Review of “Media Art Histories—Imagery and the Humanities in the 21st Century”

How will our generation preserve digital art? Is it possible to preserve installation art, and what is the best way to preserve it? Oliver Grau, author and professor, asked and answered many of these questions in his lecture, “Media Art Histories—Imagery and the Humanities in the 21st Century” on October 12, 2011 at Georgia Tech.

Grau began with a basic history of visual art medias portrayed in the arts. The lecture flowed into a presentation of artworks that challenge human perception. Many of these works also present a challenge in terms of preservation. For example, how can we preserve panoramas, shadow play, or phantasmagorias?

The solution attempting to solve this preservation problem involves a large database called, “The Database of Virtual Art” ( This database is a slowly growing system containing images of digital and installation art. While databases similar but preceding this one have failed, The Database of Virtual Art is still thriving.

But can photography capture the aura of installation art? Should all installation art be preserved? Are other options, such as a 360 view or a 3D tour viable options for the preservation of installation art? Should instructions for re-creation of installation art be included in the preservation?

All of these questions remain to be answered, but are limited by lack of funding. Should the government, for example, the Library of Congress, involve itself in this process?  Many of these dilemmas remain unsolved as of yet for the next generation of artists and art lovers to answer.

The lecture, “Media Art Histories—Imagery and the Humanities in the 21st Century” was hosted by ART PAPERS LIVE!: The Premier Contemporary Art Lecture Series.


2 thoughts on “Review of “Media Art Histories—Imagery and the Humanities in the 21st Century”

  1. I was intrigued by this lecture and the topic (and the building in which the lecture took place!). Also, surprised at the idea of the lost decade of digital work–work that was created during the formation of a more stable means of digital production that can no longer be supported — or viewed — because of technological “advancement”. I think about my jazz and zip cartridges with my work from late 1980 and 1990s that can only be read from jazz and zip drives. I was disturbed by the idea of not having a body of work to refer to–and how the loss of that robs the culture of a way to reflect on itself.

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