The Lives of Internet Artworks

The Lives of Internet Artworks in Institutions: How to Begin to Construct a Long-term Conservation Strategy
Master’s Thesis
Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage Specialization Modern and Contemporary Art

Olivia Brum (11609648)
Supervisor: Ellen Jansen
MA Second Reader: Tamar Davidowitz
MA 20-06-2019

Internet artworks are extremely volatile depending on software that is subject to obsolescence as well as a network of people who bring their knowledge to providing regular maintenance. In their “immateriality” they create issues for institutions regarding what to acquire and when they do enter collections in some form, they do not withstand benign neglect requiring an ongoing conservation approach that institutions are in most cases unprepared for. This thesis thus hopes to begin to create a framework for acquiring the information necessary to create a farsighted preservation strategy that will address their ongoing maintenance needs. To do this it will take as its main case study Martine Neddam’s 01 (2016) which was acquired by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the MOTI Museum Breda in 2016. Guided by literature research, oral history and comparative studies it will attempt to answer the main research question: How does one develop a preservation strategy that addresses the unique needs of an internet artwork?
Interviews with the varied stakeholders revealed that the acquisition of mouchette.orgVersion 01 included a time-stamped data dump that could be reactivated given the correct server environment and a contract permitting the exhibition of the live, which is maintained by the artist. Confusion though persisted concerning a 2nd part of the acquisition that was supposed to concern the “participatory” aspect of the artwork that never happened, likely because the MOTI Museum Breda which had spearheaded the acquisition had shut down.
Literature research and comparative studies revealed similar cases of material objects that were acquired representing works of internet art that came in time to replace the “live” object. Leaving the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, now the sole owners of the artwork, at a crossroads concerning whether to lean towards preserving the object or acquiring and preserving the “live” work. To create a preservation strategy determining how to continue this research suggests looking to the diffuse network of knowledge surrounding what was acquired and how the “live” version is maintained. Interviews and primary source research with the artist provide the beginnings of a road map concerning what tasks the artist regularly undergoes to maintain the website and what the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam might be expected to conduct if they were to acquire the artwork in full.


Download the pdf here:   Brum, OC, thesis 2019-06-20

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