Friday, June 1 • 9:30am - 9:45am
(Electronic Media) Lighting Round - Emulating Horizons (2008) by Geert Mul: the challenges of intensive graphics rendering

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Similar to a conservator going into the details of a certain paint or plastic used in an artwork, I will concentrate on the graphics pipeline of Horizons (2008), a software-based artwork by Dutch media artist Geert Mul. The graphics pipeline is a chain of software and hardware tools a computer needs to render graphics. It can be very specific for video games or software-based artworks that make use of intensive, real-time graphics rendering and it has an impact on the preservation strategy. This research is based on the publications (Falcao et al. 2014)1 and (Rechert et al. 2016)2. Computer rendered graphics are quite common in software-based art. Artists may use video game software to produce video games for their simulations or interactive animations as for instance for Sow Farm (2009) by John Gerrard or Olympia (2016) by David Claerbout. Other artists and their collaborators produce the software themselves as for instance Geert Mul and his programmer Carlo Prelz did for Horizons (2008). Horizons (2008) has a classical setup for a computer-based artwork: it receives user input from a sensor, the computer generates a video by combining image sources and the sensor input and outputs the video on video projectors. Thus, it should be possible to generalize the findings of this research for artworks with a corresponding setup. While preparing for his retrospective, Geert Mul realised, that many of his artworks did not function anymore and needed updating or transfer to newer hardware. Consequently, he initiated a project with LIMA, a platform for research and archiving of media artworks in Amsterdam, in order to make his artworks “future proof” 3. Horizons (2008) did not have an immediate problem. However, when evaluating its long-term preservation options, it turned out that its graphics rendering was video card dependent. The model of the video card was hard-coded into the software, which means that changing the video card makes the work dysfunctional. As emulators of personal computers usually do not emulate specific video cards, I also feared, that Horizons could not be emulated. The hard-coding of the video card could be remedied by adapting the reference from the old to the new video card. However, it would still not make the work suitable for emulation. Furthermore, it appeared that certain intermediary software libraries are necessary in order to make the work independent from the hardware and therefore enable software rendering or virtualization. By analysing the graphics pipeline, it is thus possible to assess with a high probability whether the work can be emulated or virtualized. Other factors that might impede an emulation such as peripheral equipment are not discussed here. Yet, I will show, what has to be considered when “building” such an emulation or virtualization for graphics intensive artworks. 1 Falcao, Patricia; Ashe, Alistair; Jones, Brian (2014): Virtualisation as a Tool for the Conservation of Software-Based Artworks. Tate. London. 2 Rechert, Klaus; Ensom, Tom; Falcao, Patricia (2016): Introduction to an emulation-based preservation strategy for software-based artworks. Pericles / Tate. 3 http://www.li-ma.nl/site/news/future-proof-transformation-digital-art-2017

avatar for Claudia Roeck

Claudia Roeck

PhD candidate, University of Amsterdam
Claudia started her professional career as an environmental engineer. Inspired by art, she later added studies in conservation of contemporary art in Berne, Switzerland with focus on media art, that she completed in 2016. From 2013 to 2016, she worked on the acquisition of video... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 9:30am - 9:45am MDT
Briargrove Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston