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Documenting New Media Art: Breakout Groups
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Documenting New Media Art: Breakout Groups

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Speakers:>  Amy Goring & Aruna Devi Bhaugeerutty & Beryl Graham & Caitlin Jones & Clymene Christoforou & Dominic Smith & Gary Malkin & Iain Pate & Ilana Mitchell & Isla Leaver Yap & Jo Ana Morfin & Julia Bell & Keiko Koshihara & Magda Tyzlik-Carver & Marta Rupérez & Matthew Hearn & Michelle Kasprzak & Rachel Baker & Sarah Cook & Sarah Boutell & Shaina Anand & Simon Bradshaw & Sophia Yadong Hao

These were three breakout groups divided into: artists; independent curators; archivists - collectors - institutions

Group A (Artists) Notes from Breakout session. By Beryl Graham.

Participants: Shaina Anand, Aruna Devi Bhaugeerutty, Beryl Graham, Matthew Hearn, Michelle Kasprzak, Ilana Mitchell, Dominic Smith

Why Document?

For promotion, for awards, for money.

For best evidence: which means that the usual artist’s choice of choosing the most aesthetically pleasing shot is not always the best evidence.

For a fetishistic object (the document becomes the art object, like Goldsworthy).

So that more people can see the art. Including other artists – if you can’t afford to go to Documenta, then good documentation really helps.

Valorising (artists can self-valorise quite effectively with new media).

It’s particularly important for non-object art such as participative art. But, how much of the social context can be documented? Shaina Anand says that the location diagram for her works is important, but obviously that is not the full context.

Who is it for? What are the differences in perspective (institution / artist / freelancer)?

[This question was discussed as relating strongly to question 4]

With reference to the “Guerrilla Documentation” discussed by Caitlin:

This might be OK for artists like Cory Arcangel who have a wide view of ownership, but how about other artists who would be more worried by that? However, it’s simply not possible to stop Guerrilla Documentation even if an artist wanted to, so it should be embraced.

If the documentation is for other artists then this would be different to that for academics, but most archives are academic. Access to some archives is limited to academics e.g. at the Pompidou users are asked what book they are writing to use the archive for research.

Do artists want a “conversation-based” (Ilana Mitchell) documentation: Is there happy compromise somewhere between “preciousness” and mass uncontrolled documentation?

How Do I Do It? How would I do it differently?

It is highly labour intensive, as mentioned by Caitlin, and tends to get put off by artists in favour of production of new work. If the documentation was done collectively then this would relieve some of the burden – is there a ‘collective consciousness’, a network that individual artist can be part of?

Can documentation be creative in itself rather than boring? A less purist or ‘reverent’ approach?

When is there ‘too much’ documentation? Sometimes stuff just has to be thrown away.

The emerging theme here is one of levels of messiness and control – Katie Lipps at the FACT “Had To Be There” seminar said about an online participative project “It’s a mess, but it’s self-archiving”. Re tagging: sure there is “inappropriate tagging” but at least it gets tagged. Is there a balance between complete mess and totally retentive gatekeeping? There are levels of control from other areas that may be useful, like Creative Commons levels of control. Or social structures such as Wikis – this depends on how people behave: As Shaina Anand says, “There is always one angry person” who can disrupt social models.

Once I do it, what do I do with it?

This depends who it is for (see above).

Related to levels of messiness, there is not only the question of whether the documentation is available, but whether people can find it. This brings us back to tagging, and the problem that the ‘art’ tag is so broad as to be meaningless. We need better vocabularies.

A short list of the kind of art that presents a particular challenge for documentation was started:


Public Space


Social Context





Group B (Independent Curators) Notes from Breakout session. By Sarah Cook.

Participants: Rachel Baker, Julia Bell, Sarah Cook, Sophia Yadong Hao, Keiko Koshihara, Isla Leaver Yap, Iain Pate, Marta Rupérez, Magda Tyzlik-Carver

Why Document?

Retrospectively documenting / establishing a portfolio.

To have a pure copy of a degradable medium / to make a version that is easier to be recreated later.

To create value / to situate work historically / to make work saleable.

To make it visible for distribution / publicity.

To do further research / Because you are obliged to.

Questions / issues: the capturing process – both the creation/installation and finished product – who has rights to it afterwards?

Art and tech experiments – not aware what you are doing is worth documenting, or will ever be recreated, i.e. early Videopositive festivals or ‘friends goofing around’.

