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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Preserving New Media Art: Re–presenting Experience


There has been considerable effort over the past 10 years to define methods for preservation, documentation and archive of new media artworks that are characterized variously as ephemeral, performative, immersive, participatory, relational, unstable or technically obsolete. Much new media cultural heritage, consisting of diverse and hybrid art forms such as installation, performance, intervention, activities and events, are accessible to us as information, visual records and other relatively static documents designed to meet the needs of collecting institutions and archives rather than those of artists, students and researchers who want a more affectively vital way of experiencing the artist’s creative intentions. It is therefore imperative to evolve existing preservation strategies for new media art, to include material that provides a rich sense of what it was like to be dynamically present in the live artwork. This paper proposes that simulation strategies with the aesthetic, mechanics and dynamics of the videogame platform, are capable of delivering complex user experiences that can be applied to new media artworks for the purpose of providing users, who may never see the original artwork, with an appreciation of the artists full creative intentions. We further propose that such an approach should be differentiated from the documentation or recording of a particular instance of artwork. We suggest that new creative iterations or versions of new media artworks be designed specifically for this medium through collaboration between artists and game designers and/or developers. Such novel interactive iterations of new media artworks should be conceived so as to enable otherwise temporary artworks to persist in a different form into the future so they may inspire the next generation of artists and inform criticism and research through a direct interactive engagement with the art.

The model of videogames is one marked by diversity and flexibility of means that can exceed the verisimilitude required of simulation or direct mimesis of the live artworks. The creation of a new version of an artwork, which in itself is a construct of the creative imagination, can include virtual worlds and/or mixed reality environments and employ diverse interfaces, emergent behaviours using artificial intelligence and logic engines to fulfill conceptual and exploratory levels of immersion, agency and user experience. The application of videogame design and technology to artworks raises questions of theoretical and practical concern having to do with their desirability as a means of artistic expression, the potential capacity of such re-presentations to deliver affective experience of an artwork as well as their ability of extend the life of new media artworks.

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