Reviewed February 2020
Chantal Sulkow, Acquisitions Librarian
Bard Graduate Center
Saving Internet Art is a project created by Google Arts & Culture in collaboration with Rhizome, an organization dedicated to born-digital art and culture and an affiliate of New York City’s New Museum. The two groups have partnered to help users understand the importance of the preservation of digital art and content, as well as the tools necessary to carry out the mission.
Saving Internet Art, which is freely available as an online resource, lives on the Google Arts & Culture website; it is not its own domain or subdomain, but a page on Google Arts and Culture. Because of this, the top navigation can easily lead users away to the general site, but once it becomes clear that Saving Internet Art’s experience is not a standalone site, there is valuable information to discover.
The page leads with an editorial defense of the importance of digital art preservation by Vint Cerf, commonly known as a “founding father of the internet,” or as he is identified, “Google’s chief internet evangelist.” Discussing the threat of the potential obsolescence of digital art, Cerf lends an authoritative voice to the conversation, makes powerful points about the fleeting and unstable quality of the digital medium, and reminds us that while the cave paintings in Lascaux are 20,000 years old, “it isn’t clear whether digitized images of that art—or any digital art created today—will last 20 years, let alone 20,000.”
Featured articles showcase projects such as Rhizome’s 2016 online exhibition, Net Art Anthology; this included Dutch artist Constant Dullaart’s 2010 "The Revolving Internet," which animated and spun round the iconic Google search page. The work caught Google’s attention and is now memorialized in Google’s “do a barrel roll” feature. Examples such as these, in which a digital art project commandeered Google’s attention and became a permanent fixture, make a strong case for the cultural relevance and necessity of preserving art created in the digital medium. Other articles include discussion of sites that run legacy browsers, making it possible to view older internet art in its original environment, and also the concept of emulation as a preservation strategy in preserving CD-ROMs, in which software imitates a computing environment.
The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) is another organization that has, notably, addressed the issue of digital art and art historical preservation. Through its Web Archiving Program, NYARC has made tremendous strides in the effort to ensure that the digital record of art resources does not go missing as a result of inevitable technological obsolescence. NYARC has worked with Rhizome in the past, and the Saving Internet Art project upholds that legacy admirably.
While this resource may cater to the interests of scholars, artists, or art information professionals, it is freely accessible to the public through Google; even so, the page itself is difficult to find. As of the writing of this review, Saving Internet Art had no prominent link on Google Arts and Culture’s main page navigation. Saving Internet Art functions more as an information page or call to action for the cause of digital preservation; while the page itself is limited and would benefit if Rhizome and Google Arts and Culture developed more content, the existing content serves an important purpose. That Google has given space to highlight this cause speaks to the danger of art in the digital realm becoming inaccessible as technologies rapidly evolve, and to the relevance of the subject of digital preservation of online art resources.