Difference between revisions of "Naked on Pluto/Preservation"

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{{Naked on Pluto}}
 
{{Naked on Pluto}}
  
; Preservation of research-based artworks
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; Publishing as a strategy for preserving artistic research
  
==Starting point==
+
The starting point for this case study was an invitation by [[LIMA]] to document the artwork ''Naked on Pluto'' (2010-2013) by [[Dave Griffiths]], [[Aymeric Mansoux]] and [[Marloes de Valk]]. The heart of ''Naked on Pluto'' is an artist-built, open source, multi-player, online video game that had served as an impulse for a wider examination of privacy in the age of social media through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, interviews, books and websites (Dekker 2018b). The change of Facebook policy for its API made the game unplayable, which in turn raises the question of whether the work can be preserved in any meaningful way. Our starting point was the realisation that rather than merely a piece of artistic software, the breadth of the work is much broader. In fact, the artists view the work in terms of discourse it set about. We therefore approached it a research-based work and a case study to develop a strategy for the preservation of artistic research.
  
The starting point for this case study was an invitation by LIMA to document the artwork ''Naked on Pluto'' by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk. The heart of ''Naked on Pluto'' is an artist-built, open source, multi-player, online video game that had served as an experiential impulse for a wider examination of privacy in the age of social media through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, interviews, books and websites. More than simply a piece of artistic software or a conceptual work, the artists view this work more broadly as research. This opens up the question of how to preserve artistic research? What makes research-based art different from other kinds of work, and what does it imply for preservation?
+
; The medium
  
==Conceptual background==
+
In general, preservation strategies are determined by the artwork's medium. There exist different strategies for preserving painting, sculpture, for media installations, software-based art, performances, and so on. So it makes sense to start preservation process by answering the question about medium.
  
Research-based artworks pose a challenge to preservation. Like changing artworks, these works cannot be preserved under the assumption of material fixity linked to traditional art conservation. Like in the case of installations, performances and digital art, their presentations rely on the interpretation of the work's identity. This is because they are not constituted by singular material objects such as painting or sculpture, but by a range of components and elements with variable relations and dependencies as well as aesthetic and functional roles (Laurenson 2001, Laurenson 2006, Van Saaze 2013). The overarching approach developed over the past two decades to preserve changing artworks has been to produce detailed documentation of an artwork's exhibitions, alongside the storage of its dedicated physical components, digital preservation of its media components and emulation or migration of software components, next to the option of reinterpretation (Matos et al 2015, Ensom 2019, Wijers et al 2017). This approach assumes that the trajectory of any changing artwork can be described as a succession of iterations presented at exhibitions. Research-based artworks, however, are usually manifested in a wider range of ways. They may be centred on a single art object intended for exhibitions, but they may also involve various physical and digital objects presented outside exhibition setting, activities in public and digital space, workshops, publications, accumulation of research material and archives, and so on. These works typically defy not only objecthood associated with painting and sculpture, but also iterativity associated with installations and performances. In this sense they operate similarly to processual works whose "preservation" relies more on further development and continuation rather than re-creation (Bosma 2011, van de Vall 2015, Dekker 2018). Instead of exhibition space, their main site of activation is debate and discourse, the situation of knowledge production (Steyerl 2010).
+
The artists behind ''Naked on Pluto'' put emphasis on research and their approach was problem-driven. They took a stand on social media companies, highlighting their engagement in insidious practices, operating shadow market with personal data. This was the problem. In this sense, in terms of established artistic media, the framework of conceptual art may feel relevant for this work and its preservation. Conceptual artworks do encompass statements, declarations, in some cases that may be re-executed or re-performed. But on the other hand, ''Naked on Pluto'' is not merely about making a statement, because the problem was just its starting point and the artists deliberatively unfolded it in multiple directions that are as important to the work as the problem itself, especially when we think of participation, whereas the artists involved viewers in the game, workshops and in other ways. The framework of conceptual art might be too limiting for this work. We could similarly contextualise it as process art, a work whose process of development can be inferred by the viewer from its form. This is enabled in this case by making the code and data available. On the other hand, process art is closely affiliated with focus on the materiality of the form like in Richard Morris's felt objects or Eva Hesse's decomposing sculptural works. In the case of ''Naked on Pluto'', the work is not so much medium-centric, it does not rely on exploring attributes of a medium, of software, or of the internet, even though these media certainly are key to the work. It utilizes a range of media and we can frame it as a software-based, net-based work and digital art to an extent. But choosing one of this media as primary wouldn't do justice to the work. Instead, it appears more suitable to follow the artists' view on the work as discursive, problem-driven, and approach it as such also in developing preservation strategy. This view is inclusive enough to accommodate the conceptual, processual, software, internet and digital aspects of the work in its "object boundary".  
 
