In "The Rise and Fall of the Post-Photographic Museum," Peter Walsh argues that "...photography helped give rise to an entirely new kind of art museum, the post-photographic museum" and that likewise we are now seeing the burgeoning of the post-internet museum. Among the changes present in the post-photographic museum were the hiring of museum based photographers to document museum work and reproduce images of artworks for sale (e.g. posters and postcards); the display of photographs among other art objects in exhibits; and the re-thinking of curatorial practice, which motivated a change from restoration (or the replication of a work's initial appearance) to conservation (which focused more on preserving the authenticity of the original, e.g. through techniques that expose and bring out rather than write-over original aspects).
For my purposes, rather than post-internet, I am thinking about the post-new media museum. My hypothesis is two-pronged: 1) the exhibition and inclusion of digital and internet based art requires and enables new modes of display/exhibition, interpretation, and conservation; 2) the incorporation of these new technologies into museums alters the functioning and the nature of museums.
Walsh identifies the pre-photographic museums as those existing before the advent of photography, and post-photographic museums as those that included photography into their original plans. We might think of pre-new media museums as those which are (or are not) now trying to integrate new technologies and to "update" their collections and work; and post-new media as museums for which new media is central (often identified as media-specific museums, e.g. The Museum of Pure Form, ARS Electronica).
Most interesting, so far, has been the readings and sources on conservation.
The Variable Media Initiative, a Guggenheim Museum project, seems to be near the forefront of new media conservation: "The Variable Media approach integrates the analysis of materials with the definition of an artwork independently from its medium, allowing the work to be translated once its current medium becomes obsolete. By identifying the works behaviors (contained, installed, performed, reproduced, etc.) and strategies (storage, emulation, migration, and reinterpretation), artists, conservators, and curators can advance the preservation of new-media art."*
From my understanding, these forms can be defined as follows:
- storage (traditional method--maintaining climate control, etc.)
- migration (moving to updated equipment; effect may change)
- emulation (trying to maintain the effect while using potentially different kinds of objects)
- reinterpretation (trying to replicate the artist's intent, without migrating or emulating)
...the Documentation and Conservation of the Media Arts Heritage has added "reconstruction" to this list.
Some questions, then:
How do these techniques conflate and separate meaning; significance; form; medium, etc. in ways that might be specific to our time and the significance *we* see in works? A peer in one of my classes pointed out that many artists are interested now in making intentionally obselete art as a statement about ephemerality. Do migration and emulation necessarily over-write these intentions? How do "mechanically reproducible" works change our sensorium (see: Between Play and Politics); defy and invigorate the museum (see: Follow Through, ArtPort)? What do we think?
As far as museum tools, I've so far been thinking about efforts to change the digital archive and art historical vocabulary through folksonomies (see: Steve.Museum projects for examples); museums' efforts to display crowd-curated content (see: Click! and Your Show Here for examples), and what happens when we make digitlal and share museum resources (see: Steve Campbell on the reproduction of curatorial bias, etc.).
Are you working in or curious about: 1) the exhibition, interpretation and display of new media art or 2) new media tools in the museum? Any ideas about how new media has, is or will change museums? Also, if you're interested, here is some suggested reading in the HASTAC community.