The final chapter of Still Life is faintly terrifying. It’s on ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Fragility’, detailing the immense and frequently futile efforts which have to be made to keep digital art still working, owing to the very rapid changes in digital technologies. It starts with a work by Naim June Paik which can only be kept going by the intervention of a single TV repair shop in Lower Manhattan and ends with an interactive video work, IWYTWM which turned out to be essentially inoperable at the moment of its acquisition.
It reminded me of Nicholson Baker’s wonderful book Double Fold about his efforts to preserve hard copies of long runs of American newspapers, of which the only surviving library copies were being thrown away once they had been put on microfiche. But it turns out that many of these technologies are fugitive, they all have to be renewed every four years, so much of history, as well as art, will disappear into thin air.