[spectre] Book review of Museum and Archive on the Move by Oliver Grau et al. (eds.)

Image Science Image.Science at donau-uni.ac.at
Wed Dec 6 10:30:48 CET 2017

Museum and Archive on the Move: Changing Cultural Institutions in
Digital Era
by Oliver Grau, Wendy Coones and Viola Rühse (eds.), Walter De Gruyter,
Berlin, Germany, 2017, 316 pp. 39,95 €, ISBN: 978-3-11-052051-4
Reviewed by Ana Peraica in Leonardo Reviews, December 2017,

Since Douglas Crimp’s canonical book, The Postmodern Museum, a
discourse contrasting two different cultures has arisen. These are ones
of the museum and one of the archives, commonly distinguished on the
level of exclusivity and inclusivity, and are one of the centres of
debates in humanist studies of collections. Museum and Archive on the
Move, edited by a team of recognized Media Art History scholars from the
University of Danube––Oliver Grau, Wendy Coones and Viola
Rühse––published by Walter De Gruyter, is a new reading of
this area. This volume, in overlapping fields of museum and archive
studies, introduces emerging questions of media art in terms of its rare
and very often unsuccessful preservation. Eminent media theorists,
including Sean Cubitt, Erkki Huhtamo, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, or
curators such as Documenta XI curator Okwui Enwezor and Transmediale
director Andreas Broeckmann, contribute to this crucial theme.

The introductory essay (by Jorge Wagensberg) overviews the theme of a
museum of art and science, followed by Viola Rühse’s essay pointing to
the digital collection of Rijksmuseum whose decade-long restoration saw
the opportunity to rise a large online digital collection. Dieter
Bogner’s text focuses on museum planning and exhibition dynamics,
usually not visible from common museum discourse, starting with
narratology and audience [reception] theories. Bogner uncovers various
factors, often not taken into account by architects, such as
ventilation, the position of speakers, size of the area behind
interface, etc. Erkki Huhtamo, from the position of “exhibition
anthropology,” is pointing to the growing need, but also consequences
of, interactive material in museums, in which a sense of touch is
questioned, arriving to the interesting concept of “tactiloclasm”.
To counter this, Huhtamo is advocating “tactical transgression.”
Besides the touch prohibition inside the museum, he is also analysing
the expansion of museum via different apps (as Museum of London’s
Streetmuseum) in mixed reality, and their role as cultural industries in
shaping quality of visitor experience.

Ryszard W. Kluszczyński analyses the position of linear (narrative) and
non-linear (interactive) art in contemporary museum displays. Since the
“process of videofication” in the 70s and interaction in
contemporary age, masking differences in cinema (and creating something
as museum/cinema), where the difference from expanded cinema to
interactive film seems to be illustrative of the second shift.
Kluszczyński also provides definitions and conceptual criteria for
mapping/analysing different types of interactive films. Next is Digital
Art’s Complex Expression and Its Impact on Archives and Humanities, by
one of three editors of this reader, Oliver Grau. Grau warns on the
total loss of media art due to fast technological and media changes and
a lack of interest of museum context, offering the solution in databases
and platforms that serve for preserving information on such art (such as
Archive of Digital Arts - ADA expanded in Interactive Archive and
Meta-Thesaurus for Media Art Research – AT.MAR), Youngjin Lee
continues with archive and research practice in Asia, while Okwui
Enwezor focuses on Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art. Enwezor
analyses African a-museum positions, being outside of the discourse of
the museum at all (not anti as - being opposed to, but rather – being
completely outside of the discourse). This enforces the idea of archives
that better describes non-narrative cultures, based on dynamic/oral,
rather than fixed written histories. Wendy Coones’ essay on scientific
and non-scientific approach to Mars (including different archives)
functions as reductio ad absurdum of museum logic shaken already by
previous essays, showing how any data collection (as Mars, in this case
study) can behave as a museum, providing different objects and
information for interpretation.

The second section, of the archive, starts with Sean Cubitt’s
approach to archival ethics (clear in the selection of what to preserve
and which materials are preserved. Christine Paul provides a
comprehensive overview of media art and its archivisation, with a case
study in Douglas Davis’ The World’s First Collaborative Sentence
(1994), unrolling key issues of the preservation of the work in details,
followed by practical solutions. Morten Søndergaard elaborates on Media
Art Platform (MAP) group, working from 2004 - 2008, while Sarah
Kenderdine and Jeffrey Shaw focus on conservation of immaterial heritage
on UNESCO WH list. Their approach centers on terms of recording
performance, enabling future re-enactment, as video recording, motion
recording, 3D theatre et al. Andreas Broeckmann writes on the famous
show by Francois Lyotard staged at Centre Pompidou in 1985, Les
Immatériaux, little of which is preserved by today. The last three
articles conclude the book by writing on themes like the loss of digital
heritage. Harald Kraemer writes on CD-ROMs and Flash works, whereas Lev
Manovich writes on large digitisation projects as Europeana,
distinguishing museums from libraries, being different according to the
idea of cultural sample, being a pattern chosen to represent certain
culture. The last text, by Lutz Engelke / Anja Osswald, approaches
narrative and symbolic elements of the library, focusing on the project

Museum and Archive on the Move points to important problems media
artworks have regarding musealisation and archiving processes. The
reader maps important parameters for the entrance of time-based (but
also time-consuming) arts as well as interactive arts in physical media
collections, as well as the purpose and use of large digital
collections. Other issues include the strictness of the exhibition
narrative and its individual approach possibilities, controlling (and
monitoring) of curious visitors, paradoxes of exhibiting interactive art
together with non-touchable art. But it does not stay on merely mapping
the problems. The reader proposes platforms and solutions, so it is a
practical compendium pointing to common QR and RFID tourist guiding, as
well as enlisting many of platforms and databases useful to curators and
museologists. Surely an ultimate source for the topic of media art
musealisation and archivisation, as its best-known theorists and
curators, this book will find place in university libraries, being a
good compendium of topics for students in art history as well as in
museology, but also in museums, where this critical knowledge is more
than critical in practice.

Aims and Scope of Museum and Archive on the Move:
The digital revolution fundamentally changed how cultural heritage is
created, documented, analyzed, and preserved. The book focuses on this
transformation’s impact. How must museums and archives meet the
challenges of digitally generated cultures and how does the digital
revolution influence traditional object collection, research, and
education? How do digital technologies and digital art and culture
affect our interaction with images? Leading international experts from
various disciplines break new ground. Pioneering interdisciplinary
research results collected in this book are relevant to education,
curators and archivists in the arts and culture sector and in the
digital humanities.

Dieter Bogner, Andreas Broeckmann, Wendy Coones, Sean Cubitt, Lutz
Engelke / Anja Osswald, Okwui Enwezor, Oliver Grau, Erkki Huhtamo, Sarah
Kenderdine / Jeffrey Shaw, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, Harald Kraemer,
Youngjin Lee, Lev Manovich, Christiane Paul, Viola Rühse, Morten
Søndergaard, Jorge Wagensberg

Oliver Grau is an internationally renowned academic whose book Virtual
Art (2003) is the most quoted art history monograph of the last decade.
He has received several awards for books including Mediale Emotionen
(2005), MediaArtHistories (2007), Imagery in the 21st Century (2011),
and Visual Power of Digital Arts (2016). Wendy Jo Coones and Viola Rühse
are academics at Danube University.

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