Interview with Baruch Gottlieb, Ruth Kemper and Susanne Bernstein (transmediale)
transmediale is a Berlin-based festival and year-round project that reveals new connections between art, culture and technology. The activities of transmediale aim at fostering a critical understanding of contemporary culture and politics as saturated by media technologies. In the course of its twenty-five year history, the annual transmediale festival has turned into an essential event in the calendar of media art professionals, artists, activists and students from all over the world. The broad cultural appeal of the festival is recognised by the German federal government who supports transmediale through its programme for beacons of contemporary culture.
Rony Vissers of the PACKED vzw (Brussels), the centre of expertise in digital heritage that is coordinating DCA, talked to Baruch Gottlieb, Susanne Bernstein and Ruth Kemper (all transmediale) about the project's progress at their organisation.
1. transmediale and its archival collection
2. Content of transmediale’s archival collection
3. DCA and the digitisation of transmediale’s archival collection
4. Management of transmediale’s participation in DCA
5. transmediale’s technical choices
6. transmediale, online access and GAMA
7. transmediale and Europeana
8. Impact of DCA on transmediale
1. transmediale and its archival collection
PACKED: transmediale is not a collecting institution in the traditional sense, it is mainly known as a media art festival. Still, it has a large archival collection. Could you explain how this collection has been acquired by transmediale?
Ruth Kemper: transmediale’s collection of video and digital art has not been acquired actively for the purpose of collecting art. It contains, amongst others, material sent in by artists over a period of twenty-five years, works that were featured in the festival itself in response to calls for participation, documentation of these works and of their production, documentation of performances, of conferences by artists and on media art.
Susanne Bernstein: Over the years, the festival became more and more prominent because it had awards for artists. Being selected for the festival was really like a promotion for artists.
PACKED: Recently the whole festival concept has changed…
Susanne Bernstein: Yes, we changed the rules a little in 2011. We decided not to have the usual transmediale Award anymore and to extend our event in some kind of way. The festival launched an initiative called reSource transmedial culture berlin, which can be seen as a year-long project, with different touch-downs during the year, as well as the festival in February. In order to be part of this year-long project, artists are expected to submit projects that they develop towards the festival. Everything is more stretched-out. We're trying to get this new concept rolling, but are still at the start. It is currently a kind of experiment. We have to try and find out how it can work. This year-long creation process is where the money that we used to have for the awards goes. We also used to have a Vilém Flusser Theory Award that was granted every year from 2008. We have changed it now into a residency programme. Artists can send in submissions for it. So, currently there are basically two different programmes that artists can submit proposals for: the normal call for works for the festival, including this year-long project, and also the Vilém Flusser Residency.
PACKED: Does this change of approach mean that the archival collection is also slowly changing?
Baruch Gottlieb: Yes, for every annual deadline artists used to send in all kinds of materials: a lot of videotapes and DVDs, but also other materials like portfolios or printed materials. Today we ask artists to submit project proposals. Instead of sending us hard copy material, now they often just send us a link to a website. As such we often don’t receive anything actually physical. For our current selection process we don’t need to receive physical objects anymore.
PACKED: When you decided to participate in the DCA project, you almost had to start from scratch. Before, there was not even a systematic and detailed registration of the archival collection of transmediale, nor of the many different items it contains. What exactly made transmediale decide to start working on its archival collection?
Baruch Gottlieb: At a certain moment we realised that transmediale holds a huge amount of archival material. Unfortunately, we didn’t know when we started the DCA project, what exactly was on the thousands of tapes and disks we had accumulated over the years.
transmediale has existed since 1988, and the period from then until today covers almost the whole history of digital art. We understood that our archival collection contains a history of digital art, as seen particularly from the Berlin perspective of transmediale, although we didn’t know the exact content of the archive.
In fact, transmediale started from a group called MedienOperative. This was a kind of independent video production group that was based in West Berlin before the fall of the Wall. MedienOperative had a very specific Berlin perspective on media, independent media, and the creative use of electronics and electronic media. The first director of the transmediale festival, Micky Kwella, actively explored this more alternative, radical and investigative side of media art.
Of course, there are other archives that deal with the history of media art or digital art. Some important European ones are even part of the DCA project: Argos in Brussels, Belgium, Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, EMAF in Osnabrück, Germany, NIMk in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and WRO is Wroclaw, Poland. All these archives are different and view the history of media art or digital art from their own perspective. While transmediale began in 1988, Ars Electronica began for instance in 1979 when they first organised the festival as a biennial event. If you compare the archives of transmediale and Ars Electronica, you would probably discover that, although both archives overlap in time, they are different in nature.
