[-empyre-] Introductory Thoughts on the Borders of "Archiving New Media Art"

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Mon Sep 13 15:43:06 EST 2010

>Welcome back to the new year from the -empyre- 
>moderating team.   Renate and I are looking 
>forward to opening the year with a couple of 
>special topics in September and October that we 
>hope will extend and enliven the international 
>range of our discussants while focusing our 
>attention on important and emergent issues in 
>new media and electronic arts.   Now refreshed 
>from -empyre-'s August vacation, as well as my 
>stimulating trip last week to Argentina at the 
>invitation of Taxonomedia, I'm happy that we 
>will be able to profit from the Buenos Aires 
>initiative organized by Taxonomedia (Consuelo 
>Rozo and Vanina Hofman) that gathered together 
>archivists, curators, and theorists to discuss 
>various strategies, politics, and problems 
>involved in conserving, documenting, and 
>archiving new media 
>We are taking advantage of the leadership of 
>Taxonomedia to introduce -empyre- to issues that 
>are important to its mission as well as to a 
>wide array of Latin American and North American 
>archivists and theorists of new media.  Renate 
>and I hope that this discussion might widen the 
>participation of Latin American subscribers to 
>-empyre- while speaking to matters of great 
>importance to the listserv.

I was very happy to join the discussion in Buenos 
Aires where I reflected on strategies and 
problems surrounding my efforts as 
Curator/Archivist of the Rose Goldsen Archive of 
New Media Art in the Cornell Library 
(http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu/).   While 
presenting the array of collections available for 
consultation in the Archive, from groupings of 
international art on CD-Rom and the internet to 
special collections in video art, American New 
Media, Chinese contemporary art, and Taiwanese 
performance and new media art, I hoped to direct 
the rather technical discussions of preservation 
back to the cultural purpose and politics that 
prompted my founding of the Archive.

The Goldsen Archive resulted from my interest in 
maintaining the critical mass of new media 
materials, mostly conceptual and material in 
nature and purpose, from my curated exhibition, 
Contact Zones: the Art of CD-Rom, 1999-2003, 
(http://contactzones.cit.cornell.edu/) and my 
collaboration with Arthur and Marilouise Kroker 
on CTHEORY Multimedia, which we designed and 
produced as conceptual and political 
interventions from 1999-2004  and which is still 
housed on servers from the Goldsen Archive 
(http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu/).   While 
the initial aim of the Goldsen Archive was to 
serve as something of a magnetic archival network 
to attract a critical mass of international new 
media materials for consultation on its website 
and in the media room of  the Division of Rare 
and Special Collections in the Cornell Library, 
the Goldsen Archive also serves as  an 
experimental center of research and creativity 
through which it collaborates with participating 
artists on conceptual experimentation and 
archival strategies.

In Barcelona, I was pleased that many of this 
month's Latin American guests focused not only on 
the very crucial and important practical matters 
of conserving and preserving electronic and new 
media art (from creating bibliographic standards 
from scratch to preserving access to rapidly 
incompatible digital materials) but also on the 
theory of the archive and on the politics of 
institutional patronage, practices of archival 
inclusion, and the controversial nature of 
archiving materials for whom ephemerality and 
eventual disappearance might have been the point.

The matter of politics was made particularly 
paramount by the complex postcolonial nature of 
the conference, held in Buenos Aires but 
cosponsored not only by the Museo de Arte 
Latinamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) but also 
by the CCBA-Centro
Cultural de España en Buenos Aires and the 
Espacio Fundación Telefónica--two Spanish patrons 
whose financial and spatial contributions 
depended on the very paradoxical fact of the 
political and ideological role of the Spanish 
Telefónica company and the Spanish cultural 
ministry in Argentina.   So one question raised 
by one of our guests who will join us  this week 
focused on the nature of political and commercial 
gain of sponsoring the conservation of 
"telefónic" works of art.  That is, how might we 
understand the complex web of artistic 
production--archival practice and 
products--national/institutional gain?   We also 
had occasion to discuss the importance of 
archiving for purposes of access, which led to 
considerations of the politics of 
telecommunicational access and the very serious 
digital divide in Latin America.

So while many of our guests (and we hope -empyre- 
subscribers) will share with us their practical 
approaches to archiving and conserving new media, 
others are likely to consider these material 
issues within the context of the politics of 
material and the culture of postcoloniality, 
particularly in relation to those beneficent 
sponsors, Espacio Fundación Telefónica and the 
Spanish government, who helped to make 
Taxonomedia's interventions possible.

I hope these remarks can spark some lively 
discussion over the month (which was shortened by 
holiday haze) and will provide a helpful context 
to the introduction of this week's guests, Vanina 
Hofman and Claudia Kozak, which I will make later 
in the day.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Ephemerality and/or Sustainability.



Timothy Murray
Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
27 East Avenue
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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