ISEA2010: Archiving Experience

This paper looked at the implications of the third version of the Variable Media Questionnaire, an online database designed to help understand how an artwork may be best preserved when its initial form decays or expires. VMQ 3.0 introduced a shift from the previous two versions by viewing the fundamental unit of an artwork as not the artwork itself, but the pieces that go into its construction. In an attempt to capture as many impressions of the work as possible, questions about those components are posed to not just the artist whose name is on the wall next to the piece but also the curators, conservators, assistants, and even viewers who have experienced the work. But the modern reality of art is that it is not enough to treat an artwork as just a collection of physical parts, and so the VMQ also recognizes environments, user interactions, motivating ideas, and external references as aspects to be surveyed and considered when preserving or recreating the piece. Expanding the scope of the data collected by the questionnaire changes the focus of preservation from an artwork's materials to its experiential characteristics, potentially exposing perspectives on the works it describes that had not been previously considered and pushing the VMQ into a new role as an epistemological prism through which art can be viewed.

Notes from the presentation, part of the "Still Accessible? Rethinking the Preservation of Media Art" panel, have been archived on Thoughtmesh. Proceedings are available on the ISEA2010 site.