Gone in 6 Seconds: “Transforming” Preservation Intent Statement

The preservation plan for Rob and Nick Carter’s “Transforming,” a series of 4 digital paintings created as an homage to centuries old artworks (detailed here) is, much like the works themselves, more complicated than at first glance.

While I had some concern about legal protections written into these works,  according to an email with Rob Carter, there is no digital rights management, mainly they rely on certificates of authenticity that go along with the 12 editions and 5 artist’s “proofs” (which can be given to museums for display to the public). The certificate also entitles the owner to another copy should anything happen to the original.

The cost of obtaining this certificate and the original work is huge with one “Transforming Still Life” selling for $105,000 and one “Transforming Nude Painting” selling for 100,000 pounds. Even though there are artists proofs, I believe that they are only for display in exhibition. To acquire all of these items and their constituent parts in a permanent collection would be prohibitively expensive for most institutions not even considering preservation or the inability to make these items widely accessible due to copyright.

Beyond the cost, Rob and Nick Carter, and whoever else may be involved, are fairly attentive to their pieces currently.  They have backups in three separate locations and also in a “data safe.” Additionally, they actively upgrade the technology and software to improve display quality and to keep them working into the future. The artists also recently had to upgrade their “Transforming Diptych” work so that it would run on a new OS.

With the works under fairly good control and somewhat unattainable, it seems less pressing and unrealistic to focus on preserving the works themselves (at least the video finished product and the application code). Additionally, there are shortened example versions of these videos available online which I plan to preserve and serve as representative stand-ins. What is more important then is to document the process of creating this new genre of art and the conversation and reaction to these pieces.

At the end of my statement of significance I said that:

“Therefore, documenting “Transforming” means documenting the cultural conversation around media consumption in the early 21st century.”

This was a summation of the Carter’s goal to create works that awarded viewers for engagement beyond the average 6 seconds an average museum patron looks at an artwork. To reach the goal of documenting this cultural conversation, I plan to preserve the various video interviews from art historian Kate Bryan commenting on the themes in the paintings. These videos provide a rich and invaluable context and a present day scholarly perspective on the works which will be valuable to art scholars in the future.

Additionally, there are several video interviews with the artists themselves about what inspired them to create these works. All of these will be essential in preserving the scholarly communication about these pieces and the originals that they were inspired by. I have contacted Rob and Nick once and they are too busy to do an extensive interview, so these will have to suffice.  The information is the key part about these videos, rather than their look and feel. Therefore, it is not that important to ensure their visual quality or that they remain in the same format.

Furthermore, I plan to preserve all of the videos from Motion Picture Company explaining their role in creating the artworks. Their videos provide insight into the technological processes and difficulties behind the scenes that will be valuable to scholars of new media, animation, and design in the future. Because the visual nature is more important in these videos, I will preserve and maintain these in the highest quality formats available.

I plan to reach out to some people that worked on the team to see if they will do more interviews on the challenges and their experiences creating these pieces. I will compile these together as a complete document (most likely as a PDF document) that scholars and future artists will be interested in the years to come. This will further the goal of documenting the creation of this new genre of art without dealing with any concerns of providing access to the original substituent digital objects.

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Most of the videos mentioned above are either embedded directly on a webpage or in video players like vimeo or youtube. Thus, I will download them either by using a simple “save as” or by using youtube-dl. In addition, I will use tools like mediainfo to extract technical metadata (most likely in PBCore 2.0)  to accompany these videos. Furthermore, I will use FFmpeg (and this handy ffmprovisor to decrease the learning curve) to generate MD5 hashes for future fixity checks and also transcode any videos that may be in an at risk format.

Much of the online press coverage of these works, whether video or web articles have not been saved in the Internet Archive. I will ensure that these pages are preserved as part of the record of reaction and scholarly communication mainly using the “save page now” functionality of the Wayback Machine. Additionally, I will save a copy of the html as it is delivered to my screen and create a collection that can be accessed in a central location.

Actual viewer reaction is much more difficult to ascertain, with only a few mentions in news articles or in generic postings from gallery attendees saying something similar to “this is cool” along with a picture on social media. In order to preserve the audience’s experience, I will go beyond the limited reactions and try to interview some of these people that posted on social media and see if they will expand further (hopefully they remember!). These interviews, as above, will most likely be saved as a compiled PDF document.

In the end, I plan on uploading all of these objects as a collection in the Internet Archive ensuring long term access.

4 Replies to “Gone in 6 Seconds: “Transforming” Preservation Intent Statement”

  1. Joe, this is all really well thought out. I’m wondering, do you have any special metadata field you’d like to add to ensure the capture of vital information or a particular schema you think would best fit your project?
    Recognizing that the Internet Archive has it’s presets, is there anything you recognize about your project – because it is so unique – that if you could add would benefit your project and others like it?

    1. Catherine, I realized I never replied to this. I think getting info on the videos using PBCore shema is vital so users can know more about the technical details (especially for the excerpts) so the can be run correctly if anything gets corrupted in the future. Also, the internet archive is fairly extensible in the metadata you can add, I think if I had the time I would come up with better a term than “digital painting” which the artists used. There should be a term that clarifies what the work is since the current usage could mean a number of things.

  2. This is looking great. It’s great that you went ahead and learned a bit more about the actual plans for storing and managing the works themselves and the parts that make them up. That part is all the more useful to the idea of documenting this itself as a kind of phenomena. Given that context, and in many ways the nature of this work itself as a kind of performative and significant moment in the development of digital art works it makes a lot of sense to take the documentation approach you’ve developed to focus on preserving the story of the works instead of thinking about the works themselves. I think it’s entirely possible that the contextual and documentary story you are putting together will be as, if not more, interesting than the works.

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