Curating and Archiving New Media Art

New Media Art and the Mainstream by Christiane Paul/ Curatorial Cultures – Considering Dynamic Curatorial Practice by Karen Gaskill/ Interdisciplinarity and Exhibition Making by Jasmin Stephens/ Clickable Art, or what does online participation mean? by Annet Dekker/ The Electronic Representation of Information: New Relations between the Virtual Archive and its (Possible) Referent by Gabriela Galati/ Untold Bodies: Re-imagining the Natural History and Scientific Archive by Karl Grimes
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
Julianne Pierce
Christiane Paul
Karen Gaskill
Jasmin Stephens
Annet Dekker
Gabriela Galati
Karl Grimes

New Media Art and the Mainstream

by Christiane Paul

Over the past decade contemporary art in many of its forms, technological and non-technological, has increasingly been shaped by concepts of participation, collaboration, social connectivity, performativity, and 'relational' aspects. One could argue that the participatory, 'socially networked' art projects of the past ~15 years that have received considerable attention by art institutions all respond to contemporary culture, which is shaped by networked digital technologies and 'social media' (from the WWW to locative media, Facebook and YouTube), and the changes they have brought about with regard to connectivity (interpersonal, social, and global), information economy, and new understandings of embodiment emerging from them. Yet the 'relational' artworks prominently featured in major museums seldom make use of these technologies as a medium and technologically based projects remain conspicuously absent from major exhibitions in the mainstream art world. While art institutions and organizations now commonly use digital technologies in their infrastructure—“connecting” and distributing through their websites, facebook pages, YouTube channels, and Twitter tours—they still place emphasis on exhibiting more traditional art forms that reference technological culture or adopt its strategies in a non-technological way.

From an art-historical perspective, it seems difficult or dubious to not acknowledge that the participatory art of the 1960s/1970s and the 1990s/2000s were responses to cultural and technological developments—computer technologies, cybernetics, systems theory and the original Internet/Arpanet from the mid-40s onwards; the WWW, ubiquitous computing, databasing/datamining, social media in the 1990s/2000s. While different in their scope and strategies, the new media arts of the 60s/70s and today faced similar resistances and challenges that led to their separation from the mainstream art world, respectively.

The paper will will sketch out the complexities of the uneasy relationship between so-called new media art and the mainstream art world by taking a look at exhibition histories and art-historical developments relating to technological and participatory art forms; and by outlining the challenges that new media art poses to institutions and the art market.

Curatorial Cultures – Considering Dynamic Curatorial Practice

by Karen Gaskill

The practice of curating is live and temporal. It has shifted dramatically from its anonymous backstage origin within dusty museums to a role at the forefront of modern art, and is responsible for conjuring both a synergy and a dynamic that operates across a multitude of levels. Curation is a rapidly growing practice and discourse that is fundamentally shifting the ways in which we view and receive art.

Much of this shift has been influenced by the works being curated, and with a growing body of works being process-led as opposed to object-based; the practice of curation has had to evolve accordingly. This evolution also encompasses the use of alternative exhibition spaces, a movement away from white-walled galleries, and the historic agendas these imply.

The increased integration of media-related artworks into mainstream art agendas has contributed to this development of the curatorial role, as it has for collectors, gallerists and archivists. Although it can be argued that performative and interactive works have been curated using traditional methods for a long time now, it is really media-practices that are demanding an alternative perspective.

This paper will look at how responsive methods and approaches are called for when curating media-artworks, and how they shift the curatorial role to that of an active practitioner. It will consider curation as praxis; positioning it at a point between what is known and what will be revealed.

It will refer to actual exhibition strategies employed by the author, and look to further discuss how dynamic curatorial approaches can be integrated into mainstream curatorial roles, and how these can subsequently evolve thinking on the presentation and display of contemporary art.

Interdisciplinarity and Exhibition Making: Some Forecasts

by Jasmin Stephens

Artists who are working across both intellectual and artistic disciplines are increasingly challenging conventional exhibition formats such that exhibitions now lag behind these artists’ aspirations. With practices that are performative; inflected by technology; participatory; take up user-generated content; posit continuities between physical and virtual spaces; and arise out of a distributed rather than a singular sensibility, they are working in ways that collapse the traditional distinctions between production, presentation and reception of their work.

Once discrete sites, the studio, laboratory, gallery and museum have become the spatial coordinates for an expanded field of relational energies. These energies are unwieldy and dispersed in character, however, and do not observe opening hours. While compelling they are extremely difficult to curate into exhibitions. Nevertheless, artists of all persuasions continue to want to be in exhibitions no matter how critical they may be of the art world’s institutions and audiences are drawn to this enduring cultural form. 

This paper argues the need for curators and institutions to attend to the specific needs of interdisciplinary work by pursuing synthesised theoretical frameworks; adopting a more transactional view of audiences; and committing  adequate budgets so that the technological and durational requirements of artists can be met. Curators should continue to borrow from the protocols of cultural forms such as games arcades and theme parks as well as taking on board the presentation strategies used by other artforms. Only, however, if they are interrogating them so as not to forego the qualities traditionally associated with curating. The form of the exhibition is culturally loaded and highly codified but with scrutiny, evolving exhibition formats can continue to do what exhibitions do best which is to link the display of artists’ work to branches of philosophy such as aesthetics and ethics by stimulating curiosity and enjoyment, engendering contemplation, and fostering a sense of history and society.