==Proposed approach==
 
 
How can we preserve these works? We suggest an approach that remains rooted in documentation practices and extends them into what we call experimental publishing. It is inspired by a range of online research publications created by various art preservation initiatives in recent years. They bring together expert knowledge about selected artworks, along with documentation and views from their creators. Among the latest examples are [https://anthology.rhizome.org/ Net Art Anthology], an online retrospective of net-based works created by Rhizome, and [http://digitalcanon.nl/ Digital Canon], an online catalogue of historical digital artworks from the Netherlands, launched by LIMA. Another reference are preservation-oriented initiatives of various online subcultures, from private torrent trackers such as Karagarga, the retro gaming database project No-Intro, to the community endeavor Archive Team. These projects show the positive potential of refining the practices of preservation, conservation, documentation, circulation, and archiving in the context of collective practices.  
 
  
In practical terms, we suggest to approach the preservation of artistic research along three axes -- archive, documentation and presentation. They may be realised in this order, and if possible, in collaboration with the artists. Firstly, available digital and physical material related to the art project is recorded. This material may be considered the project's archive. To collect its traces in one place in a structured manner an inventory of this archive is created. It may include objects, printed matter, articles, files, data, websites, and other kinds of artefacts. The archive is helpful for assembling documentation. For it, the project's various public manifestations are recorded under distinct headings, for example: objects, exhibitions, other activations (events, interviews), and research process. While exhibitions may play major role, no less important for gaining a sense of the breadth of the project is to record other manifestations. Sections may have subsections and they may be organised chronologically, especially if we deal with more large-scale projects. It is important to include sources for every record at this point. Subsequently, introductions may be written for individual sections as their narrative summaries. Finally, with the sense of the breadth of the project, its key aspects may be highlighted and assembled into a single article that gives a general introduction to the project. The article is informed also by insights from reception and historical context of the project. As a result, the respective axes may be presented on distinct pages, each providing a different entry to the project: archive (index of materials), documentation (chronological structure), and presentation (narrative).
+
In this sense the work does start from a problem and follows an analysis grounded in the domain of its object of study, similar to how scientific research operates. But instead of searching for a solution which could be assessed and reviewed by other researchers, the artists created situations for this problem to be experienced by viewers, who were treated as participants, and the artists explicitly declared it in their essays. So even if the game was no longer functional, the artists could still run workshops where they hacked Facebook API and continue the work.  
  
; Structure of documentation-publication
+
While the game as a software no longer works and can't be restored, its original code remains available online in a git repository, it is open source, but it is also a relic, an open source relic. Other elements of the work, however, are still very relevant. This includes interviews by the artists, interviews given by the artists, essays and statements, and their research process - they continue to have a potential for change to some extent, especially if they are taken up, activated, amplified by contemporary practice, as findings, proofs, references for current debate.
  
I. Presentation
+
This makes it apt to affiliate the work with the context of artistic research, or research-based works. A genealogy of these works stretches back to the 1920s as Hito Steyerl shows in her essay (2010), especially if we assume the perspective of conflict and social struggles. She describes as resistant artistic research the practices of Soviet factography and productivism, Tretyakov’s documentary work, and the avant-garde investigations into cine-eye, cine-truth and photomontage. Steyerl also discusses as artistic research photojournalism, essay film, situationist dérive, constructivist montage, cut ups, biomechanics, deconstructive anthropology, counter-information, aesthetic journalism and conceptual art. It is ironic that the legacy of these works and initiatives has been carried on by museums mainly in the form of selected individual objects, maintained as self-contained artworks, taken out of historical and sociocultural context and embedded into medium-oriented subcollections of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, moving image, and so on. We can say that the preservation of artistic research has been largely limited to its by-products. This has to do with the historical specialisation of museums on art, ethnography and other areas, with the increasing convergence of museumification and commodification, and also with the lack of adequate preservation strategies. On the other hand, artistic research has mushroomed since the 1990s and it is becoming a major approach for many artists working today. Developing strategies for preserving research-based works is a necessary step for their continuing legacy.
: Brief presentation of key aspects of the work (aimed at general audience; links to documentation)
 
  
II. Documentation
+
; Relevant preservation strategies
: Project summary (provides general introduction to whole scope of project, may rely on artist statements)
 
: Historical context (social, cultural, political events which shaped project)
 
: The work (public manifestations of project, recorded under distinct headings and organised chronologically, along with references)
 
:: Object(s) (physical, digital)
 
:: Exhibitions (installation plans with components, differences between iterations, curatorial texts, identify and focus on the most significant one)
 
:: Other activations (workshops, lectures, presentations, interviews)
 
:: Research process (published documentation of research process: wikis, blogs, research materials)
 
: Reception (bibliography of writings and responses to project)
 
: Credits (full list of contributors, collaborators, support, rights, ...)
 
