Madeline Steimle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Steimle 
Throughout history we have preserved information in tangible formats such as books, paintings and sculptural objects. With the invention of photography as well as sound and video recordings, we were able to store a wider range of information than ever before. Recently we have embraced electronic storage and seek to migrate all of our information from the analog to the digital world. This means great things for the accessibility of this information, which can be obtained by anyone with an internet connection. Technology allows us to lead lives that are less cluttered but it presents a danger for future preservation. Now entire books are written, songs recorded and art produced without ever leaving behind a single tangible object. People turn to digitization as a way to archive cultural information unaware of how unstable it soon becomes. File types, operating systems and software become obsolete in a matter of years, making the information contained inaccessible. This makes constantly updating the digitized information a daunting but necessary task for future archivists. By migrating all of our information to the digital realm we stand a greater chance of losing large amounts of our culture to the march of time.

In my work I wish to capture the ephemeral nature of our digital world and convey a sense of loss for all things that fail to make the digital migration or are then lost in the march of obsolescence. My series of glitch prints on plexi-glass cull source imagery from the Library of Congress Digital Collections, an online resource of digitized information. Each image was originally a film negative, but has been translated into a digital file to “preserve” it for future generations. I used a program to intentionally “glitch” these images, showing a sudden breakdown in data. These prints represent the instability of digital resources as opposed to their analog counterparts. My series of glass “Vitreo-Tone” recordings represent analog media: tangible and bulky, yet more stable over time. When stored safely these recordings could be played by future generations, who will hear the information fade each time it is played. Not only does the casting process corrupt the data on the recordings, but each time the grooves are traced by the phonograph needle, the music wears away further. Through the reproduction
of media, degradation is inherent in these works. As we document our lives and events today, this information becomes part of the greater digital landscape. While it is more accessible as part of a global web, it is also more prone to sudden loss. These types of media leave behind no real physical object and are only digital copies of copies.