To uncover the history of digital art that is contained in transmediale’s archival collection, we first had to find out what the actual content of our collection is and to define which material is appropriate for archiving. These are the first steps that are required to make the huge amount of historical material more comprehensible and ultimately also publicly accessible.
2. Content of transmediale’s archival collection
PACKED: Does the transmediale archive only hold documentation on artworks or also on other subjects?
Ruth Kemper: Being a festival for art and digital culture, transmediale does not only archive artworks but to a large extent also holds documentation of all the other events that are held during the festival, such as conferences, panel discussions, and workshops, as well as of transmediale activities that take place all through the year. We consider this part of our collection very valuable as, besides the very interesting content of each year’s conference program, as a whole it mirrors the development of the digital world, its makers and its users.
Baruch Gottlieb: I was just going through the material from the period between 1992 and 1995. We hold amazing stuff from this period, for instance interviews produced here with our visiting artists. At that time the Internet was also just starting, and we have documentation on panels with people from different fields discussing what the Internet actually is. The panels were not only made up of artists, but also business and government people sitting and discussing around a table. transmediale’s approach was very multidisciplinary. So our archive also contains documentation that treats the history of technology with a strong artistic constituent.
In our archive we also have some really interesting material on this group, MedienOperative, that predates the actual transmediale. It shows the media art scene in Berlin before transmediale was even founded.
PACKED: Can you briefly give an overview of the kinds of objects in transmediale’s collection? I expect that you have a lot of videotapes and DVDs, but what else do you hold? Do you also have a lot of paper documents?
Ruth Kemper: We have all kinds of objects. Lately we’ve discovered paper documents that we want to take a closer look at, such as film scripts by Micky Kwella, who was also a videomaker, or his very extensive correspondence with GDR officials that made it possible for some GDR artists to show their artworks in the festival program of 1990. There are a lot of paper documents that we have not even touched, but we’ll get to it eventually and keep on digging out the treasures of transmediale’s history.
Besides our paper documents, we also have all kinds of data carriers that were common during the last twenty-five years of digital art. Whatever carrier you can think of, be audio or video, you can find it on our shelves.
Baruch Gottlieb: In particular, we have a lot of different video formats: VHS, ¾” U-matic, Betacam, MiniDV, … but we have for instance also what are today rather inconvenient media such as Zip disks, floppies and VHS-C tapes.
PACKED: Do you consider the copies of the artworks that you have on videotape as the actual master copies of the artworks or just as documentation on the artworks?
Baruch Gottlieb: We do not have many master copies here, although some copies are very high quality. The artists who send us their works to submit them for selection in the festival do not send us their master copies but access copies. We do, however, have some videotapes here that seem to have been left after the festival and that are very high quality. They’re probably not the real master copies, but copies that were dubbed from a Betacam or ¾” U-Matic tape. Although their quality is very high and close to that of the master copies, they are not master copies themselves. Their status might change through time. Although they are not the original masters, they might have become de facto master copies because the originals might no longer exist.
The situation became more complex at the beginning of the new millennium with software art. Some such software artworks were shown at various places, but every time there would be a different variant of the artwork. Artists created several different versions of their artworks. They went from one festival to another, and each festival had its own version. Although some versions are only slightly different, they are still different. You could say that each version has its own master copy. In those days these master copies were stored on CD-ROM. Many of our CD-ROM copies are therefore probably unique copies.
The transmediale archive © transmediale
3. DCA and the digitisation of transmediale’s archival collection
PACKED: What is your exact purpose for the digitisation of your archival collection?
Ruth Kemper: The main reason for digitising our archive is that many of the objects we hold are videotapes that are really old. They have a maximum lifetime of maybe twenty to thirty years. This means that it’s about time to start digitising them. As every playback entails a certain risk of damage or destruction, we decided to catalogue and digitise each tape’s content at the same time. Besides preserving valuable art works and documents we also intend to make all our materials and the history of the VideoFest Berlin and transmediale accessible for a greater audience online. We believe that our contribution to the Europeana portal will be very interesting for people who do serious research on media art and its ‘orbit’, as well as for a curious person just browsing through the portal.
Baruch Gottlieb: Indeed, besides preservation, access is another reason. I’m an artist myself, I’ve also taught media art and I know how difficult it is to get good information about old works of media art. As I’m currently working on the other side of the story, I want to contribute to solving that problem. I want to help researchers, artists and scholars to have access to better information about what was made by media artists. Generating new digital information and making all this publicly available through a documentation centre for media art will be a very important outcome of our digitisation work.