  
III. Archive
+
If the medium of a work is research, doesn't it constitute a too ephemeral object of preservation? ''Naked on Pluto'' did have an important software component as well as an important exhibition installation. While keeping in mind the broader constellation of the work, we considered a range of existing preservation approaches. Since the artists released all the components of ''Naked on Pluto'' under copyleft licenses, we drew especially from public-facing strategies advanced in recent years by progressive initiatives.
: Archive (inventory of all available digital and physical material related to project)
+
 
 +
[[LIMA]] has recently introduced a public-facing approach to document digital artworks in its [https://digitalcanon.nl/ Digital Canon]. The documentation relies on a template specifying various elements, attributes and behaviour of a work. In our attempt to use it for ''Naked on Pluto'', it proved somewhat restrictive. The field "artist" presupposes only one role, while we also wanted to attribute many other contributors to the work. The work's date of production is not straightforward either as the game was developed mainly between 2010-2011 but the artists continued to alter the work through workshops and exhibitions and the game continued to be active and subjected to further changes. This could all be solved by extended descriptions and we could also fill in other items such as "Software", "Hardware", "Premiere", "Production", and so on, but our worry was that by simply adopting the form, the resulting overall impression of ''Naked on Pluto'' would be that of a defunct software work, what wouldn't do it justice. This strategy needs to be complemented by other elements giving equal footing to all elements of the work.
 +
 
 +
Another approach, developed by Guggenheim and advanced by SFMOMA, is tailored for artworks changing with iterations, especially media installations (Phillips 2015). This strategy makes a distinction between reporting identity and iterations of a work, while they directly influence one another. While Digital Canon emphasizes the software aspects of the work, this approach emphasizes its installation aspects. ''Naked on Pluto'' was indeed a changing artwork, but its changes can't be restricted to (installation) iterations: there were numerous changes to the game engine in the span of several years and various project's manifestations were adapted to given formats such as workshops. Iterativity was there, but it is just a part of the work's story. Interesting for our case is also SFMOMA's experimental implementation of this documentation strategy on its internal museum wiki accessible to contributions from staff from across departments. What is crucial, by adapting the wiki to document artworks, the museum has set to explore alternatives to tabular databases typical for collection management today. The wiki is a digital publishing platform where objects are not represented by forms but articles, whose templates may be adapted to suit particular needs of artworks, contributors may rearrange sections, change headings, embed media files and so on (Barok et al 2019).
 +
 
 +
Approaching ''Naked on Pluto'' as a discursive work brings to mind another recent initiative, [https://anthology.rhizome.org/ Net Art Anthology], realised by [[Rhizome]]. In order to preserve net-based works it employs the strategies of emulation, recording and archiving the web in an elegant and effective way. As was said, ''Naked on Pluto'' can't be meaningfully restored, but what is inspiring for our case is Rhizome's favouring presentation over documentation. The works are presented in a fleeting, accessible narrative, highlighting key aspects of the works, artists' intentions and contexts, and complemented by effective design. The result is still text-based but it is aimed for general audience and helps to amplify key elements of artworks.
 +
 
 +
Another important element relevant for research-based works has to do with continuing the work. In conservation, this has been discussed in especially in the context of net art. Josephine Bosma (2011) talks about "co-producing, supporting or maintaining the 'life' of a work". Jon Ippolito (2014) and Annet Dekker (2018) talk about "proliferative preservation". Renée van de Vall (2015) assigns these approaches to the processual paradigm of conservation that is distinct from scientific paradigm that aims at material integrity, as well as from performance paradigm in that it can’t fully rely on the work’s conceptual identity that would be expressed as a range of properties and instructions. This is because the works at stake “change and develop according to uncontrollable factors or interventions from inside or outside the work, be it the weather, material decay, visitors’ interactions or participation” (ibid.) Proliferative or processual preservation does not limit its stakeholders to the artist and museum staff, nor is it tied to the spatiotemporal logic of exhibition where the artwork’s change would take place in a controlled manner. Along these lines, the question we ask in case of research-based works such as ''Naked on Pluto'' is how to facilitate the future use of materials and context that it brought about.
 +
 
 +
; The approach
 +
 
 +
The overall aim of preserving artistic research is to facilitate its discourse through proliferating key elements of the work. We developed our approach drawing from and combining the strategies discussed above. The SFMOMA wiki suggests the model of digital publishing that can be applied well outside a museum, in the spirit of Net Art Anthology and Digital Canon. This encouraged us to use Monoskop wiki as the site for preserving this work. The practice of LIMA, Guggenheim and SFMOMA offers a range of documentation templates and forms that can be transformed and adapted for research-based works. Finally, the narrative approach of Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology combining preservation and presentation could be productive in translating the work to different audiences.
 +
 