Clickable Art, or what does online participation mean?

by Annet Dekker

When talking about representation and reproduction it is hard not to talk about authenticity. The term 'authentic' stems from Greek [authentikos], meaning ‘principal, genuine’. It carries a connotation of authoritative certification that an object is what it is claimed to be. In cultural heritage it is most often related to the ‘original’ state of a work. In this paper I will link authenticity to reproduction and representation: I will discuss different attitudes towards the need for the authentic and examine the changing meaning of authenticity and art in the last fifteen years, in which I will pay special attention to the influence of web2.0 strategies used by museums. Underlying questions that I will address: What does the Web 2.0 mean for art and authenticity? And, related, what does online participation mean? How do museums deal with user-generated content? Will this new content become part of documentation archives, and if so what are the challenges? How can museums deal with the different contexts and processes inherent in new these structures? What can be learned from existing internet practices and artists practices? These questions will be answered by looking closely at several works that deal with strategies that are now labeled as Web2.0 or social media tactics. At the same time it will explore the meaning of online participation, collaboration and networking. The examples I show are ‘historical’ artworks, like Nine by Graham Harwood (Mongrel) and Mouchette by Martine Neddam and more recent attempts that raise awareness, use or question ubiquitous social media, for example Naked on Pluto by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk, ALLYOURVIDEOAREBELONGTO.US by JODI and You Tube as a Subject by Constant Dullaart. The examples will be analysed from a technical as well as a conceptual point of view to highlight the various participatory possibilities. At the same time they raise awareness to the changing meaning of the “authentic” and address the implications for the future archives of museums.

The Electronic Representation of Information: New Relations between the Virtual Archive and its (Possible) Referent

by Gabriela Galati

The electronic elaboration of the representation of information is suggesting to follow new paths not only to deal with amounts of data each time more extensive but also to penetrate better the domain of knowledge that every person should possess.[1] Moreover, the forms which this “representation of information” is taking are closely related to the ways in which the perception of this information is structured and shaped. In any case, the relation between information, its representation and the referent has to be re-thought.

In his article “The Archive Without Museums”[2], Hal Foster advances the hypothesis that photographic reproduction allowed a new “dialectics of seeing” represented by the positions of Walter Benjamin, namely, that photographic reproduction strips art of context and aura, and therefore its cult value as well as its exhibition value are lost forever; and André Malraux’s, that the museum guarantees art as such and photographic reproduction gives the means to put together the broken pieces into the meta-tradition of “style”.

If the museum guarantees the status of art and photographic reproduction permits affinities of style, what might a digital reordering generate? Is there a new dialectics allowed by electronic information?

The present work explores the new relation generated by electronic information between the virtual archive (the Web in a broad sense, certain specialized archives in particular) and its referent (material reality in general, museums, artworks, in particular).

If there is a new dialectics established by electronic information and digitalisation in which the legitimisation formerly allowed by the museum is being replaced by that one of the virtual archive, the museum or gallery website, etc, this new dialectics has to be explored and the relation between the referent and the virtual database investigated.

In the same way that the object is digitalised in the archive, the medium is converted into a pure image, so the new data-base may be generating a dematerialisation of memory and record and at the same time an aesthetic shift.

[1] SCHIRRU, Marco; “Guide: Un ipertesto per l’istoria” in Adversus, VI-VII, December 2009-April 2010:61-83

[2] FOSTER, Hal; “The Archive without Museums” in October, Vol. 77 (Summer 1996), pp.97-119, Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press.

Untold Bodies: Re-imagining the Natural History and Scientific Archive

by Karl Grimes

Untold Bodies examines the themes of retrieval and digital resurrection - bringing to light and into the light the objects, specimens and narratives previously hidden in dispersed archives and museum research databanks. This visual presentation is based on recent art/science collaborations and artist-in-residency exhibition projects with natural history and medical museums in Ireland, Italy. USA and the Netherlands/Sweden. It addresses the practice-based research concerns, the creative imaging processes involved, the institutional challenges encountered and the outcomes and new audiences for these projects. The work primarily focuses on collections in laboratories and public museums dating from the late nineteenth century to the present of fluid-preserved human and animal taxidermy specimens.

Central to this, is an examination of the aesthetic codes, display conventions and object-based epistemology inherent in these late nineteenth century museums, the communication challenges and fears faced by these institutions in embracing new audiences with new media strategies, allied to the sometimes entrenched curatorial practices and financial restraints that limit the opening up and uncontrolled distribution of imaged archival material beyond the institutional site. Untold Bodies takes as its content my recent collaborations and exhibition projects that aim to re-present and re-purpose historic content, at times uncovering the hidden histories stored off-stage, or re-staging the familiar displays for a new audience and context.

The presentation includes images and video from lens based projects with the following institutions: La Specola, Caregi Hospital, Florence, Italy (Still Life); Hubrecht Laboratory, Utrecht, Netherlands & Tornblad Institute, Lund, Sweden (Future Nature); Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, USA (Vial Memory); Natural History Museum, Dublin, Ireland (Dignified Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Silk).

For images and further information on the above, please visit:

Dignified Kings

Future Nature

Still Life

Vial Memory

Main Site:

Presentation images and videos are projected from a Mac PowerBook G4 via data projector from a PowerPoint presentation.