CD-ROM Art: Exploring Images of the Digital Imaginary


The prominence of CD-ROM art in the 1990s is attested to by a number of exhibitions exclusively devoted to this field, which has so far hardly been seriously considered as a topic of research.
This lack of scholarly interest comes as a surprise, since CD-ROM art marks the transition to net-based work, but connections to video and experimental film can also be identified. Back then, there were high expectations for CD-ROM as a medium: it was supposed to guarantee permanent storage of larger amounts of data (but was quickly surpassed regarding longevity and capacity), it was supposed to inspire interactivity (but mainly allowed only mouse clicks), it was supposed to offer easy and broad access (but required a drive that would soon no longer be a standard feature of home computing equipment).
Contemporary discourses as well as strategies of publication confirm that the paradigm of print-media – the book, the encyclopedia, the magazine, the desk – provides a prominent background for how this small iridescent disc and its potential was conceived of.

The project is centered on three prominent artists, characterized by an extensive and protean œuvre across a variety of media: Chris Marker, Michael Snow, Thierry Kuntzel. The exemplary case studies chosen involve a thematic focus on memory cultures, archives, processes of recollection as well as the image. Their reinterpretations as (im)memory or (an)archive in Marker, Snow, and Kuntzel’s digital multimedia pieces are what is explored in the project. Conceptually, CD-ROM art establishes a connection between the electronic image and the digital image, which has hardly been explored yet. Theoretical positions from France in particular serve to analyze this nexus: Edmond Couchot, Gilles Deleuze, Raymond Bellour, and Anne-Marie Duguet offer important approaches for investigating Marker, Snow and Kuntzel’s notions of the digital image and the images of the digital imaginary they projected.


Barbara Filser, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, Institut Kunst- und Baugeschichte/Kunstgeschichte