 +
We made a decision to start from the traces left behind the work. This was relatively convenient for this case, because the artists followed an open source attitude in development and documented in detail the process and released the work into public domain. This included a blog, a wiki, a git repository, documentation of exhibitions, and so on. In effect, the majority of the archive of the work was relatively easy to assemble. We assembled it into [[Naked_on_Pluto/Archive|a page as an inventory]]. We followed a simple structure: "item name; item type; (URL/source); date; short description;" and contained it inside a sortable table. One notable detail is that it is an inventory of an dispersed archive: the materials are hosted on numerous websites. Why? As long as these websites are operational this leaves the materials in their original context: they are indexed but they can be still accessed at their source. Next to this, these source files should be also archived on a dedicated server. In any case, the inventory gave as an overview about what is out there and also a ground for further work.
 +
 
 +
After that, we interviewed the artists at length about what constitutes the work. The aim was to identify the work's object boundaries from the artist's perspective. We learnt that the key component was obviously the online game. But besides it, of importance were also events where issues surrounding the work were discussed, reflected upon in a social setting faciliated by the artists, whether it was in workshops, presentations, essays or interviews. The work was also exhibited on a number of occassion, and in a different configuration. This was also to be recorded. And lastly, we learnt that the artists also consider documentation of the process of research and development part of the work. This includes for example a series of interviews they conducted with a range of experts about social media and privacy. All of this is the work. We grouped these elements into four categories, collected information and references for each of them and wrote summaries that now function as introductions to their respective sections. This forms the core of the [[Naked_on_Pluto/Documentation|documentation page]]. Other sections include "Artist statement", "Historical context", "Reception", "Credits" where all contributors and supporters of the work are credited, and finally "References" for sources of materials included in this page. Besides these references, every uploaded and embedded image and video have their sources identified on their dedicated pages. Like in the case of the archive, we found it important not to remove them from their original context and make it possible to trace them back.
 +
 
 +
At the end, we created another section, a page serving as an [[Naked_on_Pluto|entry point]] to the work's folder, directly inspired by Net Art Anthology. It is designed in blocks, yet it is meant to be read from the beginning to the end, as a linear narrative. It could be seen it as a somewhat extended wall label, highlighting key aspects of the work in a concise way. They were selected from the Documentation page and also link back to it from various places. The design is meant not to overload the reader with text, nor with audiovisual material, we aimed at one-to-one ratio.
 +
 
 +
This has resulted in three distinct yet interdependent pages presenting ''Naked on Pluto'' differently (four, if you also count this page detailing our preservation approach). The first page is a narrative presentation to the work, the second one introduces components and documentation of the work in a structured way, and the third one is an index, an inventory of the work's archive. This might not be a definite structure, or a preservation solution, but it represents key aspects of the work identified together with the artists. It draws from documentation approaches developed by LIMA, Guggenheim, SFMOMA and Rhizome, yet rather than aiming for future iterations or activations of the work, it is designed to amplify its various elements. To frame and amplify the content are functions of publishing. In this sense, if we consider publishing as an art preservation strategy its aim is to frame and amplify the work, to make current a context, a discourse for discussion that the artists intended to have by doing the work. Here also lies the potential of (resistant) artistic research to challenge the prevalent practices of collecting and museumification.
 +
 
 +
''Dušan Barok, Julie Boschat Thorez, Aymeric Mansoux''
 +
 
 +
''July 2020''
  
 
==References==
 
==References==
  
; On preservation of changing artworks
+
; On the preservation of changing artworks
  
: Matos, Lucia, et al, eds., 2015. [http://revistaharte.fcsh.unl.pt/rhaw4/RHAw4.pdf ''Revista de historia da arte'' 4: "Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art"]. Lisbon: Instituto de História da Arte/Universidade Nova de Lisboa
+
: Barok, Dušan, et al. 2019. [https://doi.org/10.1080/00393630.2019.1603921 "From Collection Management to Content Management in Art Documentation: The Conservator as an Editor"]. ''Studies in Conservation'' 64:8, 472-489.
  
 
: Ensom, Tom. 2019. ''[https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/theses/technical-narratives(e01bff94-08bd-4b83-aeef-4e7d6d5b0dfc).html Technical Narratives: Analysis, Description and Representation in the Conservation of Software-based Art]''. London: King’s College London.
 
: Ensom, Tom. 2019. ''[https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/theses/technical-narratives(e01bff94-08bd-4b83-aeef-4e7d6d5b0dfc).html Technical Narratives: Analysis, Description and Representation in the Conservation of Software-based Art]''. London: King’s College London.
 +
 +
: Matos, Lucia, et al, eds., 2015. [http://revistaharte.fcsh.unl.pt/rhaw4/RHAw4.pdf ''Revista de historia da arte'' 4: "Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art"]. Lisbon: Instituto de História da Arte/Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  
 
: Wijers, Gaby, et al. 2017. ''[https://www.li-ma.nl/lima/sites/default/files/Unfold_verslag_excl.pdf Unfold: Mediation by Re-interpretation. Annual Project Review Report]''. Amsterdam: LIMA.
 
: Wijers, Gaby, et al. 2017. ''[https://www.li-ma.nl/lima/sites/default/files/Unfold_verslag_excl.pdf Unfold: Mediation by Re-interpretation. Annual Project Review Report]''. Amsterdam: LIMA.
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: Bosma, Josephine. 2011. "The Gap between Now and Then: On the Conservation of Memory", in Bosma, ''Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art''. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 164-91
 
: Bosma, Josephine. 2011. "The Gap between Now and Then: On the Conservation of Memory", in Bosma, ''Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art''. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 164-91
 +
 +
: Dekker, Annet. 2018a. [https://monoskop.org/media/text/dekker_2018_collecting_and_conserving_net_art/#_15032-1059_ch003 "Networks of Care"], in Dekker, ''Collecting and Conserving Net Art: Moving beyond Conventional Methods''. London: Routledge, 71-98.
 +
 +
: Dekker, Annet. 2018b. [https://monoskop.org/media/text/dekker_2018_collecting_and_conserving_net_art/#_15032-1059_ch004 "Following process and openness"], in Dekker, ''Collecting and Conserving Net Art'', London: Routledge, 99-125.
  
 
: Ippolito, Jon. 2014. "Unreliable Archivists", in Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, ''Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory''. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 155-84.
 
: Ippolito, Jon. 2014. "Unreliable Archivists", in Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, ''Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory''. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 155-84.
  
 
: van de Vall, Renée. 2015. [http://revistaharte.fcsh.unl.pt/rhaw4/RHAw4.pdf#page=7 "Documenting Dilemmas: On the Relevance of Ethically Ambiguous Cases"]. ''Revista de historia da arte'' 4, 7-17.
 
: van de Vall, Renée. 2015. [http://revistaharte.fcsh.unl.pt/rhaw4/RHAw4.pdf#page=7 "Documenting Dilemmas: On the Relevance of Ethically Ambiguous Cases"]. ''Revista de historia da arte'' 4, 7-17.
 
: Dekker, Annet. 2018. [https://monoskop.org/media/text/dekker_2018_collecting_and_conserving_net_art/#_15032-1059_ch003 "Networks of Care"], in Dekker, ''Collecting and Conserving Net Art: Moving beyond Conventional Methods''. London: Routledge, 71-98.
 
  
 
; On artistic research and research-based art
 
; On artistic research and research-based art
Line 66: Line 79:
 
[https://monoskop.org/images/d/d7/Bishop_Claire_Artificial_Hells_Participatory_Art_and_the_Politics_of_Spectatorship_2012.pdf#page=198 Bishop 2012]:
 
[https://monoskop.org/images/d/d7/Bishop_Claire_Artificial_Hells_Participatory_Art_and_the_Politics_of_Spectatorship_2012.pdf#page=198 Bishop 2012]:
 
: "A project in the sense I am identifying as crucial to art after 1989 aspires to replace the work of art as a finite object with an open-ended, post-studio, research-based, social process, extending over time and mutable in form. Since the 1990s, the project has become an umbrella term for many types of art: collective practice, self- organised activist groups, transdisciplinary research, participatory and socially engaged art, and experimental curating." [Note: Further definitions of the ‘project’ (compared to the work of art), amassed during a workshop at Arte de Conducta, Havana (2007), include presentness, possibility, openness to change and contamination, a space of production, unlimited time and space, and a dialogue with the social to reach audiences beyond art.]
 
: "A project in the sense I am identifying as crucial to art after 1989 aspires to replace the work of art as a finite object with an open-ended, post-studio, research-based, social process, extending over time and mutable in form. Since the 1990s, the project has become an umbrella term for many types of art: collective practice, self- organised activist groups, transdisciplinary research, participatory and socially engaged art, and experimental curating." [Note: Further definitions of the ‘project’ (compared to the work of art), amassed during a workshop at Arte de Conducta, Havana (2007), include presentness, possibility, openness to change and contamination, a space of production, unlimited time and space, and a dialogue with the social to reach audiences beyond art.]
 +
 +
; On Naked on Pluto
 +
 +
''See'' [[Naked_on_Pluto/Documentation#References]]
  
  
 
{{Naked on Pluto}}
 
{{Naked on Pluto}}

Revision as of 21:19, 4 July 2020

Naked on Pluto, 2010-2013 – Marloes de Valk, Aymeric Mansoux, Dave Griffiths

WorkDocumentationArchivePreservation

Publishing as a strategy for preserving artistic research

The starting point for this case study was an invitation by LIMA to document the artwork Naked on Pluto (2010-2013) by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk. The heart of Naked on Pluto is an artist-built, open source, multi-player, online video game that had served as an impulse for a wider examination of privacy in the age of social media through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, interviews, books and websites (Dekker 2018b). The change of Facebook policy for its API made the game unplayable, which in turn raises the question of whether the work can be preserved in any meaningful way. Our starting point was the realisation that rather than merely a piece of artistic software, the breadth of the work is much broader. In fact, the artists view the work in terms of discourse it set about. We therefore approached it a research-based work and a case study to develop a strategy for the preservation of artistic research.

