Research Meeting 1: “Archives and Libraries”

19-22 October 2017

Participants (left to right):
top row: Cornelia Sollfrank & Felix Stalder (CC research project);
middle row: Annette Mächtel (UdK, Berlin), Annet Dekker (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Paul Keller (Kennisland, NL), Jan Gerber (0xdb.org), Rahel Puffert (Universtität Oldenburg), Marcell Mars (Memory of the World);
bottom row: Shusha Niederberger (CC research project), Olga Goriunova (University of London), Sebastian Lütgert(0xdb.org), Anna Calabrese (UdK, Berlin), Dusan Barok (Monoskop.org), Tomislav Medak (Memory of the World), Sean Dockray (aaaaarg.fail).

Venue: Hek (House of electronic Arts, Basel)

Report

The research meeting opened with a public talk by Olga Goriunova (Reader in Digital Culture,  University of London). She started by revisiting her concept of “organizational aesthetics”, that is, the relationship between the construction of the online platform (or any other production/exhibition space) and the kinds of processes and art works that are produced and made public through it. She then extended this perspective to the relationship between the commons and art practices, in particular the changing social roles and subject positions (beyond the classic triple of artists, curator and audience) that the commons creates. She focused on the audience which is transformed even when not actively participating, introducing the notion of the “lurker”, a figure from online culture, denoting people who are subscribed to a forum or a mailing list, but only read and never actively post something, even though the technical set-up would not only allow but invite to do so. Rather than seeing this a negative, passive aspect Goriunova focused on the active role of producing a context in which posting and debating comes meaningful to begin with. The horizon of the commons, then, is not the naïve vision that everybody becomes a producer, but an expanded notion of what production is in the networked context and of keeping the hurdles low to move between different subject position within a continuum.

The two-day workshop, a mix of discussion in the plenary and focused working groups, started with a review of the artistic projects. They were all concerned with how to deal with large numbers of cultural works in the context of three interrelated crises: commercialization, copyright and cultural production. Commercialization, so the widely shared view, has been leading to a flattening of the cultural landscape by over-promoting a small types of works and undervaluing the large majority of culture, to the point of removing it from circulation. Copyright, with its peculiar notions of authorship and ownership, and the burdensome process of “clearing” rights for reuse, makes it exceedingly difficult to experiment with new ways of using digital information, particularly for established cultural institutions. Hence the need for artist not only to think about it, but to develop actively new forms. This was also motivated by what was seen as  crisis of cultural production, which created a need to develop new ways of interacting with very large numbers of material (rather than a small number of canonical/auratic works) which many of these projects had worked with and, second, with the need to develop new narratives that express and make visible cultural relationship across and beyond the disciplinary and geographic categories that dominated cultural discourse after WII.

All projects tried to address these three interrelated crises in different ways, while common themes emerged during the meeting. Against the concept of ownership with its associated ideas of exclusivity and control, notions of care and custodianship were proposed developed, both theoretically and practically.

The need to navigate a broken copyright regime has been a pressing issue for many years for most of the projects; the approaches ranged from intensive, long-term lobbying at the European level on behalf of memory institutions, to dealing cooperatively with open-minded rights holders (mainly small press publishers) who increasingly understand the value of the open access archives to produces a cultural context in which their works find an audience, to approaches to more or less simply ignoring copyright. There was an understanding that copyright limits urgently needed experimentation to find the right form for archives and institutions in the digital context, where the differences between the catalogue and the work, between meta data and data increasingly blurs.

A second major theme was the transformation of what started often as individual (art) projects into infrastructures that many people ome to depend – some projects have more than 150’000 registered users. Different approaches were discussed, ranging from technical solutions (such distributed files systems (DAT)), to inter-generational (handing over the project to a new generation) and institutional approaches (decentralization and multiplication of archives).

The third major theme focused on the relationship between institutional forms, community and changing subjectivities. These projects show that archives and libraries in the digital context, when allowed to move beyond their historical institutional form, look very different. Production and preservation become mutually constitutive and the notion of care extends from the archivist/librarian to the user, which brings them into a new relationship (commoners) centring round the concern for a resource (commons) and a range practices (commoning) aimed at sustaining care. Not all participants were equally at ease with framing their activities as commoning, pointing towards a tendency in the commons discourse of glossing over differences and idealizing consensus harmony.

This third cluster of concerns in particular laid important groundwork for the next two research meetings.

Interviews conducted with participants

Producing Organizational Aesthetics, with Olga Goriunova

The Practice of Sharing Knowledge, with Sean Dockray

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, with Dušan Barok

Expanding Cinema, with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber

Caring for the Public Library, with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak

Michel Murtaugh and Active Archives

“An Active Archive is not a black box with a Download button, it is information reconfigured.“

Active Archives is an initiative founded by Constant (Brussels), in collaboration with Arteleku in 2006. It currently holds ongoing collaborations with Constant and e.r.g (Ecole de Recherche Graphique Brussels).

