Archive for March 2011

Preserve Digital Art: what are we trying to save?

Yesterday the Digital Preservation Coalition hosted a really thought provoking event on preserving digital art (details and programme).

  • David Duce from the School of Technology at Oxford Brookes University, set the scene for the day and also proposed the notion of Digital Evidence Bags (DEBs) which could lead to the concept of a Digital Curation Workbench where activities carried out were automatically recorded/documented.
  • Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research at the Tate, raised the issue of what a digital repository needs to look like for artworks. Tate have been carrying out research into Matters in Media Art since 2003. She also talked about the way artists programme software code as opposed to computer programming as standard practice; we watched an interview with David Rokeby talking about the way part of the code is for functionality and part was essential to the artwork so in order to enable preservation he had spent a long time separating and documenting this.
  • Leo Konstantelos based at the University of Glasgow presented findings gathered during his PhD which considered how digital art online could be retrieved for scholarly research. Worryingly one of the sixteen digital art online resources he consulted has recently disappeared with the loss of around 20,000 artworks. Leo emphasised that these online resources were not just there for the display of art but had other functionality such as community and commercial aspects. Some of his interview participants, including quite high profile artists, said they liked the anonymity of submitting their work to such sites. Leo also mentioned a report he co-authored: Report on emerging digital art characterisation techniques; and the large EU Keeping Emulation Environments Portable project as well as a new JISC-funded project Preservation of Complex Objects Symposia (POCOS) (website will be online by next week)
  • Sarah Cook from CRUMB, posed thought provoking questions such as: why do we think about preservation instead of documentation? what are the differences between digital and new media art? and how much does complete metadata matter for the study of art history?
  • Jon Thomson (in collaboration with Alison Craighead) spoke about how works have been made and how they have been acquired into different collections. It was fascinating to hear about the variety and complexity of the types of work and the way each had been handled.
  • Perla Innocenti from the University of Glasgow, spoke about the clear differences between digital preservation and digital art; she suggested that we need to question assumptions about what constitutes digital art and what should be preserved for the future: “experimentation with the curation of digital art is essential”. She is involved in the EU funded SHAMAN project, and also mentioned the EU-funded Planet’s project Testbed, which provides a six-step experimentation process.
  • Brian Matthews, Group Leader of the Scientific Applications Group within the e-Science Centre (STFC), raised interesting questions about both the nature of software art including its physical outputs, and also about a variety of strategies for preservation. He quoted James Faure-Walker: “With software, as with painting only the user can tell the difference” and proposed that the test of the success of our preservation is the performance of the data for the audience (based on the NAA performance model (PDF)).
  • Patricia Falcão, Time-based media conservator at the Tate, spoke about her MA research into risk assessment for software based archives. She provided a case study with the piece Brutalism: Stereo Reality Environment 3, which is currently on display at the Tate. This provided an excellent insight into the work of a conservator and the complexity of issues involved.

Kultivate Archiving and Curation workshop, 23rd March 2011

Visual artist Ruth Maclennan presented an archive of her event-based work Archway Polytechnic on Wednesday at the third Kultivate workshop. Ruth’s presentation was accompanied by a silver suitcase containing a physical archive of some of her work and even a few feathers collected from the hawk that carried a video camera.

Stephen Gray from Project CAiRO (Curating Artistic Research Output), part of the JISC Managing Research Data programme, presented a workshop evaluating the kulturised EPrints demonstrator service against Omeka and the Internet Archive. The workshop raised discussion and feedback about EPrints as well as the process of depositing potentially complex arts research data.

The Journal for Artistic Research (JAR) has recently published an issue 0 made available through the Research Catalogue software. Michael Schwab, JAR Editor-in-Chief, presented the conceptual framework and technical architecture and discussed the different ways that artists may choose to expose their work as research.

Laura Molloy, Preservation Researcher at the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), University of Glasgow, presented the results of her survey into artists’ self-archiving and preservation practices. This was modelled on the AHDS Performing Arts (2006) Getting to Know Our Audience Scoping Study (PDF), although there were differences in the research methodology and audience.

Presentations are available from the Downloads area of the Kultur II Group website.

