RESEARCH PAPER – MA Visual Arts – Fine Art Digital
Terence Quinn – Student ID QUI15472637 – Version 1 – 18 July 2016
Digital to Physical – Built to Last?
Will functioning digital art be part of our future cultural heritage? An examination of built in obsolescence in digital art contrasting two installations, one physical ‘Still Standing’ by Antony Gormley and the other a purely digital artwork ‘Sequence’ by Alex May and Anna Dumitriu.
The proliferation of new digital technologies employed by artists raises increasingly pressing questions related to preserving their work for our cultural heritage. Will only physical art survive intact over time? Can purely digital artworks continue to operate in the distant future and thus provide a digitally functioning legacy for generations to come? Is it possible to conserve digital artworks for the long term? Is this matter being adequately addressed by artists themselves, by those who collect their work, and by art institutions?
This research paper examines these questions and contrasts two contemporary installations, one physical but made digitally ‘Still Standing’ by Antony Gormley and the other a purely digital artwork ‘Sequence’ by Alex May and Anna Dumitriu.
The conclusions reached are worrying for those concerned with the legacy of purely digital art practice. This paper argues the need to provide future generations with working examples of contemporary digital art. If artists care, it is observed that they are not doing much about conserving their work, perhaps because they don’t know how. Possibly, as they have not been taught how. Curators, government bodies, museums and institutions involved with this topic are aware of the urgent need for this important issue to be addressed, but for present practitioners and most past work it is a matter of too little, too late.
For the future, the view is taken that digital art conservation issues are so wide, complex and rapidly changing at an accelerating pace, that a comprehensive methodology for preserving digital artwork is unattainable. In effect, a resolution lies with the training of artists to recognize the need, and to take their own steps to facilitate conservation of their own individual digital artworks, as far as is reasonably possible. In that way the best will survive to characterise today’s digital art movement (however it is named in the future) to provide a valued cultural legacy for generations to come.