PhD research: Divergent Practices of Media Art Preservation. Remembering and Forgetting in the Digital Culture (Vanina Yael Hofman)

Posted on Tue, 12/13/2016 - 19:30



Title of research project / research interests



Prácticas divergentes de preservación del arte de los medios. Recordar y olvidar en la cultura digital



Divergent Practices of Media Art Preservation. Remembering and Forgetting in the Digital Culture



Type of research e.g. PhD or Postdoc



Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) - Open University of Catalonia



Dr. Pau Alsina & Dr. Natàlia Cantó Milá


Date of completion

Defended on January 15th, 2016


Previous education and/or work experience


Vanina Hofman (Buenos Aires, 1978). Researcher and culture producer focus on divergent practices of preservation and archiving, and the processes involved in the construction of remembering and oblivion in digital culture.

Vanina has a Degree in Image and Sound Design by the Buenos Aires University  (UBA). She has obtained a Master Degree in Curatorial and Cultural Practices in Art and New Media by MECAD/Universitat Ramon Llull. She holds a PhD by the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)/Open University of Catalonia, where she continuous working as a researcher related to the I+D D-Future.

Since 2006, she conducts the independent platform Taxonomedia  and she has organized several workshops and seminars in Argentina, Spain and Colombia.

She is member of the Lab Art Matters of Mediaccions – research collective on digital media and digital culture (Open University of Catalonia), and the research group Arte, Arquitectura y Sociedad Digital (University of Barcelona).

She has collaborate with many academic and culture institutions, that actually include: Arts Santa Mònica, where Vanina is coordinating the project Híbrids - dialogues around art, science and technology; and the Chair on Design and Multimedia Creation UOC-Telefónica, where she coordinates de meeting Art and Design by other means: research methods and practices.






In an era when the debate about preservation, memory and oblivion is ongoing, this research work questions the linearity and transparency of the processes for which the cultural products are preserved and transmitted; as well as the heterogeneous agents involved in these processes and the spaces they articulate. In particular, this research work investigates the modes to preserve and discard media arts, and how based on them the notions of permanence, memory and oblivion/forgetting are configured in the core of the digital culture. This interrogatory-axis is followed by two sub-questions that permit to orientate its sense in material (Ingold, 2012; Domínguez Rubio, 2014) and cosmopolitical (Stengers, 2010) terms: how is it unfolded the materiality in each of these modes of preserving? And how the “less visible” modes of preserving, contribute to the media arts transmission?


The thesis that I am defending —based on the empirical field work developed in Argentina embracing the methodological perspective of the Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)— focuses on the fact that media arts preservation is produced for the coexistence of diverse modes of receiving, transforming and bequeathing media arts. Some of these modes can be recognised more easily as preservation activities (e.g., the work of art conservators-restorers that operate over the museum collections), while other less; however it is the simultaneity of all these forms —in their divergence and dispersion— what allows the preservation.


I have been introduced in this multiple forms scenery through four case studies, each one of which features its respective tactics: “La Torre de América, vestigios documentales”, “Van Gogh Variationen, anarchivos”, “Minuphone, versiones y palimpsestos”, “Bienal Kosice, citas, apropiaciones y reinterpretaciones” and a fifth “non-case” that deals with the absence of preservation and the oblivion-forgetting.


The Torre de América case study takes into account the use of documentation in the preservation practices, as well as the work of media archeology (Huhtamo & Parikka, 2011; Ernst, 2005; Zielinksi, 2006) as a disruptor of the linearity and the globalized vocation of the History of Art.


Van Gogh Variationen brings at the space of this investigation the archive issue —in reality the anarchive (Zielinksi, 2010)— to add in the relief the plurality of perspectives that could play role in the preservation of an artwork.


The Minuphone argues about the possibility of multi-versions and the multiplication of artworks in/through the processes of preservation and introduces the notion of the performative materiality (Barad, 2003) for taking into account the narrative-material links established in the context of this artistic praxis.


The Taller-Museo and the Bienal Kosice allow a comparison that aims at outlining two modes for addressing the preservation of the same artistic corpus: the conservation of the individual artworks and the re-interpretation (their reborn in other productions). Departing from these differentiated modes, this case study explores the construction of places [lieux] and environments [milieux] for the exercise of the collective memory (Nora, 1989).


Finally, the non-case deals with the modes of forgetting (automatic, repressed, selective, preserved, and creative), accounting for what is not preserved, the absence and the loss as an undividable part of the processes of memory construction and the cultural transmission.


The analysis of these case studies has made clear that it is almost impossible to define with a unidimensional way the concept of ‘preservation’; its meanings have been multiplied and its adjectivation has turned out dissimilar for each case. In order to grasp and explain these modes of preserving (and discarding) and the rizomatic links that establish (Deleuze, & Guattari, 1977), this work has articulated a dialogue with the notion of “ecology of practices” of Isabelle Stengers (2010). The ecology of practices is understood as a tool to think through the middle, in order to recognize and explain a terrain of diverging forms that is worked out by conservators, archivists, collectionists, artists, technologists, curators, historians, culture producers and interactors, through their coexistence with the artworks, the projects and the materials; in the same way, the ecology of practices helps to take into account the positionings and values (‘what counts’). And above all, to approach all the previous elements from the perspective of the process (Stengers, 2010) and in present time.


Embracing and utilizing the notion of ecology of practices, this investigation aims at studying the inter-relations, the movements and the plurality, underlining the coexistence of different knowledge regarding the preservation; it looks for visualizing the light lines of the forgetting and the forgotten, the tactics of resistance against the disappearance (De Certau, 1984) and the notions of permanency, remembering and forgetting that these tactics articulate.



Ecology of practices | Preservation | Archive | Media Arts | Argentina




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