The authenticity of digital art – by Roberto Concas


    By Roberto Concas

    How to preserve, collect, exhibit and restore a Digital Artwork?

    It is possible that the question may create different reactions between, direct interest, simple curiosity, parallels, possible solutions.

    Just on the authenticity of Digital Art , an article by Michele Foti , published on the Digital Magazine of the University of Bologna , opens a debate with” boundless “borders.

    The analysis proceeds on technical IT aspects and other distinctions regarding the originality of the digital work of art, its conservation over time, its use and finally its restoration, or rather the “theory of restoration”

    On the digital art, in theoretical terms, today we discuss the authenticity of the works by understanding the whole process that from the action of the artist and from the social context in which he worked, passes through the technology used, both hardware and software, and personalized use by the artist, up to “the authenticity of the bits”.


    In figurative terms, and according to these new theories, for each Digital Art Work one should keep the whole whole , and for this it can be stated that for each painting it would be appropriate also keep the brushes, colors, solvents, easel and atelier where the work was created and even preserve the pregnant smells of linseed oil, white spirit or trichlorethylene.

    In addition to the extreme, it remains necessary to follow the linearity of the reasoning because research institutions and museums have long been working on these aspects of the conservation of the original such as the Guggenheim Museum.


    Digital Art has entered the study subjects of the so-called DIGITAL HUMANISTIES now promoted with real training courses in many universities.

    The commitment of this new “thinking” in Digital Humanities (DH), could be summarized in the desire to unite the humanistic and IT roots together, in a updated vision of our multi-ethnic, multi-technological and multitasking societies. 


    For the study of Digital Art, new subjects such as “ retro-engineering ” and “ retro-computing ” also appear to deal with the originality of the hardware software and machine languages, configuring the new discipline of “ Media Archeology “.

    In addition, the same artists of Digital Art firmly claim respect for the authenticity of their work, not even considering updating a graphics card for processing and output. For this reason we may be “forced” to keep our Commodore 64 in constant operation , in order to continue to appreciate the artistic expression of the enchanting and unsurpassed Tetris .

    The player and the tape with its “interstellar” sound of the software also transmitted via radio by Rai in 1984 (Radiotex) must be preserved, displayed and used in the same system.


    To study Digital Art, subjects such as the “Restoration Theory” migrate, a theme that remembers the discussion started in the mid-twentieth century by Cesare Brandi. (C. Brandi, Restoration Theory, History and Literature Editions, Rome 1963.)

    A theoretical debate that has gone from the orthodox “archaeological visions” for which only the parts recognized as original should be saved from an ancient work of art, to the imperative of Bernand Berenson who preached “where he was and how he was” (How to rebuild demolished Florence, 1945 Bridge 1, pp. 33-38), to the “visionary pragmatism” of Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, (How not to rebuild demolished Florence, 1945 Bridge 2, pp. 114-118).

    Among these “extremes” also takes place the “rigor” for the fruition, conservation and restoration of Digital Art, a rigor with scientific profiles that, necessarily, must be traced, as already for the restoration of other works of art, to a profile of actualization and concrete operation.


    However, going in order it is also true that a piece of Louis Armstrong can, indeed must, maintain a profile of “vinyl sound”, as well as a forerunner of Digital Art created by strong Nam June Paik , in the 1960s, will have reason to be displayed exclusively on black and white televisions, with cathode ray tube and valve technology dated from the 1950s and 1960s.

    For each era and artist there is its own technology, a method, a technique, which we will have to learn to distinguish with professionalism and discipline, just as in the past we have learned to distinguish a hand-woven linen cloth from an industrial one, a priming from another, a nail hand-beaten by a seller or a stainless steel nail.

    Today, the “tools of communication” (McLuhan) are in constant technological evolution and for this reason they begin to “distinguish” as to “order” and “Theorizing” becomes indispensable, because in an exhibition, the charm of a “primordial” digital work will be right of the technologies of its time, as well as a Digital Art in 4K, 3D – 4D or holographic format, will only be able to express itself only on a plasma screen or with the latest OLED.

    These are the new themes of the authenticity of art, museology and digital curatorship.


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