Equipment & Technical Issues

Computer equipment and digital technology can seem foreign and alienating to those not accustomed to using computers for more than word processing and e-mail. Artists use computer software and hardware as platforms for a range of aesthetic activities. Their equipment can include everything from desktop or laptop computers and personal digital assistants to joysticks, touch screens, and sensors. Because every artwork is unique, determining the necessary system requirements for computer-based art can be tricky. Some projects might call for defunct hardware or software, while others might require sophisticated operating systems and high-speed Internet connections. There are also environmental specifications to consider. Increasingly, computer-based projects are migrating from the static computer screen onto the walls of the gallery. As the lines between single-channel video, media installations, and computer-based works continue to blur, the technological guidelines and specifications overlap as well.

This section does not intend to be a comprehensive list of all the technical elements of new-media or computer-based art works, but rather a guide to the basic hardware, software, and network attributes that are used in the installation of many computer-based artworks. It is advisable to visit the Single-Channel and the Installation Equipment & Technical Issues sections for a comprehensive understanding of the equipment and technical specifications one may encounter when collecting computer-based works.

The complex nature of digital artworks means that the risks posed by equipment are varied and many. For a discussion of the risks (including failure and obsolescence) that can affect the various components of computer-based art in different ways, please see the Equipment/Technical issues in the Preservation section of this guide.