Space, Moscow
Dr. Ingrid Scheurmann
Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz, professorship architectural heritage and applied historical building research, Technische Universität Dresden
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Serexhe
Head curator, ZKM | Media Museum, Karlsruhe
Prof. Dr. h.c. Peter Weibel
CEO, ZKM | Karlsruhe
Dr. Klaus Weschenfelder
President, ICOM Germany
Prof. Dr. Siegfried Zielinski
Professor for media theory, Universität der Künste, Berlin
Organization / Institution