Vulnerable Media Lab

From Inuuqatikka: my dear relations

The work in the state-of-the-art Vulnerable Media Lab is grounded in the understanding that audio-visual cultural heritage has been unequally cared for and that the cultural practices of women and Indigenous peoples are in particular need of a dedicated archival focus and framework.

A key objective of the project is to work with “born digital media” alongside a variety of “obsolete” and “marginal” media, all of which share their own kinds of material vulnerabilities. The researchers aim to develop methods and processes to ensure this media art history is preserved and made available according to culturally specific and ethically driven forms of access, thus engaging in new conversations about cultural heritage.

Futures of Digital Media Histories

The Future of Digital Media Histories (FDHM) is propelled by an urgent and daunting cultural heritage crisis: the rapid loss of digital art and media from the past 40 years to changing technology. This loss has a devastating effect on our capacity to know and experience our heritage. Across Canada, the first decades of digital art and media production saw a flourishing of projects by artists and activists from diverse communities: Indigenous, racialized, feminist, queer, diasporic (Bowen 2019; Loft and Swanson 2014; Diamond and Cook 2011).These artists and activists imagined alternative futures for the internet, radical cyber pathways, sovereign virtual spaces for Indigenous communities, and more. Hence, the heritage we are losing is that which connects us both to communities neglected by traditional art and media histories and institutions and to the futures they imagined during a transformational period in the history of technology. Mitigating this loss has been identified as a pressing concern by the national and provincial heritage, history, and art institutions where conservation expertise and initiatives are typically located (Engel and Phillips 2023; Dekker and Giannachi 2023); however, their efforts have been limited not only by the objects in their collection, their resources, values, and mandates, but by the fact that the transitory and variable nature of digital technology, and, by extension, of digital-born art and media radically challenges existing preservation and museological paradigms (Grau et al. 2019; Dekker 2018).

In response to this intensifying cultural heritage crisis and the complex conditions from which it arises, our network of care for digital art and media in Canada is inclusive of stakeholders from diverse communities, organizations, and areas of expertise. We are using the term “network of care” to describe a horizontal and anti-colonial practice of intergenerational knowledge sharing, transdisciplinary research development, and methodological experimentation based in community and collective memory work, living archival practice, and “return of the image” or repatriation. Our network will approach the restoration and preservation of digital art and media as a collaborative endeavour and facilitate the resource, skill, and knowledge sharing that that is essential to safeguarding the futures of digital heritage in sustainable ways­­––environmentally, economically, technologically, and in terms of human relationships and labour.

Media Cosmologies: an intergenerational conversation on art, technology, and transmission with Cheryl L’Hirondelle and Callum Beckford

Outline of campfire and tipi on black background with the sun in the sky having "go" written inside

Held on March 10, 3:00-5:00 at Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Since the mid-1990s when world wide web first swung into public view, the net art works of Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree/Halfbreed; German/Polish) have explored and articulated the radical possibilities of nêhiyawin (Cree worldview) within the emergent, evolving landscape of digital culture.

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