The medium

In general, preservation strategies are determined by the artwork's medium. There exist different strategies for preserving painting, sculpture, for media installations, software-based art, performances, and so on. So it makes sense to start preservation process by answering the question about medium.

The artists behind Naked on Pluto put emphasis on research and their approach was problem-driven. They took a stand on social media companies, highlighting their engagement in insidious practices, operating shadow market with personal data. This was the problem. In this sense, in terms of established artistic media, the framework of conceptual art may feel relevant for this work and its preservation. Conceptual artworks do encompass statements, declarations, in some cases that may be re-executed or re-performed. But on the other hand, Naked on Pluto is not merely about making a statement, because the problem was just its starting point and the artists deliberatively unfolded it in multiple directions that are as important to the work as the problem itself, especially when we think of participation, whereas the artists involved viewers in the game, workshops and in other ways. The framework of conceptual art might be too limiting for this work. We could similarly contextualise it as process art, a work whose process of development can be inferred by the viewer from its form. This is enabled in this case by making the code and data available. On the other hand, process art is closely affiliated with focus on the materiality of the form like in Richard Morris's felt objects or Eva Hesse's decomposing sculptural works. In the case of Naked on Pluto, the work is not so much medium-centric, it does not rely on exploring attributes of a medium, of software, or of the internet, even though these media certainly are key to the work. It utilizes a range of media and we can frame it as a software-based, net-based work and digital art to an extent. But choosing one of this media as primary wouldn't do justice to the work. Instead, it appears more suitable to follow the artists' view on the work as discursive, problem-driven, and approach it as such also in developing preservation strategy. This view is inclusive enough to accommodate the conceptual, processual, software, internet and digital aspects of the work in its "object boundary".

In this sense the work does start from a problem and follows an analysis grounded in the domain of its object of study, similar to how scientific research operates. But instead of searching for a solution which could be assessed and reviewed by other researchers, the artists created situations for this problem to be experienced by viewers, who were treated as participants, and the artists explicitly declared it in their essays. So even if the game was no longer functional, the artists could still run workshops where they hacked Facebook API and continue the work.

While the game as a software no longer works and can't be restored, its original code remains available online in a git repository, it is open source, but it is also a relic, an open source relic. Other elements of the work, however, are still very relevant. This includes interviews by the artists, interviews given by the artists, essays and statements, and their research process - they continue to have a potential for change to some extent, especially if they are taken up, activated, amplified by contemporary practice, as findings, proofs, references for current debate.

This makes it apt to affiliate the work with the context of artistic research, or research-based works. A genealogy of these works stretches back to the 1920s as Hito Steyerl shows in her essay (2010), especially if we assume the perspective of conflict and social struggles. She describes as resistant artistic research the practices of Soviet factography and productivism, Tretyakov’s documentary work, and the avant-garde investigations into cine-eye, cine-truth and photomontage. Steyerl also discusses as artistic research photojournalism, essay film, situationist dérive, constructivist montage, cut ups, biomechanics, deconstructive anthropology, counter-information, aesthetic journalism and conceptual art. It is ironic that the legacy of these works and initiatives has been carried on by museums mainly in the form of selected individual objects, maintained as self-contained artworks, taken out of historical and sociocultural context and embedded into medium-oriented subcollections of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, moving image, and so on. We can say that the preservation of artistic research has been largely limited to its by-products. This has to do with the historical specialisation of museums on art, ethnography and other areas, with the increasing convergence of museumification and commodification, and also with the lack of adequate preservation strategies. On the other hand, artistic research has mushroomed since the 1990s and it is becoming a major approach for many artists working today. Developing strategies for preserving research-based works is a necessary step for their continuing legacy.

Relevant preservation strategies

If the medium of a work is research, doesn't it constitute a too ephemeral object of preservation? Naked on Pluto did have an important software component as well as an important exhibition installation. While keeping in mind the broader constellation of the work, we considered a range of existing preservation approaches. Since the artists released all the components of Naked on Pluto under copyleft licenses, we drew especially from public-facing strategies advanced in recent years by progressive initiatives.

LIMA has recently introduced a public-facing approach to document digital artworks in its Digital Canon. The documentation relies on a template specifying various elements, attributes and behaviour of a work. In our attempt to use it for Naked on Pluto, it proved somewhat restrictive. The field "artist" presupposes only one role, while we also wanted to attribute many other contributors to the work. The work's date of production is not straightforward either as the game was developed mainly between 2010-2011 but the artists continued to alter the work through workshops and exhibitions and the game continued to be active and subjected to further changes. This could all be solved by extended descriptions and we could also fill in other items such as "Software", "Hardware", "Premiere", "Production", and so on, but our worry was that by simply adopting the form, the resulting overall impression of Naked on Pluto would be that of a defunct software work, what wouldn't do it justice. This strategy needs to be complemented by other elements giving equal footing to all elements of the work.

