Reading response B

Comments on excerpts from Vacuuming and Digesting: Reliability


DM: How do you all think about preservation in that [the intersection of software and hardware] context?

ZR: I know this isn't necessarily the topic, but before reading anything, it makes me question the value of physical and digital objects. Where once physical objects / printed matter were king, and could be preserved in a physical space. Do physical objects still have value? Is there any point to making them? Especially knowing that it is so easy to simply "mock-up" projects. Does it matter if a project or idea does not exist?

So, if digital matter is subplanting physical matter, then preservation must be important, right? But, in some ways people value being able to iterate, update and version on a whim. To erase old, irrelevant, embarassing content and replace it with something "new and shiny." Is there value in being able to forget or erase the past? Or is there danger in trust / manipulation?

Thinking about how building working prototypes and constantly updating the prototypes, I can't help thinking of recording process. Is this lost? Is there a mentality of eternal prototypes? Does it change our attitude towards projects, ideas, objects?

DM: Inherently, there is a primary and a secondary, because you’re *objectifying* your own work, to some extent. It’s good to pull out some interesting themes from that idea. Documentation is never a neutral, crystal goblet.

AG: Institutions like the Internet Archive…

ZR: It seems odd that on the internet, where you can literally find a million variations and what ever topic or theme, that we would rely entirely on a single institution to preserve for us. It seems contrary to the whole idea of internet being a "distributed" system.

AG: More importantly, how does the documentation affect the work that you're interested in and making? We should talk about anxieties related to either your work being ephemeral or the possibility of losing the material. Or, is there greater anxiety that instead of being wiped away, all of it will be preserved? (I think this is especially relevant in this program. Particularly in regards to the thesis book's idea of reflecting and preserving the two years we're here, and having a legacy and putting that in the library.) Is there a greater concern of losing it all or preserving it in a library?

ZR: I'm not sure why, but these questions seems naïve for some reason… I can't put my finger on it… He is making a good point—something that should be on our minds. But, perhaps because it feels too limited. "Paricularly in regards to the thesis book…" feels really narrow-minded—or lacking in vision outside of Yale—and maybe places too much importance on this very exclusive and limited experience. I think it's a larger question for a career or for a practice. Or as a culture as a whole maybe?

AG: What is valuable?

ZR: This is clearly a deeply philosophical question. But on the surface it makes me think that we a generation of people who thinks that everything that "I" do is special, unique, noteworthy… in other words "instagrammable." I don't argue that preservation in this sense is not important, I'm just trying to temper my inclination to think that eveyrthing I do is gold. Because frankly we are in a generation where we all think we're special. Which is particularly interesting that Laurel brings up Warhol later in the conversation—the fact that he kind of pioneered the idea that as consumers we would all desire to be famous at some point. Why do we think our things should be preserved? Should they necessarily be public?

Fidelity of Documentation

SC: I have a question about the accessibility of these materials. We are talking about the digital,which is different than a library or some other physical system. So I’m wondering: how exactly can I access these archives?

ZR: For a library, for sciences, there are standardized systems of classification. Is there a system like this for preserving the internet beyond tagging? Does there even need to be?

AG: The documentation is an image, not the thing itself.
NA: I have all of my stuff online… Not public. No. [but] DVD's are not public either.
MW: Do you scan your own journals? Do you take whatever you have tangible and make a digital file?

ZR: Gives me a lot to chew on… Public vs. Private preservation. Physical vs. Digital Objects. Images of thing vs. the thing themselves. Thinking of Simulacram and Simulation. Would there ever be a way around the internet being composed only of images of things?

BW: Whenever I use my computer, I feel like I’m constantly archiving everything I’m doing. I’m taking screenshots all the time of whatever I’m working on. And I’m putting writing into my journal, but also some of that goes into and some of it goes into the notes on my computer.

ZR: I do the same. So many notebooks, screenshots, Dropbox Paper, Google Drive (sheets, docs, slides, etc),, countless Pinterest pages, several Tumblr, so many folders on my desktop, LaCie rugged drives, Instagram, Twitter, VSCO, plain txt files, html notes in Brackets, Mac OS Stickies, notes in PDF's, highlighted texts in Kindle and iBooks, not to mention water tight plastic bins jammed with old work and collected things.

Frankly, it's hard to manage. I also moved a lot growing up, so I no problem and would often rather throw things away than move them time and again. So it's actually a maybe a bigger problem for me with physical objects because extra space is cheaper than a storage unit.

It also makes me think about my wife's aunt who runs a ranch. Every year she they round up all the cattle for branding. She has a little notebook—a ledger for how many people help, how much food and drink they buy and how much they had left over every year. She refers similar notebooks to it year over year and has an extremely accurate record of everything the ranch. On the other hand I have like 6 different budget excel sheets and can barely keep up.

AM: What are the bounds of what people define as their work? Is it the finished project? Is it easier to describe when we’re making books or posters or something? But what if your work is more fragmented than that, something like your journal entries you’re considering part of your work?

ZR: This is something that I'm heavily interested. I find that process is a extremely important part of my practice. Provenance, threads and records of how I got from one point to another is integral to my work. It reveals how indecisive I tend to be, but I find value in document how sporadic and meandering my thoughts are. It's extremely useful to be able to refer back. For me, it leads to a deeper awareness of self and your work.

LS: It reminds me of Andy Warhol's time capsules. He would treat everything at a similar level, like stuff he picks up off the street, just throw it in a box and label it, then send it off into storage.
DM: Yeah, it’s like the modern condition: just throw it on the heap.
AG: Toss it back.
DM: And, like, get back to it sometime.
AG: Does archiving this way cycle back to how you’re making work?
SC: I don't know. I'm not that organized. I have like seven files called “final, final, final.”

ZR: Was Andy Warhol then "objectifying" an archive in a way then? I think this has a deep connection to the argument of physical and digital objects. I think of anyone photographers (who worked in the film days) know archival practices. Preservation was and is often contractually part of their job. Especially the delicate situation of having a single copy of the original [film] "files." So it doesn't seem that different than having drives upon drives for each year of a career.

And on Simone's point. I agree that it would be difficult to decipher anyone's folder structures. But, if you haven't looked at a hard drive in years, and you've made backups and copies, etc. The creator / organizer also would be totally lost. So it brings me back to wondering about standardized systems of cataloguing…