Digital Art Permanence?

Digital Art Permanence

There are two aspects to this. One is whether digital art is art and the other is how it will hold up physically over time.

Is Digital Art Art?

We have looked at a lot of digital art. As with any art form, there is a lot of bad digital art, although even that is in the eye of the beholder. But a lot of digital artists take preexisting images or photographs and then manipulate them. That works great for advertising but is it art. It seems more in line with a collage or perhaps a Dadaist piece. It can sometimes rise to a very good work of art but generally not.

Then there are the original creations and some of these can be quite exquisite. Also, because it is a different medium,it is possible to do things that can’t be done on canvas or in sculpture.

Will it Physically Hold Up?

Art in general has tended to degrade over time. Paintings fade with exposure to light, or the paint cracks. Sometimes the top varnish layer yellows and sometimes restorations are done poorly. Even sculpture has problems. Sometimes a piece gets chipped or broken off when moving or when a tourist wants a souvenir. And then there are the problems with war. Paintings and sculpture don’t do well with gunfire and bombs. And then there are the atrocities like the horrific Muslim sects in Syria, ISIS, and the Taliban in Afghanistan who have blown up centuries or millennia old sculptures and buildings. A crime against humanity. These items can never be replaced. It would be like someone white washing the Neanderthal cave paintings because they were blasphemous for some reason known only to these pig headed idiots.

But, what about digital art? It is going to have even more problems. It is much more ephemeral. You could say that once it is in the cloud it is there forever, like the revenge porn pictures that are so much of a problem. Also, Brewster Kahle’s Wayback Machine which takes snapshots of websites at different point in time will maintain a record of some pictures even if the website no longer exists. But often times, the pictures on websites are of lower quality so that they can load quickly and the high quality pictures / images reside only on a person’s or company’s computer. As with any type of file, an image, a text document, a spreadsheet, because of the rapid change in technology, many of these have been lost forever. They exist only on recording formats that can be read only by machines that no longer exist. Also, it has turned out that some of the recording formats that people thought would record things for decades or centuries are less stable than previously thought. In some ways it is like when the change came from making paper with cotton to making it with wood. The older cotton based paper is quite stable but libraries are racing to preserve the older wood based paper books because the acid in them is causing the paper to deteriorate. Given the huge growth of content in digital form, the problem of preservation of digital records is likely to dwarf the problems of the wood based paper which is taxing the limits of libraries abilities as it is.