Post-Preservation: Paik's Virtual Archive, Potentially

Hölling, Hanna Barbara (29 November 2021). Post-Preservation: Paik's Virtual Archive, Potentially In: The Gift of Nam June Paik. Giheung-gu, Yongin: Nam June Paik Arts Center

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This paper offers insights into the different modes of existence and understanding of the archive. I propose an archive that encompasses both time and material—an index of evolving attitudes toward objects and subjects, the contingency of time, discourse, and culture. The archive participates in creating the identity, and maintaining the continuity, of works of art. In its physical form, it documents the work’s past manifestations—in reports, instructions, scores, contracts, correspondence, and manuals. The physical archive is completed and complemented by what I call the virtual archive, that is, an archive that takes on a non-physical dimension. The virtual archive harbors tacit knowledge, memory, skill, and technique, but also meta-knowledge related to the archive’s internal functionality. Works of art, I argue, are actualized from such physical-virtual archive. To explain this, I will implement the dialectic of the virtual and actual derived from the philosophical projects of Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. The actualization of an artwork is not one-directional. Rather, the archive is recursive, oriented toward both the past and the future—it is a dynamic source that sustains the artworks’ identity. Our engagement with the archive, therefore, becomes an active and creative “presencing’” of artworks, contingent on various cultures, attitudes and affordances of those interacting with the archive. How does the digital archive come into play? The second part of my presentation will explore how the multiplicity of existing versions, variations and variants of Paik’s video works—fragments and instances, remixes and citations but to the same extent the variety of his recordings’ formats, such as 1/2 inch, 1 inch and 2 inch tapes, 8mm and Super 8 films, laserdiscs, VHS, Betacam SP and U-Matic, prompt us to rethink the traditional museological approaches to the care for works of art. For a considerable time, these approaches have cultivated the concepts of material preservation and truthfulness to the singular material and authentic original emergent in the effect of an intentional act. I will argue that, firstly, the versatility of Paik’s filmic and video media renders these traditional museological approaches obsolete. Secondly, and most importantly, the actualization of these works from the archive—if done creatively by employing the digital and analogue research tools— might bring about new imagination of what video might become in the vein of what I name a critical, experimental post-preservation. Post-preservation will be conceived as an intertwinement of discursive and physical practices bound with the domain and activity of the archive, which becomes, rather than a realm of fixation and stasis, a condition of possibility for these works’ change and survival. In other words: Paik’s virtual archive, potentially.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Materiality in Art and Culture


Hölling, Hanna Barbara0000-0002-3063-4405


N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general


Nam June Paik Arts Center




Hanna Barbara Hölling

Date Deposited:

24 Nov 2021 13:52

Last Modified:

23 Dec 2021 14:52

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