PACKED: Can you say a bit more about how you selected the material for the DCA project?
Ruth Kemper: We basically had to start from scratch. The paper documents were selected if they were in some way relevant to researchers on media art, its makers, or the history of the transmediale festival itself. For the video, audio and interactive works, as well as the transmediale conference program, we started off by creating a database that we drew from the twenty-five transmediale catalogues by feeding every single item that was part of the festival into a list. With this at hand we could start going through every single data carrier from our shelves, checking each label against the list, and find out if it had been part of the festival or not. Of course, only the actual digitisation could tell us if the info on the label was right, and if the tape itself was still intact. Even though we could not fill in all the gaps in the list, we still managed to get an interesting selection together.
Baruch Gottlieb: Ruth’s list is our guideline, but it may be bigger than the actual number of objects that we have in transmediale’s archive. For the digitisation we start with the physical objects that we find in our archive.
We also have a lot of other objects, for instance submissions that were not selected for the festival. We have more material than was actually shown in our festival. We will keep it for another digitisation project. The reason we've always kept such material (that was not selected for inclusion in the festival), is that some of it is actually good work. Non-selection was often not based on the quality of the works, but on other criteria: the material didn’t fit the theme of that year’s festival, other work by the same artists had already been shown the year before, etc. There is a lot of good work in our archival collection that was never shown at the transmediale festival.
PACKED: Is DCA your first digitisation project?
Susanne Bernstein: Yes, DCA is our first digitisation project. However, our plan to make an inventory of our archival collection, to digitise all archive material, to preserve it digitally and to make it publicly accessible has existed for a long time.
The first step was that we first became aware of our own history when transmediale celebrated the 20th anniversary of its festival in 2007. On this occasion we started a catalogue; we collected the names of the people who had worked for transmediale since its start and of the artists who had participated in the different festival sections. This was, for transmediale, the start of thinking about it in terms of archiving. The register resulted in a book publication. Although the book might look boring at first sight, it actually is an amazing work. If you are interested in media art and flip through the book pages, you get an enormous amount of information. The next step was to think about what we could do with the huge amount of material in our archive and how to make it available for researchers and scholars. These two steps were the start of our thinking about archiving and digitising. It's what got the whole thing rolling.
PACKED: Why did transmediale decide to participate in the DCA project?
Baruch Gottlieb: This kind of digitisation work is easier to do when you do it together in a group. If you do something like this alone, it becomes a large undertaking. It is hard to get everything and everyone motivated. Also the possibility of being able to contribute to Europeana was an important incentive. When we received the invitation to participate in DCA, we saw it as the right moment to start our digitisation activities. Being part of a large consortium like the DCA consortium does have many advantages for transmediale. We do get a lot support from, for instance, PACKED vzw and from Jürgen Enge at HfG in Karlsruhe, but also from other members of the DCA consortium. We get a lot of assistance that we could not have generated by ourselves, or it would have taken much more time.
4. Management of transmediale’s participation in DCA
PACKED: How is the participation of transmediale in the DCA project managed internally?
Susanne Bernstein: The internal project management has changed through the lifetime of the project. We started mainly with three people: Kristoffer Gansing who is the artistic director of transmediale, Markus Huber who is programme manager and I. I take care of the general administration of the DCA project at transmediale. Soon we realised that none of us actually had enough time to do the job, to really get the whole project going. The three of us didn't have enough time to start the inventory of the archive, nor the cataloguing, the digitisation and so on. It didn’t take us long to discover that we needed staff that could really dedicate their time to the DCA project. It is a challenging project for us because we want to digitise a large amount of material. After a while Ruth and Baruch came along and joined our team. They agreed to work on the different work packages and stages of the project. So, currently our DCA team mainly consists us Ruth, Baruch and myself. In addition, Marieke Eilers just joined us as an intern.
Baruch Gottlieb: We also have staff who take care of the website for the transmediale festival. They will become more involved in the DCA project towards its end. They will also take care of the provision of our content to Europeana. With the assistance of Joris Janssens from PACKED vzw, we are currently still working on the construction of an online database system.
PACKED: Does transmediale work with subcontractors within the framework of the DCA project?
Susanne Bernstein: Yes, for the digitisation we have subcontractors. They take care of the transfer of the VHS tapes, but also of other tape formats like, for instance, MiniDVs and Betacam, to file-based formats. This is the actual digitisation. Ruth and Baruch take care of the work before and afterwards.
