Archiving Nature: preservation practices for the Digital Age

Iconoclast 2002,  ZKM

(Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany


Some 60 years ago, many biologists thought that bees and other insects were totally color-blind animals. I was unable to believe it.
— Decoding the Language of the Honey Bees, Karl von Frisch, Nobel Lecture, December 12, 1973

(From exhibition catalog):

Archiving Nature Preservation Practices for the Digital Age explores the relationship between scientific image archives and historical memory. It takes as its subject an archive of films produced from 1936 to 1976 by the Austrian Nobel Prize winning ethnologist Karl von Frisch. These films captured and recorded the moving world of the honeybee. Archiving Nature compares the record of scientific research presented in the honeybee films to the preservation practices of digitization.

Much as science seeks to capture, document, analyze, and reproduce the world to create new knowledge,  historical preservation freezes, classifies and reorders the world to produce new histories. In the process, choices must be made  as to what and how,  to record , store and transmit information.

Archiving Nature hopes to push the situation to an extreme. It takes hours of Karl von Frisch’s experimental films and edits them down into a basic unit of analogue film – the still and the narrative. These units are then digitized and transformed into new archives which users can ‘interface’ with a s they travel backward and forward in time. In remaking Karl von Frisch’s archive in digital form, Archiving Nature hopes to explore the creative and imaginative possibilities presented by reshaping memory of the past and knowledge of the present.