background image
in forms that are both accessible and chal-
lenging to the viewer.
T
he alienating effect that new techno-
logies can have on an audience is in
direct opposition to artists' desire to have
their work seen by as large and diverse a
group as possible. Increasing access to art-
works, particularly in the case of many
environmental pieces, can result in degra-
dation that is not always intentional or
desirable. Meanwhile, the most technolo-
gically literate artist may create a piece in
what he or she considers to be the most
cutting-edge medium today, only to find
that that technology itself will become
obsolete in a few years' time. And yet to
preserve the technology is arguably to
admit that the form is to some extent
more significant than the content, that,
once again, the medium is taking centre
stage, while the message is in danger of
being lost in the distant sprawl.
A
t the Preserving the Immaterial con-
ference, held at the Guggenheim in
March 2001, Ippolito stated his belief that
it is a mistake to let media guide all de-
scription of an artwork, given the danger
of a particular medium becoming obsolete.
There is, however, a conceivable risk that
artists will start creating work from a
materialistic standpoint, at the expense of
conceptual or experiential factors.While
at times this approach may be entirely
conscious and deliberate, it could present
restrictions that otherwise would not have
warranted concern. Ippolito believes that:
`It is that way already - artists are defined
rientially rather than materialistically.
However, it is no less critical to preserve a
work of conceptual art than it is a Matisse
or a Rembrandt, if there is to be an art
history to look back on in the future, that
goes beyond the realm of academia.
S
uch is the philosophy behind the Variable
Media Initiative at the Guggenheim
Museum, New York http://www.guggen-
heim.org/variablemedia/. Combining input
from artists with that of museum and media
consultants, the Initiative aims to define
works according to medium-independent
`behaviours' (Installed, Performed, Inter-
active, Repro-duced, Duplicated, Encoded,
Networked) and, with the approval of the
artists, to design preservation strategies
appropriate to each artwork.To aid artists
and museum staff in establishing these vari-
able media guidelines, the artist completes
a questionnaire, which seeks to identify
best practice in translating the artwork into
new media for purposes of preservation
and documentation.
W
hile the increasing abundance and
diversity of artworks that make use
of new media are to be celebrated and
encouraged, there are issues to be addressed,
lest this latest movement in art history be
consigned forever to little more than a fad
or simple misadventure.This is just one of
many concerns for Jon Ippolito, Assistant
Curator of Media Arts at the Guggenheim,
in his role as joint Co-ordinator of the
VMI. A practising visual artist himself,
Ippolito is all too aware of the issues faced
by artists who are striving to create work
DigiCULT
.
Info
9
I
f there is one thing worth bearing in
mind when considering conceptual art,
regardless of personal taste or aesthetic
sensibilities, it is that experience takes pre-
cedence over the object. Looking through
art history, we can see that, in the hands of
the Pop-artists and Abstract Expressionists,
mechanisms of production and reproduc-
tion were manipulated and disseminated,
the tools and symbols of industry used
and abused.The ensuing generation of
artists working in the post-industrial age
was left simultaneously exhilarated and
inhibited by the possibilities stemming
from the exploits of their predecessors.
The very plasticity of the artwork had
been deconstructed and left for dead,
almost, so that the new breed of artists
were able to take heart in the demateriali-
sed art object, casting aside old moulds of
presentation and concentrating on the
concept as dislocated from its carrier.
T
he format and presentation of con-
ceptual art is constantly changing, as
the palette available to artists continues to
grow by the minute. In the age of the
Internet and with the advent of digital
storage, even such media as performance,
video or environmental art become
quaint. It is true that disembodied art is
liberating on some levels, if we consider
again that works should be regarded expe-
C
HALLENGES
| S
TRATETIC
I
SSUES
| N
EW
I
NITIATIVES
T
H E
E
P H E M E R A L
W
I L L
E
N D U R E
:
T
H E
F
U T U R E O F
C
O N C E P T U A L
A
R T A N D
D
I G I TA L
P
R E S E R VAT I O N
A
N I N T E R V I E W W I T H
J
O N
I
P P O L I TO
,
C O
-
O R D I N ATO R O F T H E
V
A R I A B L E
M
E D I A
I
N I T I AT I V E AT T H E
G
U G G E N H E I M
M
U S E U M
, N
E W
Y
O R K
, A
U G U S T
2 0 0 2 .
B
Y
R
E B E C C A
S
H A R P
Jon Ippolito