Richard Rinehart, Jon Ippolito – Re-collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory


The MIT Press, ISBN: 9780262027007, English, 312 pages, 2014, USA

Jon Ippolito is a key figure in the preservation of both (new) media and net art, involved in many of the early efforts to understand the technical problems associated with digital preservation, and formulating appropriate strategies to respond to these problems. Here he joins another leading figure in the field since the early nineties, Richard Rinehart, also engaged in the technological challenges of media art in institutional environments. The question of how art produced with various analogue, electronic and purely digital media will survive has been heavily debated in recent decades, but it’s still open to discussion. This book is definitely meant to help: beyond the respective authors’ theoretical writings (curiously sometimes “commented” by each other in the text), there are an impressive number of practical examples that can be inspiring as well. The main argument revolves around the Variable Media approach, developed in the nineties and based on the main process of “(re)producing” the artwork when needed according to the artists’ approved specifications. To quote Ippolito, “fixity equals death.” The three sections (‘Technology’, ‘Institutions’ and ‘Law’) are shaped to investigate the three main threats, but also the three main potential actors in artworks’ persistence. The authors are fostering the fascinating idea of an ‘open museum’ which, if properly structured and developed, would represent an innovative platform to finally and effectively face the essential preservation of digital culture.