Reimagining and preserving early digital arts festivals
University of Salford
Dr Toni Sant
Dr Mark Hall
The rapid development and adoptions of new digital technologies in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a paradigm shift in art and saw the emergence of technology-based, born-digital art that was created, stored and distributed via digital technologies. At the time, this work was often marginalized and not exhibited in institutions, which traditionally had a focus on object-orientated work.
Festivals became key platforms for exhibiting digital art; curating and commissioning works that took risks, asked difficult questions and created experimental, ambitious and often publicly sited experiences that aimed to disrupt and debate technological impact and expectations.
Due to their ephemeral nature and rapid technological obsolescence, archiving these digital artworks is a problematic, challenging and evolving research area currently being investigated by academic institutions and museums across the world.
However, the history and context of exhibiting early digital artworks at festivals, the promotion and planning of these, and the contextual events that were positioned around them, are not readily archived, visible or accessible. Due to their transient nature, much of this history and the work exhibited is forgotten, lost or at risk.
This study questions how established historical digital art narratives can be augmented through rediscovering these early festivals, mapping their networks and developing strategies to preserve their forgotten collections of ephemera, aiming to give insight into the cultural significance of this heritage.