Ruth Kemper: Before we started, I went through all the stuff that was sitting on the shelves. I gave all videotapes identification numbers, registered the numbers with some extra info in a list and put the videotapes in boxes. Next we sent these boxes to the subcontractor and they digitised everything. After digitisation they send us back all the tapes and hard drives with the digital files. Then Baruch and I take over again. We go through all digital files and check what was transferred from the videotapes. Before digitisation we were not sure what was on the tapes. Some videotapes were labelled, others not. Some videotapes were also wrongly labelled. We can never rely on what is written on the videotapes or on the packaging. The checking process is very time-consuming work that we do and manage ourselves. It is an important activity if we want to find out what material is actually in our archival collection. We will never know how many works we actually have until we have finished the whole project. Only at the end we will know exactly what we have in our archive.
The back of 'Zeit-trans-graphie', a publication for the 16. Internationales Forum des jungen Films (Berlin,1986) which was a forerunner of the transmediale festival © transmediale
5. transmediale’s technical choices
PACKED: When preparing the digitisation, you had to set some quality parameters. You had to choose formats, codecs, etc. Many best practice digitisation guidelines are developed for the digitisation of the high-quality masters. You have to start from a lot of low-quality videotapes like VHS, and on the whole you do not have master copies but access copies. How do you deal with this?
Baruch Gottlieb: We decided not to aim for uncompressed video, but for compressed video. After consulting some other DCA partners, we decided to use the H.264 codec. The choice is based on the fact that we are mostly digitising VHS tapes that have a rather low quality and are mostly not masters but access copies. We are also mainly dealing with standard definition formats and it doesn’t make sense to blow these up to more current high definition formats. H.264 offers a high quality.
Besides the video material we also digitise some printed material and for this we follow the DCA guidelines.
PACKED: You talked about the importance of the preservation of your archival collection. Did you take into account the importance of open formats and codecs for preservation purposes when you selected your file formats and codecs?
Baruch Gottlieb: Yes, we did as much as possible. For the printed material we use TIFF. For the video material we use MP4 with the H.264 codec. For the still images that will be available online we use PNG. We checked this with Juergen Enge at HfG to be sure that we were making the right choices for transmediale.
With Juergen we also discussed other preservation aspects, for instance the preservation of CD-ROMs. He has a project at HfG in Karlsruhe on the preservation of CD-ROMs. We have sent him some of our CD-ROMs to check if he can find a preservation solution for us. The preservation of CD-ROMs is really complicated because of the changing operating systems.
PACKED: Before the DCA project transmediale did not even have a systematic and detailed registration of its archival collection, nor of the many different items it contains. How do you create your collection database?
Baruch Gottlieb: The first step was Ruth putting all information from our festival catalogues and from our register book into an Excel file. This basically resulted in a list of participants and works. It was a kind of reference list. Whenever we find a work in our archive, we check the list to see whether it's included or not, and whether we should add it or not.
After the very time-consuming processes of creating a database and putting together a selection, as we mentioned before, the next step was the development, in collaboration with Joris Janssens of PACKED vzw, of an online database. For this, we are using Collective Access, an open source collections management and cataloguing system. It is made for museums and archives. Since it is open source and supported by a community, it is likely to be sustainable for a long time. Collective Access is a flexible system. The database can also be linked to our own website.
Ultimately, the Collective Access database will enable us to create an XML export than can be ingested in the portal GAMA, Gateway to Archives of Media Art. We will use GAMA also as an aggregator to get our data to Europeana.
6. transmediale, online access and GAMA
PACKED: Could you tell us something about the registration of the metadata?
Baruch Gottlieb: We developed the metadata scheme ourselves, in collaboration with Joris Janssens from PACKED vzw. It contains metadata fields that are very standard: creator, data of production, title of work, … It is based on Dublin Core. Currently we are working on standardising our dataset. Sam Coppens of iMinds, work package leader on metadata, has also been involved.
As keyword vocabulary we use the GAMA keyword list. We didn’t have any keywords. Since we want to be present in the GAMA portal, we decided from the beginning that our own keywords had to be compatible with those used in GAMA. Being compatible with the GAMA keyword list is one of our goals. We're working on this with Eva Kozma of C3 in Budapest, Hungary, who is also involved in GAMA. We are trying to figure out with her how to deal with the GAMA keyword list because we would like to expand it a little bit. One of the keywords that we are missing is, for instance, ‘computer animation’. GAMA only has ‘animation’, but that references to cartoon-like animation and doesn’t fit our purpose.
