MG: Seminar Digitizing Ideas

Moderna galerija / Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, Cankarjeva 15

Speakers: Florian Cramer, Laurence Rassel, Gerald Raunig, Aleksandra Sekulić, Richard Stallman
Moderation: Branka Ćurčić


Museums have not escaped the digitalization hype and the subsequent changes in the work and communication processes. They faced these changes differently: some by willingly embracing the new possibilities and taking advantage of the new developments; some by mistrusting the process, favouring the traditional physical object over the digital image; and some by considering digitalization a threat to their established practices, seeing it as a sign that the entertainment and consumption culture has finally breached the last fortresses of knowledge and contemplation.

Despite their initial scepticism, most art institutions today see digital media as a tool for discovering and developing new approaches in the mediation of art as well as for preserving time-sensitive objects and contextual documents of immaterial works. But as important as this use of digital technology is for an institution, its potential is far greater in scope. Digital technology has caused great social changes which need to be analysed, defined or redefined, taking into account the inseparable concepts of culture, politics, and economy. Vilem Flusser?s hypothesis about the dissolving of linear, historical thinking and the rise of analytical, structural, the 'dot-interval' thinking describes what is in essence occurring in the on-going digitalisation processes in art institutions and also more generally. The results of the digitalisation are computed/digital images. They are often considered primarily as reproductions of original works, but at the same time we should think of them as completely new digital entities, consisting of a digital code, translated into computed images, and therefore treated as entities in the same way as traditional objects. With such images new aesthetic forms are emerging, opening up possibilities for new interpretations, compositing and perception.

Digitalisation can mean the production of digital images, but also the presentation of material in digital media and making it available on the Web. This opens a new range of possibilities and obstacles. As McLuhan stated, every medium for communicating knowledge also shapes and limits the knowledge it communicates. Although there is still a lack of theoretical and critical consideration of the responsibility of institutions and a lack of vision of the role of art institutions in all these changes, museums are rediscovering the digital field with new questions and suggestions. Theoretical concepts are now being broadened to include digital presentations of the museum material. The notion of archive is also under scrutiny and being redefined with regard to digital collections and the creation of personal, subjective archives. The fear of institutions and artists that they might lose exclusivity with online accessibility of their collections and work is now dissipating. It is, however, being replaced by the question of commercialization. The topics that deserve our attention are also the free accessibility of material, the implementation of software and the development of mediation tools.

Looking at society at large and the changes the digital media are bringing into our lives, we can observe two main directions of this development. One tends toward greater unification of data and consequently greater control, and the other towards chaos. In his text ?From Virtual Reality to the Visualisation of Reality? Slavoj Žižek defines two social reactions to the computer: first, the Orwellian reaction, where the computer represents an incarnation of the Big Brother, and second, the ?anarchistic? perspective, seeing the computer as a possibility for a new self-managing society, ?a cooperative of knowledge?. It seems that these two reactions are both justified. On the one hand, we are facing more and more control and possibilities for surveillance, also with the help of digital media. On the other hand, the Web appears as chaotic, full of viruses, mistakes, inconsistencies and bugs, yet also as a powerful source of knowledge, ideas and free information ?

The seminar Digitizing Ideas is organized in the frame of the project Digitizing Ideas: ARCHIVES OF CONCEPTUAL ART PRACTICES. The project is a collaboration between Moderna Galerija, Art (Ljubljana, Slovenia) the Museum of Contemporary Arts (Zagreb, Croatia), Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina (Novi Sad, Serbia) and Museum of Modern Art (Warsaw, Poland).

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