For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
Start up a computer that you haven't used in a while and there's a good chance you'll have to run an endless series of updates before you get it working. What about digital art? How do you ensure that that the art still ‘works’ years later? And does a digital work of art still look as originally intended after a software update? Claudia Röck investigated how software-based art can best be preserved. On 2 July, she will defend her PhD on the subject at the University of Amsterdam.

Conserving modern, software-based art is full of challenges. Imagine what could happen when a digital work of art is exhibited again after many years and the software previously used to display it is no longer viable (or no one knows how to use it).

Software as clay

‘During my research, I created a theoretical framework through which I look at problems surrounding the long-term preservation of digital, software-based art,’ says Röck. 'I found that the digital materiality of a work of art is an important factor for the choice of preservation strategy. Software characterises the work of art like clay does for a sculpture: through its limitations and peculiarities, software influences the behaviour of the work of art.'

Optimal preservation of software-based art?

In her dissertation, Röck states that the process involved in purchasing a software-based work of art is crucial for its long-term preservation: at the time a new piece is bought, the art still works and the artist still knows how it was made. If a museum or organisation does not also purchase the hardware and work documentation at that time, they run the risk of encountering problems in the future.

Preservation infrastructure

Röck: 'It would also be a good idea to purchase the source code of the artwork. As a museum or other organisation, you then have the option to transfer the software to a different type of hardware. This provides a certain flexibility.'

A digital preservation infrastructure should be a prerequisite. 'This is self-evident in paintings or sculpture. But museums do not yet have this for software-based art. Although parts of the infrastructure, such as a digital archive (the equivalent of a museum depot), can be outsourced, this also requires basic knowledge of digital preservation processes.'

PhD Details

Claudia Röck, 2024, 'Sustaining Software-Based Art: Conservation Strategies and Institutional Requirements'. Supervisor is Prof. J.J. Noordegraaf. The co-supervisor is Dr K. Rechert.

Time and location

Tuesday 2 July, 13.00-14.30, Agnietenkapel in Amsterdam