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93 1 After reading this interview, Jon Ippolito added: ‘Isn’t it interesting how people seem to think relying on memory of the actual use of an object is mystifying it? Somehow we think archaeologists who dig an artefact out of the ground and try to figure out what it was used for without any context are being objective and scientific. Yet what is lost in that detachment from context is precisely the social memory of that object. Social memory, passed down orally or re-performed or re-created from version to version, may change over time. But to claim that a curator knows better than a Maori oarsman the meaning of a dugout canoe is preposterous.’

exhibit media art in media and formats other than those in which they were originally created, but they often do so without any explicit parameters that are part of the metadata, part of the historic record of the work, and without acknowledging the transmigration in the presentation of the work. Exhibitions show films on DVD and preservation projects migrate CD-ROM-based artworks to software running on hard drives. These are necessary moves, but they’re interventions and interpretations too. The Variable Media approach does not argue for more variability in preserving each artwork; it argues for more explicit variability that results in more variability where appropriate and less where restricted.1

You emphasise the acknowledgement of amateur and non-institutional practices. This could also be an interesting approach for safeguarding contextual information. I can imagine there is much to learn from a ‘bottom-up’ strategy. Nevertheless, my experience is that some of these networks are formed around very stringent frameworks, sometimes being stricter than museums in their approach and rules. What were the main advantages that you noticed and how do you think a museum could implement these? Social memory has long been practiced from both top-down (museums, governments) and bottom-up (folk and pop cultures) perspectives. As mentioned earlier, new media presents the impetus (and the tools) for reconsidering how we practice social media such that we might now consider new ways of integrating top and bottom strategies. Online communities (game-specific communities come to mind) offer one model, but not the only one. Sometimes the solution is simple. In one of the first online archive projects, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, digitised and placed online hundreds of historic photographs from their collection of California history. They asked viewers to provide any knowledge they had of the photo or its subjects and allowed viewers to comment online. The institution gained invaluable knowledge related to their archives that would have previously been cost-prohibitive to gather.

Speculative Scenarios — Edited by Annet Dekker  

There is a growing understanding of the use of technological tools for dissemination or mediation in the museum, but artistic experiences th...

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