UCA Research Student Conference: Concept & Context in Practice

On Wednesday 16th March, Anne Spalding and I attended the University for the Creative Arts Research Student Conference in Farnham. This was a chance to do some advocacy for UCA Research Online, and an opportunity to gather information and make contacts for the Kultivate project as well. Some of the themes that I will be exploring in more depth:

Research as narrative
Jane Wildgoose, ‘Artist, Writer, Designer, and Keeper of The Wildgoose Memorial Library’, gave the keynote presentation titled Research & Materialisation. This was a fascinating journey covering how the narrative of research had been woven throughout her career and materialised; focusing on three of Jane’s projects: designing the costumes for Hellraiser; the project On One Lost Hair; and Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things, a site-specific installation commissioned by the Yale Center for British Art. Jane talked about the way her work and life are interwoven together; and highlighted how sparks conceived in one project had then led into other projects; she also talked about the ‘materialisation’ of research in the form of outputs such as costume designs.

Documenting research
The presentations suggested three questions:

1.) How do you document research when the form of documentation is itself part of the work? i.e. the method of documentation/recording can be vitally significant in itself in the meanings it can convey and present

2.) How do you record and document performance art?
I am looking forward to Stephen Gray’s Kultivate case study (abstract available here) about documenting performance art; and was interested at the UCA event to find out that one practitioner had set up video cameras to simultaneously record her performance as well as the reaction of the audience. She presented this to us as one film with a split screen and described it as a documentation of her performance.

3.) How do you present visually explicit or adult content in an institutional repository? As I am not a repository manager I am not sure how this is handled and maybe this is an issue with all research in terms of related issues of copyright and confidentiality i.e. levels of access based on keeping some material unpublished but preserved in the repository, or controlling access in some way? Does this then conflict with what the artist can choose to present on their own websites?

Repositories: take-up and embedding 2nd March

JISC are funding six projects as part of the ‘take-up and embedding’ strand of the JISC Information Environment programme:

It was great to make contact with the other projects. NECTAR and the Glasgow School of Art are both making use of the Kultur enhancements for their repositories. Robin Burgess from Glasgow School of Art had previously attended a Kultur II Group meeting so it was nice to hear more about their project. Robin asked for suggestions for an acronym for their long project title. The De Montfort repository called DORA, will be enhanced by the EXPLORER project, and amongst other tools they are considering Kultur enhancements too. It was also interesting to hear from the Hydrangea project which is making enhancements to their Fedora repository platform, and follows on from their Hydra project.

In the afternoon we had a presentation from William Nixon at Glasgow University, titled ‘People, Processes, and Policy’, and a workshop from Jackie Wickham of the Repositories Support Project (RSP). The RSP are in the process of recruiting a Project Coordinator to work with the ‘take-up and embedding’ projects.

2nd March eNova presentation available (PDF) via the Kultur II Group downloads page.

Repository Deposit Programme Meeting 1st March, Birmingham

Balviar Notay, JISC Programme Manager for the Repository Deposit programme has asked all the projects to write a blog post based on the discussion points outlined in the afternoon session. The projects represented at the meeting on Tuesday were:

The questions for discussion in the afternoon session were:

  1. What actions are required for the success of your project? What are the indicators?
  2. What strategies are required to spread good practice?
  3. How are you going to feed data for the evaluation?

Kultivate plans to address these in the following ways:

  1. The actions required for the success of Kultivate centre around collaboration and engagement. We are engaging with and growing the Kultur II Group; other JISC projects (CAiRO, Incremental, RSP, RePosit etc); and with the wider JISC community through dissemination through VADS and the Kultur II Group. The indicators are provision of outputs, these cannot occur without fostering the engagement of the Kultur II Group and wider community.
  2. Our strategies include community-led workshops and meetings, provision of toolkits, case studies from the Kultur II Group, underpinned by ongoing evaluation and information gathering to inform Kultivate.
  3. We are happy to provide all data gathered to Evidence Base, however it should be noted that due to the short timescale and nature of the Kultivate project this data will be largely qualitative e.g. ancedotal evidence gathered through workshops and evaluation/surveys/interviews.

See also Sonex’s blog post about the deposit programme meeting which includes a photograph of the Kultivate diagram done for the afternoon session.

1st March Kultivate presentation available (PDF) via the Kultur II Group downloads page.

Advocacy workshop – 28th February

The second Kultivate community-led workshop took place on Monday and included an impromptu presentation by Jodie Double, who stepped in to replace Jill Evans who was unfortunately ill. The agenda and list of attendees is available here: 20110228_Kultivate_agenda_attendees.pdf

The presentations will be made available here:
Graham Stone from the University of Huddersfield has also made his presentation available here:


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