Who is it for? What are the differences in perspective (institution / artist / freelancer)?

From the perspective of the artist / presenter / institution – all are different. For instance, artists often don’t want documentation (in the case of live performance) which puts pressure on curators.

Is the archive/document for education only or restaging only?

What are the contracts for future use – publications for instance?

Side issue: institutions have become intolerant to artists’ equipment list demands / curators often source the tech when commissioning a work and tour the equipment with it / artists often have to tour equipment with their work too.

How Do I Do It? How would I do it differently?

With a gallery? For publication?

Historically exhibitions are documented via a publication or catalogue, making context available online is like a precursor to that.

Notation and physical hard archive, controlled, versus mobile, fluid, dispersed archived.

Get as much contextual information as possible, collect the impact of the work.

Side issue: How do you capture audience experience and interaction? Is audience reaction documented in re-performance? How? Video the interaction and play back and ask the interactor to describe what they were doing.

Once I do it, what do I do with it?

Distribute it to generate interest / marketing / self-promotion.

Database versus archive in terms of production versus collection of works.


Group C (Archivists - Collectors – Institutions) Notes from Breakout session. By Jo Ana Morfin.

Participants: Sarah Bouttell, Simon Bradshaw, Clymene Christoforou, Amy Goring, Sophia Hao, Gary Malkin, Jo Ana Morfin

We all agree that documenting and collecting information is an institutional responsibility. Each institution has its own way to document and to get information; the discussion was focused on how we can get information, how we should understand it, and finally, how we make it accessible.

The first question was “Why document?” In the case of collecting institutions the documentation processes are focused in obtaining all the information with regard to technical, aesthetic and artistic factors, historicity, functionality, and acquisition policies.

However, in those non-collecting institutions, the aim of documentation is to make an accurate audio-visual registration of the events and exhibitions they presented. The function of the documentation consists in giving a complete remembrance of the project shown. In this regard, the gaining of various and diverse strategies to bring together “collective memories”, is the main concern.

Nevertheless, inside the institution there is neither a specific person in charge of the documentation, nor an “agreed model” for how the information should be collected, interpreted and presented, or even how to make it accessible. It was evident that the problems arising in the documentation of ephemeral or time-based art practices are very complex.

It was evident that further attempts should be made in order to design a common strategy to document and make accessible the information regarding the registration of ephemeral art works. Nowadays, each institution has developed its own “documentation strategy”, which depends on the time, employees and budget.

The most important issue with regard to the documentation is how to document the “audience experience”. It is necessary to collect information not just about the artists or their work, it is also important to collect “oral histories” about how the work was received or understood.

We agreed that the “digital archive” is one of the most effective tools for making the documentation available to a wide audience. But how to make multimedia content more accessible to a wide audience, how do we present that information?

We want to preserve and make available as much content as possible, but which information do we have to include, and how far does the documentation go?

Even we couldn't make any statement we all agreed on the importance of documenting. We believed that the models for collecting information will depend on the institution. A further discussion about the experience and how to document “collective” memory should be done.

Some other ideas:

It is necessary to negotiate a model of documentation.

Define a proposal for the documentation (memory/educational tool/register) in order to make better, more accurate methodologies and strategies.

Most of the models presented by Jones are based on conservation strategies, but when the institution has no collecting aim, the models seem to be too technical.

Who is responsible for the budget for documenting? Even though there are some examples of online archives, most of them have some problems in dealing with information regarding the documentation processes. If we change the original context of the object, action or installation by putting them in “online” and digital environments, how does this affect a correct interpretation? How much information (or metadata) should we add in order to better understand the original context of the art work?

In the same regard, it must be noted that many of the art works are interactive or at least require audience contact in order to behave, so which criteria should be followed for documenting these works?





  Sarah Cook
  Beryl Graham
  Michelle Kasprzak
  Dominic Smith
  Caitlin Jones
  Shaina Anand
  Rachel Baker
  Simon Bradshaw
  Gary Malkin
  Iain Pate
  Aruna Devi Bhaugeerutty
  Matthew Hearn
  Ilana Mitchell
  Julia Bell
  Sophia Yadong Hao
  Keiko Koshihara
  Isla Leaver Yap
  Marta Rupérez
  Magda Tyzlik-Carver
  Jo Ana Morfin
  Sarah Boutell
  Clymene Christoforou
  Amy Goring