A year ago we had almost no metadata, except for some scattered information. We’ve built this up from scratch in one year. It also means that there is a ind of limit as to what can be achieved in this timespan. Having a standardised system that can easily exchange content with Europeana is another goal.
PACKED: Can you tell us about your plans for public online access?
Baruch Gottlieb: In general we will try to make everything available that the public might be interested in.
We have not decided yet how the future front-end will look. We are still working on it with our web team. It will take some more time. We’ll probably use something that will look similar to what we already have.
We also still have to decide whether we will make full-length videos available, or only clips. This will probably depend on the videos themselves. At the moment we can only promise to make clips or stills available of everything we hold in our archive. The reason for this is that there are simply too many works to process. There are also copyright issues involved. Luckily, the copyright situation is a lot easier for the materials that transmediale has produced itself.
Our plan is to host the website and the video files ourselves at transmediale.
PACKED: You already mentioned GAMA a couple of times. Can you tell us about transmediale’s relationship with GAMA?
Baruch Gottlieb: We plan to join the GAMA consortium and become a full member. We are already in regular contact with GAMA. For transmediale, it is important to be associated with a group of media art institutions.
The association with GAMA will make our archival collection more relevant and important, more useful to researchers. As a portal GAMA receives a lot of inquiries from researchers who are looking for information on media artists or media art. For this reason it is very important for us to be associated with them. Another reason why we would like to become a member of the GAMA consortium is also to become part of a network in which institutions with a similar profile can consult each other when facing problems related to the cataloguing, preservation or online access of their collections. Our field is changing rapidly. It would be good to obtain, through exchange and collaboration, some idea of how vocabularies and preservation standards will evolve in the next two or three years, for example. A third reason for becoming a GAMA member is that GAMA as an aggregator provides us with the possibility of providing, and of continually updating, our content to Europeana.
PACKED: Do you have any other aggregator options besides GAMA to get your content into Europeana?
Baruch Gottlieb: There is still NTUA’s MINT tool. We didn’t consider the option of trying to find a national aggregator. For us, it is much more important to be within this media art context of GAMA. It is an international domain-specific aggregator through which we can deliver our content to Europeana.
A still image from Arnold van Wedemeyer's generative work 'generate #3' © Arnold von Wedemeyer, 2000
7. transmediale and Europeana
PACKED: What do you expect from the connection to Europeana?
Ruth Kemper: I think that connecting to Europeana is a logical thing to do for transmediale. The VideoFest Berlin/ transmediale festival has been an international network of media artists and their peers. For this reason transmediale archive resembles an international media art ‘conglomerate’. Getting involved in Europeana is just a next step in order to put the transmediale collection in its rightful place within the context of European cultural heritage.
PACKED: What will be the degree of metadata quality that you will provide to Europeana? Will the metadata be the same as on transmediale’s website?
Baruch Gottlieb: We don’t know yet. Probably there will be more and richer material on our own website. We have some interesting projects going on right now that are dealing with our archive. We invite curators to come to transmediale, make a selection from our archive, do in-depth research, add richer descriptions and create links between different items in our archive. This generates a lot of new material. It’s the kind of thing we would also like to present on our website.
PACKED: Does the future display of your archival collection on GAMA and Europeana influence your copyright policy?
Baruch Gottlieb: Yes, our copyright policy has changed. In the past artists just sent us material to get selected for the festival. They filled out an entry form, which gave us the right to use their material for promotional use within the framework of a certain edition of the festival. They did not grant us any rights to use their material outside the framework of that festival edition. This means that if we want to put their material online, we have to contact the artists to get their permission because officially we don’t have the right to do so otherwise. This policy changed last year. Now artists grant us more extensive rights specifically for Europeana, GAMA and others when they submit an entry for the festival.
8. Impact of DCA on transmediale
PACKED: Does transmediale have a digital preservation policy?
Baruch Gottlieb: Digital preservation is also something new for us. We’re currently planning to create a backup for the first time. We never had so much data to back up. As a result of our participation in the DCA project, different kinds of infrastructure issues have come up. Making backups is the first step. We will start using a file server in a month or two. Once we succeed in that, we’ll decide about what to do over the following years. DCA contributes to the development of a digital preservation policy.
PACKED: What has been your experience, in general, with the DCA project until now?
