New Criticals

The dynamic relationships between elements of the artwork assemblage, which may involve software applications connecting to dynamic external databases or user interactions which evolve over time, for instance, presuppose a multiplicity of possible representations. The interface design of the archive of internet artworks should therefore be able to reflect this multiplicity. What is more, the interface should be able to make visible the decisions behind certain archival representations, in order to inform potential user interpretations.

Aside from organising archival records and facilitating access to them, one of the core goals of digital archives, as defined in the Encyclopedia of Archival Science (2015) is the long-term preservation of digital records. In the case of internet art, the preservation of the artwork-assemblages, whose constituent parts are subject to the rapid cycles of technological change and obsolescence, can be particularly challenging. There are a number of organisations and institutions who have recognised this inherent vulnerability of digital cultural artifacts and have developed various strategies towards safeguarding digital cultural memory. One of the longest standing and still operational organisations is Rhizome, founded in 1996 as an online arts organisation and community-building platform. In 1999, Rhizome established the ArtBase – an online space to present and archive internet art, as well as to build a community and a discourse around the works. Since then, the ArtBase has changed its structure and interface design numerous times, while Rhizome worked towards developing various strategies for supporting public access to digital cultural memory. More recently, the organisation has focused on a few specific projects, which have the potential to redefine three core concepts for understanding the digital archive – performativity, provenance, and presentation.