Yves Bernard on Mon, 16 Dec 2013 02:33:00 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Who remembers CD-ROMs ?...

i agree Joe!
here is a text i wrote end of 2009 in preparation for a symposium about 
Media Libraries and Archives for the 21st century which happened at 
LAboral in May 2010.

[...] I mean mainly the works made by artists on cd-rom, designed for 
personal computer, published by small or major companies, or in limited 
edition or self-produced. These works explore the beginning of multimedia 
and interactivity, of non linear narration and hypermedia,.. and for many of 
us this was the beginning of new expressions well before the standardised 
and normative web interfaces that we experience today.

This production was for many artists and designers their first contact with 
computer technologies which started to become affordable, and also with 
software tools - the so called authoring tools - which required a palette of 
multidisciplinary talents, from concept and media creation, to graphical 
design, interaction design, and software development. This production was 
also part of this utopian movement of a reaching a larger audience through 
electronic publishing, of a new cultural economy through cd-rom 
distribution, of new artistic and expression territories to explore with 
multimedia, interactivity and computer-based processes (e.g. generative or 

Some examples:
AntiROM (Andy Cameron now Fabrica director), BLAM!, BlindRom, ShiftControl 
(Audiorom), Freak Shows (The Residents), EVE&  Explora (Peter Gabriel), 
Puppet Motel (Laurie Anderson), Rehearsal of Memory (Graham Harwood), 
Alphabet (dada media), the ArtIntact series (ZKM editions), Anecdoted 
archives of the cold war (G.Legrady), Reactive Books (John Maeda), OSS/*** 
(Jodi), Consumer Products&  The Encyclopedia of Clamps (Barminski), Book of 
Shadows (Simon Biggs), infinite cd for unlimited music (Antoine Schmitt, 
Vincent Epplay),...
(and there are hundreds of other art examples all over the world...)

Many of the artists, designers, developers who produced these early 
'multimedia content' in the beginning of the 90's moved to the Internet or 
to digital arts production such as interactive installations... E.g. Graham 
Harwood, Antoine Schmitt, Jodi,...

The works produced during this period are highly valuable in their artistic 
and/or cultural content as well as in the exploration of interactive and 
graphical design, user interface design, multimedia composition and 
hypermedia storytelling and documenting. Besides the pure artistic 
production, there are various cd-roms which should be preserved for their 
design, for opening pioneering genres in interactive media/games, and for 
their values as rare and innovative ways of documenting electronic and  
contemporary arts practices through hypermedia and interactivity. Examples: 
Myst (the Miller brothers), Doors of Perception (Mediamatic), 3rd Biennale 
of Lyon (1995, J-B Boissier), Actualite's du Virtuel/Actualizing the Virtual 
(J-L Boissier)l, Marie-Jo Lafontaine, Autre Moitie' de l'Europe,  Media Art 
History (ZKM), Poetry in Motion (Ron Mann, Voayger), PAWS (David Furlow),...

Most of these works can not be shown on today computers and operating 
systems. However, the technologies, software tools, production documents and 
expertise are still known by many of us. Before this knowledge is completly 
forgotten, before the artists, authors, developers, producers disappear, we 
still have some years to preserve this huge cultural heritage of early 
electronic content and propose it to the public.
We think it should be possible to show again these works either in public 
media libraries or on the Internet, giving them a new life, preserving them 
and proposing them to new audiences as part of our recent born digital 
cultural heritage. There is a huge potential there, both educative, 
artistic, art-historical and content of course...

Also, the topic should be enlarged to the preservation of the last 25 years 
of digital art (from interactive installation to net art) and born digital 
content, as the methodologies, the techniques (e.g. upgrading, re-writing, 
emulation/virtualisation,...), the exploitation and the urgency are very 

Yves Bernard

On 11/12/13 10:41, JRabie wrote:

>Another part of the history of computer art and media, CD-ROMs, running on
>computer but also on strange machines like Apple's Pippin, seem to have
>quite disappeared from the books. There was that brief period, which
>started with video discs, went on to CD-ROMs, which with the arrival of
>the web and interactive Flash at the end of the nineties was gone and
>quickly forgotten.

Yves Bernard
iMAL, Brussels, www.imal.org
+32 2 410 30 93

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