PhD thesis "The preservation of Net Art in museums. The strategies at work."
under the direction of Jean Davallon
University of Avignon, France
(text in French - soon available to download under a free license + links + bibliography)
The preservation of net art is a complex topic which requires the construction of a specific approach to look at internet artwork, one that takes into account the material dimension of the artwork. Preservation does not deal only with aesthetics, not only about the way the audience experiences artworks, but needs to have access to these types of information so the preservation process can take place.
This research presents an overview of works created by and for the Internet. The artworks which are described in this work are chosen specifically as examples for preservation purposes, and not according to a typology created for different purposes. This research also presents an overview of the institutions (based in Europe and in North America) that have developped specific preservation strategies. It takes the form of case analyses, which stem from observations, readings, and interviews.
This thesis also looks into the interaction between preservation and the other functions of the museum (collection, exhibition, research). Preservation cannot be tackled independantly, because it deals with the artwork's life cycle within the museum. Every art work has to be treated in a way which is specific to itself. The issue of notation also arises then, as it's necessary to find ways to describe artworks, especially as their technological environments will eventually be obsolete. This research explores the ways to compensate obsolescence : emulation, migration, score, re-interpretation, self-archiving, automatic archiving, etc (which can be also combined).
The attention to net art work as material socio-technical object means to find a way to look at those works : the code which composes the artwork, the files, its different files and the way they are organized, what happens on the screen, the interactions between the artward and the audience that experience it. The notions of code performativity and activation are useful in this approach.
Preservation happens only when value is attributed to what is preserved. Two categories of actors outside of the museum take part into this process : the art market on the one hand and art critics and art historians on the other. Both influence and get influenced by the museum.
All these elements allow the composition of a pluridisciplinar cartography on the topic of net art preservation.
Anne Laforet website