Monday, June 30, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] Fwd: FW: Keeping works


computer art pioneer Frieder Nake sends these thoughts about the
conservationn and restoration
of his own art works


From: Frieder Nake []
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 1:54 AM

Dear Roger,

And this is my short post on conservation and restoration of recent works

I have been involved in some of the earliest computer art work. It was
run off computers that have long disappeared. The oldest pieces,
mainly between 1964 and 1968, were done in Germany in programming
languages like some obscure machine language (not assembler), and
Algol 60 or Fortran (with machine language subroutines). The computers
produced punched paper tapes for the flatbed plotter. These tapes
were, of course, a wonderfully robust storage medium that I often used
repeatedly. But when I emigrated to Canada, I destroyed them all. One
reason for this was that this was a cut in my life. The other was that
it had become clear that the drawing automaton would one day

The few pieces I still did in Toronto and Vancouver were run off much
more powerful IBM computers. They sent their encoded graphics directly
to the plotters. I never kept any traces of these works. They were
ugly CalComp perforated transparent paper, or a file that I shipped to
the printer.

My works still exist on paper as original drawings. They are in
various museums (the oldest such collection is at Museum Abteiberg,
Moenchengladbach, Germany. The collection Etzold there has kept about
50 pieces of computer art since 1974!) There are also private
collectors, but I don't know much about them. All I know is that
museums are usually good places for this - however, we are talking
about ink on paper works. And that's simple because it is old

Since 2004, I have done a number of mostly interactive pieces. Most of
them don't run any more. I occasionally re-design one, by developing
newer, more powerful versions for the new, more powerful equipment.

This takes me to a more general remark. In algorithmic and interactive
(generative) art, there will be no masterpieces any more. The
destruction of this very idea, is the revolution that originated in
early computer art. There may occasionally be nice results that people
like. But this kind of art, by its very nature, is not made nor should
it be meant for any short eternity. This kind of art "lives" with the
equipment it is implemented on. When it disappears, the work
disappears. These works or fluid by nature (if anything in this
artificial world could be called "natural"). Their ontology is that of
processes, not things. If we still want to keep them around for a
while, they must be documented. The documentation then becomes witness
of the work. (It may itself, as a document, be of artistic value.)

Unfortunately, technology is more and more replacing the human memory
by the technical storage. The two are fundamentally different. The
Internet is storage. Therefore, it's so vast, luring us into believing
that we should store everything and that this were, indeed, possible.
A crazy idea. But the normal mind is working on it (NSA, curators). We
should trust our memories much more. With them, we remember what is
important for us. When something gets lost, it's gone. But we
consciously work to replace memory by storage. The question we should
ask, is: What of the enormous production of digitally existing works
is worth being kept? I guess, it's a tiny percentage only.


Prof. Dr. Frieder Nake
Informatik, University of Bremen, PO Box 330440, D-28334 Bremen, Germany
or: University of the Arts, Am Speicher XI 8, D-28217 Bremen
(for parcels use: FB 3, University of Bremen, Bibliothekstrasse 1,
D-28359 Bremen, Germany)
fon +49-421-218 64485 fax +49-421-218 64459 | | @CarlCanary

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