Susanne Bernstein: We really stumbled into the DCA project. At the beginning we didn’t exactly know what the project would entail for us, also in terms of archival practice and what we need to achieve. However, I think that we’re progressing well today.
We had time to set up a good working structure, time-management-wise. I’m also happy with how the database is evolving and how we’re working with it. We can only take these challenges step by step, because we’ve never done such a project before. The same goes for the challenges related to online display and the decisions on how to work with the web team. There are a lot of persons involved, with many different opinions and discussions. The good thing is that the decisions that need to be made will be made.
The DCA project lasts thirty months. Before we were only used to working on a short-term perspective. As a festival we always worked to a perspective of just one year. The festival takes place and ends, and the next year there is another festival. Having this kind of project for a longer term is a good experience for the transmediale team. There are many learning effects and things that we can transfer to the future.
Thanks to the DCA project we encounter many things that we don’t get to know when we work on the festival. This confrontation is a good thing because it forces us to think about it. I take care of the administration of the DCA project at transmediale and the DCA project administration is, for instance, something that is not easy to fit into our way of working. Normally we don’t use calendar years, but festival years. These start in March and end in February. So there is a shift, and the work builds up towards the festivals. The actual organisation of the festival always means a lot of work for us. This is where the planning of the DCA affects my work as an administrator for example.
PACKED: The administration is also very specific for European projects, and sometimes a little complex. Is coping with this also a learning experience for you?
Susanne Bernstein: I knew from the beginning that we would have to do all of these financial reports and so on. The reporting was something new for me. By writing my contributions for the reports I'm starting to understand more what the European Commission actually wants to know and which information I have to collect. Since PACKED vzw is the project leader, all communication with the European Commission goes through you. I’m only permanently in contact with Christine Sauter of PACKED vzw, not directly with the European Commission.
PACKED: Did a European collaboration like the DCA project broaden transmediale’s horizon?
Baruch Gottlieb: Through DCA we got to know what the network is in Europe. Until now transmediale was only focussed on doing its own thing. Through DCA we got involved in a network of media art festivals and organisations, with argos, NIMk, EMAF, Ars Electronica, WRO and, of course, GAMA as an aggregating platform. Simultaneously we also got involved in a network of contemporary art institutions.
Now transmediale can finally look at itself as an art institution with its own collection and archive, and start to find out how approaches that are common among art institutions can apply to its own situation. We can find out whether we are preserving our archival collection in a similar way to art museums, what makes us different from them and whether we need to follow their example. Here in the archive I see some kind of institutionalisation taking place, for instance with the change of our copyright policy.
PACKED: Is this kind of institutionalisation important for the preservation of media art archives?
Baruch Gottlieb: Yes, it is. Already in the early beginnings of transmediale, in Micky Kwella’s time when the festival was still called VideoFest, we were collecting material. We always sensed that what we were showing in our festival was a vital testimony of the time. We never threw away material after we had shown it. When we started this project, we already had a lot of stuff from a long time ago but we did not yet have a strategy for making our archival collection comprehensible and accessible. I guess that you could say that, in order to accomplish this, we needed to go through some kind of a standardisation or institutionalisation.
For us, DCA is an important encounter with the broad range of standards applicable to our archival work. The work that is produced in the different DCA work packages on standards and is ultimately recorded in the project deliverables is an important intellectual activity. It contributes to what we try to do with Europe, as a cultural concept. However, I think that the standards for digital art still need to be discussed more. The preservation of artworks on CD-ROM alone might, for instance, already require a new project… As for digital-born work, there is still a gap somewhere. The existence of this gap is interesting because it does articulate a certain cultural change in the transition from analogue to digital.
PACKED: Unfortunately, there is currently not much support from policy-makers for the preservation of digital art.
Baruch Gottlieb: They don’t understand what artists actually are. Marshall McLuhan called artists ‘distant early warnings’. This expression dates from the era of the Cold War. It is the radar line that was supposed to warn you when the missile was coming your direction. Artists are the distant early warning system of our culture. They point us to the problems that we will encounter in the digital age with preservation, archiving and memory in general. If you study media art carefully, you will notice that media art is pushing the standards and formats. These artists are trying to innovate. They face the problems that the whole society will face ten years on. In my opinion it is very short-sighted of policy-makers to consider media art as a unimportant niche.
PACKED: Hopefully the presence of the media art institutions in the DCA project will contribute to a change of this short-sighted vision.
Baruch Gottlieb: Yes, I’m glad that we are allowed to be part of it. The more we’re allowed to, the more we can contribute our knowledge and our experience.