Art & the Ephemeral

Hello! I’m Sarah Mackowski; I’m a part-time student, working on the Curation of Digital Assets track in the MLS program. I work full-time at a research library in DC, where I assist with both acquisitions and inter-library loan. When I’m not doing that, I’m often doing work in the theatre — my undergraduate degrees were in art history and theatre technology, and for the first six or so years after graduating, I made my way primarily in the theatre industry, with library work as a part-time job. I have some stage management experience, but the work I enjoy the most has always been lighting work.

I was very excited to take this course because, as Brittany said, it’s the only arts-specific course, and I’d really like to find a way to bring my theatre work and my library/archives work together. Of all the parts of theatre, lighting is one of the ones most closely tied with digital (also sound, projections, and automation), and one of the least studied in archival terms, as far as I have been able to determine. It’s very subjective, and relies heavily on proprietary technology that is not metadata-export-friendly, but does occasionally have some lovely emulators. And, of course, aside from the archiving questions, there are the restaging questions — restaging in a completely different theatre, with different equipment (possibly, if enough time has passed, different brands of different quality and different interfaces).

I was glad to see several references throughout Rinehart and Ippolito’s book to theatre, and the similarity of the issues involved, even if they painted theatre with a slightly wider brush. Much of what they were saying was extremely familiar to me, even with non-theatre examples. I was delighted when at one point my brain went straight to Dan Flavin, and not two pages later, there was a section focused on his work. I found it particularly ironic (and I’m sure the writers did too) that Flavin’s luminous colors were reprinted in a dark greyscale. There is really nothing like seeing a Flavin in person.

I was surprised, however, that for all their talk of copyright, they never directly addressed the concept of remixing as tranformative works, a case that is a specifically allowed exception to copyright law, and most definitely covers works such as The Grey Album. I volunteer with the Organization for Transformative Works, who puts out the journal Transformative Works and Cultures that we will be reading from later in the semester. I was very surprised to see the transformative aspect of remixing and sampling not addressed directly.

I can’t wait to really dig into this course. Everything about it seems to be right up my alley, and I’ve already been able to connect with a lot of what’s going on in it a lot better than some of the more theoretical courses I’ve been taking.

2 Replies to “Art & the Ephemeral”

  1. Hi Sarah! Welcome to the course.

    I think your instincts are right regarding the lack of work exploring digital preservation/conservation of the range of born digital materials involved in stage productions. I think the only things I’ve really seen touch on this issue is this interview from a few years back. http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2012/02/insights-interview-with-beverly-emmons-lighting-design-preservation-innovator/

    I completely agree with your points on the issues around transformative/fair use and the book. Given the range of topics and issues that Rinehart and Ippolito discuss, they really only end up being able to scratch the surface of some of complex issues like copyright.

  2. I think I’d missed that interview, but I’ve seen the lighting design archive itself. It’s really great, and I wish it had moved beyond proof-of-concept, but I’m pretty sure intellectual property issues are the reason that it hasn’t gone further. I’ve worked with one of the designers on the advisory committee, and I keep meaning to ask him for more details on the project. I’d love to work on it in some capacity for my field study, if spending extended time in New York wouldn’t be an issue for me.

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