Active Archives are concerned with decentralizing the archive, with the importance of ownership of the infrastructure, the nessecity to include other media than text, promoting re-use of content, and rethinking taxonomies and classifcation of content.

Michael Murtaugh is a technologist based in Brussel. He is a member of Constant, association for arts and media, and a lecturer at Piet Zwart Institute, Institute for Experimental Publishing at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.

Self-description:

Active Archive aims at creating a free software platform to connect practices of library, media library, publications on paper was magazines, books, catalogues), productions of audio-visual objects, events, workshops, discursive productions, etc. Practices which can take place on line or in various geographical places, and which can be at various stages of visibility for reasons of rights of access or for reasons of research and privacy conditions.

The Active Archives project starts from the observation that most of the interesting cultural archives that have been developed over the last few years have taken advantage of those new facilities for instant publishing, but mostly in the form of websites that mirror regular information brochures, announcements and text- publishing. Often, they are conceived as “We” give information to “You”. Within Active Archives, we aim to set up multi-directional communication channels, and are interested in making information circulate back and forth. We would like to give material away and receive it transformed: enriched by different connections, contexts and contradictions.

Sources:

http://activearchives.org

“Archiving the Data-body: human and nonhuman agency in the documents of Kurenniemi”, with Teoff Cox, and Nicolas Malevé, in Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History, edited by Joasia Krysa and Jussi Parikka, MIT Press, 2015
Draft online: http://activearchives.org/wiki/Archiving_the_Data- body:_human_and_nonhuman_agency_in_the_documents_of_Kurenniemi

Webseite of Michael Murtaugh: http://automatist.org/

Interview

Ecosystems of Writing. Interview with Michael Murtaugh
Conducted by Shusha Niederberger, 15 September 2018

Unlearning Copyright in Artistic Practice

Lecture by Shusha Niederberger at Zurich University of the Arts, MFA Symposium „HOW TO: Copy Paste and Rights“, 20.11.2019

Copyright addresses the artwork as property, but as works of art it belongs as well to the cultural sphere, which has since the Renaissance become to be seen as a public good. And indeed, the role of copyright has been for a long time to balance these two interests. The digital has challenged a basic assumption about the nature of goods: digital goods are not scarce anymore, because they can be copied without difference to the original. This has changed a lot for both the cultural sphere, where cultural goods circulate with a speed and reach unknown before, but also for copyright, which is turning to hard- and software in consumer electronics to keep the digital goods controllable, all the while new powerful cultural industries of networked services are reorganizing the ways we access and consume digital cultural goods.

How do artists deal with these dynamics? In my talk, I will discuss digital and digitally informed artistic practises dealing with this two-sided nature of cultural production and distribution, and explore the aesthetic consequences of these strategies.

Caring for the Public Library, Interview with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak

Marcell Mars (researcher and programmer) & Tomislav Medak (philosopher) work together on the project Memory of the World. They use the concept of the public library as a narrative device to address questions of general access to knowledge and how this has shifted in the digital age. As everyone has the tools to build their own library, they advocate for a new form of a public library, which consists of interconnected private libraries.

This mobilization of individual actors would help to generate a necessary discourse on the limiting aspects of intellectual property. Apart from their work on creating technical infrastructure for their project, they organize digitization campaigns for endangered knowledges, develop tools for sharing books and discursive formats such as exhibitions and texts.

Interview conducted by Felix Stalder, October 22 2017, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, Interview with Dušan Barok

Dušan Barok is a researcher, artist and cultural activist based in Amsterdam. His practice involves networked media, participatory events, and experimental publishing, and he runs and edits Monoskop. Monoskop is a media wiki that evolved from linking and contextualizing information on Eastern European experimental and media arts to host rele­­­vant files, such as books, texts, documents, and media files, and thus became a publishing initiative in its own right.

Due to its constant growth, Monoskop has transformed from a special interest archive to become a significant cultural resource. Today the wiki comprises of 6,744 entries and 13,616 documents, and the related WordPress log introduces new publications on a regular basis. Increasingly, Monoskop also triggers off­line events, frequently with cultural institutions that have come to appreciate the unique resources of this autonomous archive.

Interview conducted by Felix Stalder, October 22, 2017, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

The Practice of Sharing Knowledge, Interview with Sean Dockray

Sean Dockray is an artist and initiator of the knowledge-sharing platforms The Public School and aaaaarg.

aaaaarg is an online library and open-source platform for freely sharing books and texts. It has its origin in collaborative working groups where resources were gathered in ‘online bookshelves.’ The project eventually evolved as part of the self-organized educational project known as The Public School where it served as a repository for shared study materials. From there it grew to become a major online resource for publications in the field of philosophy, art and political theory with tens of thousands of users, containing material in many different languages. The underlying infrastructure, as well as the contents, are the result of a collaborative effort to which various programmers and the users and editors of the site regularly contribute.

