Beyond a href: Preserving Flash-driven Art


As Digital Preservation Fellow with Rhizome, my work has focused on archiving works of net art from the live web into the ArtBase.  Net art, despite the benefits of being abstract - it rarely gets moldy! - is built on exceptionally fragile media.  A server failure, domain shift, or missing file is enough to effectively destroy a work of art.  As such, to properly preserve the pieces in the ArtBase, I work alongside Ben Fino-Radin to crawl, download, and adjust works for hosting in our archive.  The scope of the ArtBase - from hypertext experiments to Twitter-fed visualizations - brings me in contact with an array of technologies, media, and unexpected use cases.  While nearly every work of net art in the ArtBase founded on HTML, most go beyond it: embedded multimedia is very frequently used for a variety of purposes and effects.  As such, developing a system to download and preserve complex media objects is of tremendous importance to my work.

One of the most common multimedia formats used in the ArtBase is Flash, dating back to its origins with FutureWave and through its development by Macromedia and Adobe.  Of the myriad formats used in the ArtBase’s collection, SWF is the most prevalent and deeply used multimedia filetype: over a third of the archived works are founded on it.  Its combination of power (few formats offer its combination of browser-driven multimedia and interactivity) and ubiquity on audience machines made it the obvious choice for artists looking to go beyond the HTML and JavaScript-driven net art of the late 1990s. Hence, working with Flash is greatly important to Rhizome’s preservation mission.

Splash screen, Inflat-O-Scape (2001)

SWF, as a format, presents a number of challenges for art conservators and archivists.  As a binary format, it cannot be immediately parsed by text-friendly tools (such ...


ArtBase Update


Takeshi Murata – Untitled (Pink Dot) (2007)

Here at Rhizome HQ we have been quietly working away from within the depths of the ArtBase. I'm pleased to announce that we have recently archived six works by Takeshi Murata, spanning from his early hand drawn animations, through his pioneering datamosh works, the 3D animation that was included in Free, to his recent body of work that debuted at Ratio 3 gallery last April. The excerpts of his work now available in the ArtBase are in most cases the only high quality (read: not bootlegged) examples available freely online.

Untitled (Silver)  • Untitled (Pink Dot)Melter 2I, PopeyeHomestead GraysGet Your Ass To Mars

Here are some more recently archived works we are particularly excited about:

Christian Oldham – Selected works 2010-2012
Brenna Murphy – facingface~terrestrialtrancetree
Nicolas Sassoon – Mansion Studies
John Transue, Micah Schippa, Tabor Robak, Parker Ito, Jon Rafman – PaintFX
Adam Cruces – Desktop Views
Justin Kemp – Proclaiming My Love

Kim Asendorf – ExtraFileGIF MARKETSolo show in Sim City
Jonas Lund – Collection EnlargementI'm Here and ThereOver and Over Again
Jon Rafman – Woods of Arcady
Sarah Weis & Emilie Gervais – 

What are we missing? The ArtBase is a constantly growing and evolving archive – if we are lacking to represent a particular facet of history or contemporary practices, by all means let us know. As well, we are always accepting submissions. Stay tuned for an update soon on a few big projects that are in the works!


#DigitalArchivesDay: Anti-Aliasing Arcangel


Today is the first official Digital Archives Day. All day, archivists and conservators working in digital archives of all kinds will be sharing their work under the #DigitalArchivesDay hashtag, and blogging at

I wanted to take a moment today to briefly talk about an innovation in digital imaging and computing that has become a frustation to many artists that have been experimenting with the web since the early years: Anti-aliasing. Put simply, anti-aliasing is a method of image processing that uses interpolation, to construct "new data points within the range of a discrete set of known data points." This is a function of digital signal processing that has many many important applications, from helping typefaces look good on screen, to making images not look odd when scaled down.  The use of anti-aliasing that we are talking about here though, is quite specific: the display of resized digital images and video in web browsers. To illustrate how anti-aliasing has affected an era of web content, we will look at Cory Arcangel's "Data Diaries."

Data Diaries on

In 2002, when Arcangel created "Data Diaries," if one were set the size of an image or video embedded in a web page larger than it's actual size, the browser would use nearest neighbor interpolation to display the image. In other words – if one were to embed a 50 x 50 px image or video as 100 x 100 px, each pixel would appear to double in size. This default form of nearest neighbor interpolation was exploited to aesthetic ends by many early net artists, including Cory. When Cory made Data Diaries, he rendered the original videos at the dimension of 50 x 25 px - so tiny! He embedded these videos at dimensions of 500 x 266 px ...