Another approach, developed by Guggenheim and advanced by SFMOMA, is tailored for artworks changing with iterations, especially media installations (Phillips 2015). This strategy makes a distinction between reporting identity and iterations of a work, while they directly influence one another. While Digital Canon emphasizes the software aspects of the work, this approach emphasizes its installation aspects. Naked on Pluto was indeed a changing artwork, but its changes can't be restricted to (installation) iterations: there were numerous changes to the game engine in the span of several years and various project's manifestations were adapted to given formats such as workshops. Iterativity was there, but it is just a part of the work's story. Interesting for our case is also SFMOMA's experimental implementation of this documentation strategy on its internal museum wiki accessible to contributions from staff from across departments. What is crucial, by adapting the wiki to document artworks, the museum has set to explore alternatives to tabular databases typical for collection management today. The wiki is a digital publishing platform where objects are not represented by forms but articles, whose templates may be adapted to suit particular needs of artworks, contributors may rearrange sections, change headings, embed media files and so on (Barok et al 2019).

Approaching Naked on Pluto as a discursive work brings to mind another recent initiative, Net Art Anthology, realised by Rhizome. In order to preserve net-based works it employs the strategies of emulation, recording and archiving the web in an elegant and effective way. As was said, Naked on Pluto can't be meaningfully restored, but what is inspiring for our case is Rhizome's favouring presentation over documentation. The works are presented in a fleeting, accessible narrative, highlighting key aspects of the works, artists' intentions and contexts, and complemented by effective design. The result is still text-based but it is aimed for general audience and helps to amplify key elements of artworks.

Another important element relevant for research-based works has to do with continuing the work. In conservation, this has been discussed in especially in the context of net art. Josephine Bosma (2011) talks about "co-producing, supporting or maintaining the 'life' of a work". Jon Ippolito (2014) and Annet Dekker (2018) talk about "proliferative preservation". Renée van de Vall (2015) assigns these approaches to the processual paradigm of conservation that is distinct from scientific paradigm that aims at material integrity, as well as from performance paradigm in that it can’t fully rely on the work’s conceptual identity that would be expressed as a range of properties and instructions. This is because the works at stake “change and develop according to uncontrollable factors or interventions from inside or outside the work, be it the weather, material decay, visitors’ interactions or participation” (ibid.) Proliferative or processual preservation does not limit its stakeholders to the artist and museum staff, nor is it tied to the spatiotemporal logic of exhibition where the artwork’s change would take place in a controlled manner. Along these lines, the question we ask in case of research-based works such as Naked on Pluto is how to facilitate the future use of materials and context that it brought about.

The approach

The overall aim of preserving artistic research is to facilitate its discourse through proliferating key elements of the work. We developed our approach drawing from and combining the strategies discussed above. The SFMOMA wiki suggests the model of digital publishing that can be applied well outside a museum, in the spirit of Net Art Anthology and Digital Canon. This encouraged us to use Monoskop wiki as the site for preserving this work. The practice of LIMA, Guggenheim and SFMOMA offers a range of documentation templates and forms that can be transformed and adapted for research-based works. Finally, the narrative approach of Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology combining preservation and presentation could be productive in translating the work to different audiences.

We made a decision to start from the traces left behind the work. This was relatively convenient for this case, because the artists followed an open source attitude in development and documented in detail the process and released the work into public domain. This included a blog, a wiki, a git repository, documentation of exhibitions, and so on. In effect, the majority of the archive of the work was relatively easy to assemble. We assembled it into a page as an inventory. We followed a simple structure: "item name; item type; (URL/source); date; short description;" and contained it inside a sortable table. One notable detail is that it is an inventory of an dispersed archive: the materials are hosted on numerous websites. Why? As long as these websites are operational this leaves the materials in their original context: they are indexed but they can be still accessed at their source. Next to this, these source files should be also archived on a dedicated server. In any case, the inventory gave as an overview about what is out there and also a ground for further work.

After that, we interviewed the artists at length about what constitutes the work. The aim was to identify the work's object boundaries from the artist's perspective. We learnt that the key component was obviously the online game. But besides it, of importance were also events where issues surrounding the work were discussed, reflected upon in a social setting faciliated by the artists, whether it was in workshops, presentations, essays or interviews. The work was also exhibited on a number of occassion, and in a different configuration. This was also to be recorded. And lastly, we learnt that the artists also consider documentation of the process of research and development part of the work. This includes for example a series of interviews they conducted with a range of experts about social media and privacy. All of this is the work. We grouped these elements into four categories, collected information and references for each of them and wrote summaries that now function as introductions to their respective sections. This forms the core of the documentation page. Other sections include "Artist statement", "Historical context", "Reception", "Credits" where all contributors and supporters of the work are credited, and finally "References" for sources of materials included in this page. Besides these references, every uploaded and embedded image and video have their sources identified on their dedicated pages. Like in the case of the archive, we found it important not to remove them from their original context and make it possible to trace them back.

