PART I: Strategies of Caretaking: How can the Present be Preserved?

Willem van Weelden (Tutor, Curator & Researcher) : Re-writing the Present: To Inhabit the Inhabitable
Jennifer Helia DeFelice (Vasulka Kitchen, Brno) : The Vasulkas: Legacy Project as Platform Development
Glenn Wharton (New York University) : Settling into Routine: How Strategies for Managing Digital Collections Become Established Practice.
Moderated by Melanie Bühler (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem)

The first session of Transformation Digital Art symposium 2019 opened with three speakers from various backgrounds, who each addressed the same question, but through very different lenses: how can the present be preserved?

Presentations began with identifying what is the “present” in the context of contemporary media and media art by Willem van Weelden. In an era of constant updates and unprecedented progress, what is the experience of “present” and how can it be preserved, conserved and recreated? Jumping off of theories presented by Wolfgang Ernst, Van Weelden discussed the idea of a collapsed “present” and “future” that are both already experienced as past. Van Weelden’s essay ‘Re-Writing the Present: To Inhabit the Inhabitable’ is published on the website of LIMA project Digital Canon. Jennifer Helia DeFelice continued with a case study of the creation of a dedicated space celebrating the works of Steina and Woody Vasulka consisting of the Vasulka Chamber in Reykjavik, Iceland, and its sister project Vasulka Kitchen in Brno, Czech Republic. The last presentation of the session by Glenn Wharton gave an in depth look into the development and establishment of processes within various institutions, and from collections to research projects by the initiator of the The Artists Archive Initiative Glenn Wharton. Through conversation between the three speakers and moderator Melanie Bühler, threads of the three topics began to weave together. It is clear through their presentations that the archive must be open and used to keep artworks alive and active, and that systems must be developed to ensure that knowledge systems become habitual. Works get fixed in a certain way once they enters museums, and media works are often interactive, iterative and interpretive. Efforts like the ones presented in this session offer all a form of archiving where works live on their own within the archive, re-animated through digital tools and public engagement. By creating databases that are rich in information, easily accessible and searchable through diverse means, they are creating a new canon that can guide users through their experience of the works. As our media changes, so does our memory. For this reason it is imperative that media art archives remain in the present and not become a monument to memory that, as van Weelden put it, is in ruins.

Willem van Weelden

Jennifer Helia DeFelice

Glenn Wharton

Slide from Glenn Wharton’s presentation with personal notes from David Wojnarowicz.

From left to right: Melanie Bühler, Glenn Wharton, Willem van Weelden and Jennifer Helia DeFelice.