Transformatie Digitale Kunst: Peter Struycken

The central questions for the future presentation and conservation of any work coming into a museum collection are “What are we acquiring?” and “What do we need to preserve?”. With digital artworks, the answers to these questions prove to be complicated. The project 'Transformatie Digitale Kunst' is concerned with sustainable preservation of born-digital art. 

Rapid advances in technology make it unrealistic to expect that each individual artist, academy, museum or heritage institution constantly develop sustainability plans for every new medium. LIMA is among the global pioneers that is committed to advice, preservation and storage of digital art. With a growing international network, LIMA initiates and participates in collaborative research programs that address the issues surrounding born-digital art preservation. Previous and current international projects such as: Digital Art Conservation (ZKM), DOCAM (Daniel Langlois Foundation), Obsolete Equipment (PACKED en NIMk), The Variable Media Network (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) and the ongoing project Pericles (Tate). 

LIMA's collaborative efforts in the international field are translated back in the national research agenda. In 2014 the project Transformatie Digitale Kunst was conceived to address the issues of digital art conservation in Dutch institutions. A collaboration between LIMA, Gemeente Museum Den-Haag, and Kröller Müller Museum, has been established in which each institution selected a work from their collection by the Dutch digital pioneer Peter Struycken. The project is coordinated by the SBMK (Stichting Behoud Moderne Kunst); a central hub in establishing and promoting collaborations between different cultural institutions and universities in the Netherlands. By combining knowledge, expertise and experience, different museums and institutions can work together in dealing with born-digital art, and prepare themselves for future acquisition. 

All three case-studies are software-based artworks facing obsolescence. The reason to choose Peter Struycken for this project as a case-study artist is twofold. One, Peter Struycken is one of the best known living Dutch artist today and many museums hold his work in their collections. This broadly shared base makes that many institutions can benefit from this research. Two, Peter Struycken was a pioneering artist working with the computer as an artistic medium as early as the 1970’s, the problems that are faced today in preserving his work provide valuable insights in what could be expected for other software-based artworks in the future. Overall, the case-studies help to refine a generic workflow for the preservation of software based artworks. 

In several expert-meetings, various people in the field of art and conservation combine their efforts in analyzing the works by Struycken and discussing preservation strategies.

The case-studies are as follows:

  1.     SHFT-34 (1982-2007)     Kröller Müller Museum
  2.     BLOCKS (1998)              Gemeente Museum Den Haag
  3.     DISP (1976-1977)           LIMA

Each work presents its own challenge in terms of preservation. Generally, the research is concerned with the following questions:

  • Can we develop parameters for the migration of digital artworks to continuously developing technologies?
  • How can these parameters be managed?
  • To what extent is it permitted to alter digital artworks for future presentation?
  • Who is responsible for monitoring the work in order to ensure availability of all technical services?
  • How can digital artworks be distributed and presented in a sustainable way so that public access is assured?
  • How do we raise public awareness of the problems concerning the preservation of digital art?

Download the detailed project documentation here, in English or in Dutch

The project is ongoing, updates will be posted here on the LIMA website. 

Peter Struycken (1939) is a Dutch artist, known for his colour-research and pioneering work in using the computer as an artistic medium as early as the 1970’s. His objective and rational approach to art led to an exploration of subjecting colour to mathematic principles. The computer was Struycken’s favoured medium because of the ability to calculate and arrange colours in space and time. He is interested in how colours relate to each other, how colour defines form and how it moves in space. A computer allowed him to create unlimited three-dimensional space in which waves of colours move dynamically according to fixed settings. The images that Struycken’s computer-programs generate have been remediated by the artist in numerous ways, such as in paintings, photographs, interior and exterior architectural public space, light installations, and textile.

Transformatie Digitale Kunst was funded by the participating institutions with generous support from The Mondriaan Fund and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.

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