From Context to Content: On the Preservation of Net-based Art

Domenico Quaranta: From Context to Content

“From Context to Content: On the Preservation of Net-based Art” is a text commissioned for and published in Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface, edited by Antonio Sgamellotti, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti, Costanza Miliani and published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2020. Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface consists of a series of chapters written together by scientists, art historians, conservators, curators and artists dedicated to conservation, execution techniques, languages and conceptual topics. The book largely covers execution techniques, material’s conservation and languages of artists, representative of twelve different countries, all protagonists of the development of innovative significant techniques and methodologies.

Science and Art. The contemporary painted surface

Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface is available on Amazon and other bookstores. Alternatively, you can buy single chapters of the book here. Below you can find an abstract of my contribution, that can be bought in full following this link.

Since the advent of the practice in the mid Nineties of the Twentieth Century, net-based art has proved to be a challenge for art conservators. The first, obvious problem is related to the disappearance of artworks from the public platform of the Internet. The second, obvious set of problems – which net-based art shares with any other form of media art – is related to the technological obsolescence of hardwares and softwares. Although these topics are raised and briefly discussed here, most of the following essay is focused on a third, not so obvious, set of problems: the ones related to the fast, unpredictable, unavoidable evolution of the context in which net-based art is created and delivered, namely the Internet as a technological, but also a social, infrastructure. A complex, ever-evolving system of computers, protocols and cables, accessible from an increasing number of devices and interfaces, by an increasing number of people belonging to different cultures and communities and governed by a complex, constantly updated set of regulations, habits, conventions and interests. How can art manifest in such a context? How can it be preserved for future audiences, beyond documentation and beyond the obvious conservation of its “material”, digital manifestation? “From Context to Content: On the Preservation of Net-based Art” is an attempt to address these questions.