At the end, we created another section, a page serving as an entry point to the work's folder, directly inspired by Net Art Anthology. It is designed in blocks, yet it is meant to be read from the beginning to the end, as a linear narrative. It could be seen it as a somewhat extended wall label, highlighting key aspects of the work in a concise way. They were selected from the Documentation page and also link back to it from various places. The design is meant not to overload the reader with text, nor with audiovisual material, we aimed at one-to-one ratio.

This has resulted in three distinct yet interdependent pages presenting Naked on Pluto differently (four, if you also count this page detailing our preservation approach). The first page is a narrative presentation to the work, the second one introduces components and documentation of the work in a structured way, and the third one is an index, an inventory of the work's archive. This might not be a definite structure, or a preservation solution, but it represents key aspects of the work identified together with the artists. It draws from documentation approaches developed by LIMA, Guggenheim, SFMOMA and Rhizome, yet rather than aiming for future iterations or activations of the work, it is designed to amplify its various elements. To frame and amplify the content are functions of publishing. In this sense, if we consider publishing as an art preservation strategy its aim is to frame and amplify the work, to make current a context, a discourse for discussion that the artists intended to have by doing the work. Here also lies the potential of (resistant) artistic research to challenge the prevalent practices of collecting and museumification.

Dušan Barok, Julie Boschat Thorez, Aymeric Mansoux

July 2020

References

On the preservation of changing artworks
Barok, Dušan, et al. 2019. "From Collection Management to Content Management in Art Documentation: The Conservator as an Editor". Studies in Conservation 64:8, 472-489.
Ensom, Tom. 2019. Technical Narratives: Analysis, Description and Representation in the Conservation of Software-based Art. London: King’s College London.
Matos, Lucia, et al, eds., 2015. Revista de historia da arte 4: "Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art". Lisbon: Instituto de História da Arte/Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Wijers, Gaby, et al. 2017. Unfold: Mediation by Re-interpretation. Annual Project Review Report. Amsterdam: LIMA.
On proliferative preservation, networks of care, processual conservation
Bosma, Josephine. 2011. "The Gap between Now and Then: On the Conservation of Memory", in Bosma, Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 164-91
Dekker, Annet. 2018a. "Networks of Care", in Dekker, Collecting and Conserving Net Art: Moving beyond Conventional Methods. London: Routledge, 71-98.
Dekker, Annet. 2018b. "Following process and openness", in Dekker, Collecting and Conserving Net Art, London: Routledge, 99-125.
Ippolito, Jon. 2014. "Unreliable Archivists", in Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 155-84.
van de Vall, Renée. 2015. "Documenting Dilemmas: On the Relevance of Ethically Ambiguous Cases". Revista de historia da arte 4, 7-17.
On artistic research and research-based art

Steyerl 2010 talks about two kinds of artistic research, one tied to knowledge economy, another rooted in social struggles:

Actual artistic research looks like a set of art practices by predominantly metropolitan artists acting as ethnographers, sociologists, product or social designers. It gives the impression of being an asset of technologically and conceptually advanced First World capitalism, trying to upgrade its population to efficiently function in a knowledge economy, and as a by-product, casually surveying the rest of the world as well. But if we look at artistic research from the perspective of conflict or more precisely of social struggles, a map of practices emerges that spans most of the 20th century and also most of the globe.

Steyerl 2013:

"What used to materialize more or less exclusively as an object, or a product, which was an artwork before, now tends to appear as an activity, a performance, a process, a form of research, or a production of knowledge. The traditional work of art in its form as object has been largely supplemented by these occupational forms of the former work of art."

Bishop 2012:

"A project in the sense I am identifying as crucial to art after 1989 aspires to replace the work of art as a finite object with an open-ended, post-studio, research-based, social process, extending over time and mutable in form. Since the 1990s, the project has become an umbrella term for many types of art: collective practice, self- organised activist groups, transdisciplinary research, participatory and socially engaged art, and experimental curating." [Note: Further definitions of the ‘project’ (compared to the work of art), amassed during a workshop at Arte de Conducta, Havana (2007), include presentness, possibility, openness to change and contamination, a space of production, unlimited time and space, and a dialogue with the social to reach audiences beyond art.]
On Naked on Pluto

See Naked_on_Pluto/Documentation#References


Naked on Pluto, 2010-2013 – Marloes de Valk, Aymeric Mansoux, Dave Griffiths

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