Interview conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, October 19, 2017, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

Publishing as Commons Practice, Interview with Alessandro Ludovico

Alessandro Ludovico is the co-founder of neural, a printed magazine established in 1993 dealing with new media art, electronic music, and hacktivism.

This interview focusses on two things. First, Alessandro reflects on his experience of how print publications changed over the last 25 years and their potential in a fully digital universe. They are now less about providing access, but more about providing a filter and stability against the very dynamic overflow of information. The second major theme of the interview is the “temporary library”, a collaborative practice to create short-term specialized libraries in the context of cultural events (festivals, exhibitions, etc.). After the event, they are donated to established libraries, thus contributing to making underrepresented aspects of (digital) culture available in the long-term.

Interview with Alessandro Ludovico, conducted by Felix Stalder, 16 September 2018, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.

Ubu

General Description

Ubu is a web repository for avant-garde art, founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in 1996. It is making available cultural resources, which are out of print, or “absurdly priced or insanely hard to procure“. It is „a distribution center for hard-to-find, out-of-print and obscure materials, transferred digitally to the web.“

Ubu has been starting from a repository of visual and concrete poetry, later sound poetry, growing in diverse directions, and it is constantly evolving.
Its understanding of what counts as avant-garde art and therefore can be included in Ubu is very open and apparently based on a broad interest and on opportunities.

It is difficult, and maybe inappropriate, to find a precise terminology of the nature of Ubu. It has aspects of a collection (its curated nature), but also hosts complete archives (Aspen Multimedia Magazine (1965-1971), provides space for projects (365 days project with obscure findings in aural recordings), and sections to other otherwise overlooked aspects (electronic music resources, featuring documents about methods and techniques of electronic and experimental sound – not aesthetics).

It also features curated sections by scholars and researchers in the field (ubu /editions), and offers anthological perspectives.

The content is not presented in a consistent taxonomy model, and cross-section links are offered or not.

In its diversity, it is like a negative space of traditional institution’s work. What is gone missing by public and private archives and libraries (whatever the cause) – can be found here.

See also:
The Poetry of Archiving, Interview with Kenneth Goldsmith
Nothing New Needs to be Created – Kenneth Goldsmith’s Claim to Uncreativity.

ubu.com

monoskop

Monoskop is a wiki for collaborative studies of the arts, media and humanities.

General Description

Monoskop is a wiki, blog and a repository aggregating, documenting and mapping works, artists and intiatives related to the avant-gardes, media arts and theory and activism. Initially it focused on Eastern and Central Europe.

Built on a Wiki that everyone can contribute to and scrupulously curated by its spiritus movens Dušan Barok, it provides both an exhaustive, indexical overview of those fields and provides digital access to rare historic finds.

In parallel to the wiki, Monoskop maintains a blog repository featuring daily releases of books, journals or other printed archival material, some freshly digitized by Monoskop and some contributed by the users, authors and publishers.

Sources:
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/monoskop/
https://monoskop.org

Interview

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, Interview with Dušan Barok
Conducted by Felix Stalder, 22 October 2017

memory of the world

General description:

Memory of the World is a network of interconnected shadow libraries, each maintained locally and independently from the others. They are integrated through a custom-made extension (named “let’s share books“) for “Calibre” an open source software for managing e-books. Calibre has a large and stable user base.

It’s intended to work both a practical resource, but also use the model of the public library was a way to frame a discussion about a post-IP cultural order.

Self-description/ objective:

The public library is:
– free access to books for every member of society
– library catalog
– librarian

With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a librarian. When everyone is librarian, library is everywhere.

memoryoftheworld.org/

Interview

Caring for the Public Library, Interview with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak
Conducted by Felix Stalder, 22 October 2017

0xdb

0xDB is an experimental – and to some degree imaginary – movie database. It is intended to help us rethink the future of cinema on the Internet, just as it tries to push the boundaries of what we understand as “web applications”. What 0xDB proposes is an entirely new approach to visualizing and navigating moving images, and we hope that it can serve as a point of reference for individuals and institutions who are dealing with large collections of films.

0xDB uses a variety of publicly accessible resources, like search engines and peer-to-peer networks, to automatically collect information about, and actual images and sound from, a steadily growing number of movies. At its core, it provides full text search within subtitled films and instant video previews of search results, while “timelines” – visual fingerprints of moving images – allow for spatial orientation and travel.”

https://0xdb.org

Interview

Expanding Cinema, Interview with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber
Conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, 22 October 2017

AAARG

General description:

Content management platform specialized in texts/books in the fields of architecture, art, philosophy, media theory; project-based sharing of reading material; part of the informal education project The Public School.

Self-description/ objective:

AAAARG is a conversation platform – at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal.

AAAARG was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new architectures between them.

aaaaarg.fail

Interview

The Practice of Sharing Knowledge, Interview with Sean Dockray
Conducted by Cornelia Sollfrank, 19 October 2017