Presenting the new canon in 2050 – FACT 2024 Symposium
Photo credit: Gianna Rizzo
Stories & Ideas

Tue 27 Feb 2024

Presenting the new canon in 2050 – FACT 2024 Symposium

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Your museum of screen culture

How do we ensure a less dystopian cultural future?

It is the year 2050 and the new cultural forms that have emerged this century are mainstream – interactive, networked, experiential, ephemeral, performative, built on and with proprietary tools, and likely controlled through a complex thicket of IP rights and licensing agreements subsequently bought, sold and aggregated by third parties. Cultural institutions in 2050 wish to mount a retrospective of the first half of the century – remounting these so-called masterworks. What might they need to do? And what might we do – socially, legally, and technologically – in the 2020s to ensure a less dystopian cultural future?


Professor Melanie Swalwell (Swinburne University of Technology), Professor Kimberlee Weatherall (Sydney University) and Stuart Buchanan (Sydney Opera House). Moderated by Matt Millikan (ACMI)

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Watch the video with graphic notations by Jessamy Gee

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This transcript was machine-generated and published for search and accessibility purposes. It may contain errors.

Sorry, I'm an Android user, so I didn't know how to use the iPad to get your questions later on. And good afternoon. I hope that you're all caffeinated. You've had a lovely day. My name is Matt Millikan. I'm an editor in the curatorial team here at ACMI, and I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands and waterways of Greater Melbourne, the people of the Kulin Nation, and recognise that ACMI is located on the lands of the Wurundjeri people, and I extend my respects to their elders past and present. Sovereignty over these lands was never ceded, always was, always will be. So for this panel, we're looking at 2050 through the lens of the present, but we're anticipating that the new cultural forms that have emerged this century have become part of the mainstream. They're interactive, networked, experiential, ephemeral, and performative, built on and with proprietary tools, and likely controlled through a complex thicket of IP and licensing agreements. What do we have to do to remount a retrospective of these so-called masterworks of the first half of the 21st century? And what might we need to do socially, legally, and technologically in the 2020s to ensure a less dystopian cultural future? It's heavy stuff. And to get into this wide-ranging subject, I'm delighted to be joined by our panelists, Stuart Buchanan, Professor Kimberlee Weatherall, and Professor Melanie Swalwell. Stuart is responsible for leading and curating the Sydney Opera House's Screen Program, which includes commissioning and screening of new screen-based works from Australian artists and partner organisations, live events that place technology at the core of the artist and audience experience, live performance capture of the opera house shows, and digital education. He's worked with broadcasters and global studios, as well as art galleries, theatres, and festivals from around the world, and has a background in putting on raves, much like Seb Chan. Melanie is a professor of digital media heritage in the Center for Transformative Media Technologies at Swinburne University. Melanie's research focuses on the creation, use, preservation, and legacy of complex digital artifacts, such as video games and media artworks. She's currently leading two digital media heritage and preservation ARC linkage projects, and is project leader for the Australian emulation network, Born Digital Cultural Collections Access, an ARC LIEF, awarded to a consortium of universities and GLAM organisations. Kimberlee in the middle is a professor of law at the University of Sydney, focusing on the regulation of technology and intellectual property law, and a chief investigator with the ARC Center of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society, where she works with leading researchers on questions at the cutting edge of the regulation of AI and related technologies. She's been working at the intersection of culture, tech, and copyright for over 20 years. And I'm Matt. My work here at ACMI includes leading our publications and interpretation in our exhibitions, including managing the content on the lens and the content infrastructure behind it. I also work closely with our governance team on licensing for exhibitions and publications. And I'm routinely called upon to critique and review a lot of moving image content that appears in our gallery, which I know far more about than some of these subjects, so I'm very happy to have this team along with me. So 2050, what's it going to look like? We'll be dealing with the impact of the climate crisis, the effects of globalisation, social upheaval and unrest, political divisions, inequality, and the rise of AI and other emerging creative technologies. Hopefully it's not the cultural or real world dystopia this panel subject supposes or social media constantly proposes. Maybe it'll be nice. Maybe we'll all be plugged into a seventh generation Apple Vision Pro and we'll all have front row tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. But not if we're Android users like me, because maybe by then Apple and Taylor have entered into a centuries long partnership agreement that exists even after she's gone. Not that she'll be gone by 2050. She'll be here Friday. So maybe we'll be wandering among the Androids in Westworld type theme parks or we'll be able to live inside a video game and we'll be able to sense it with all of our... All of our senses. All art will just be part of a neural interface and we won't go to cultural institutions at all anymore. We'll just subscribe to the Paramount Musk infotainment experience and that'll be it. And maybe we'll reject all this. But to get us started on thinking about how we can preserve and celebrate what we have now, the panelists are going to introduce their work and then we're going to have an informal discussion with a Q&A at the end if I can figure out how to use the iPad. So first up is Stuart. Thank you. Thanks. Thanks Matt and hello everyone. I want to contextualise the work that we do within the screen team at Sydney Opera House. And to do that you'll see behind me a selection of rotating slides that I'll talk generally about but I'm not going to talk directly to each image as it appears. And it will loop if I run on too long. So that's an incentive for me to keep talking so that you can keep seeing the image, the very beautiful images that they are. So as Matt alluded, the work in the screen team is divided into three areas. One of which is commissions of original work which is what this deck that you see here documents. The other is the capture of live performance whether that's through video or audio. The third area is around digital education. That's the first use of the word digital and hopefully the last in this talk. We haven't found a better way to describe the education section just yet. But essentially those are the three constituent parts. I kind of stand on the shoulder of some amazing people that came before me. I've been in this role for four years but what was then known as digital programming at the house has been around for almost the best part of 15 years. And it started through education but really its kind of mainstay was the capture of live performance. And I guess a regular show at the Opera House, if it's being filmed, will be filmed by anywhere from four to seven cameras. Last year we went crazy and did 12 on one show. And that work sometimes will be live streamed, sometimes it will be recorded and some beautiful post production work will be undertaken and then it will be put onto our own streaming platform called, creatively, Stream. And you can find hundreds of works now from the Opera House archive on there. The kind of extent, the logical extension of that I think we saw in October last year when we celebrated our 50th birthday. And we went digging into the archives to try and find the works that were recorded over the last 50 years to find out what still existed and to re-present those on Stream. We couldn't have done that actually without the help of two really significant contributors to that body of work, that body of recording work. We had our own, but that maybe as I say only stretches back about 15 years. Prior to that the ABC were really pivotal in recordings, particularly some of the earliest performances of the Opera House. But also the National Film and Sound Archive who I think were... It was really critical that the Opera House hadn't necessarily invested in archiving the work within NFSA, but actually the individual artists and companies and producers were the ones who had vested the work in NFSA and we were able to retrieve it for that. But there's a huge... I could do an eight hour presentation on the complexities of trying to license 50 works from over 50 years. I'm sure we'll get into that. The work we're seeing here though, if we're talking about the work we're making today and thinking about its impact in the future, obviously with everything I've just described, we kind of entered into COVID in a fairly kind of robust way because we had an archive of work that we had in our library, but also we were adept at filming. So over the course of the first seven months of lockdown, either recorded or streamed 50 live shows from the Joan Sutherland Theatre and streamed those, essentially trying to keep the Opera House open while everywhere else was closed. And really one of the things that sort of came out of that for me was actually touched on in I think in the first presentation this morning, which was getting to the end of that COVID experience and seeing those kind of dozens and dozens of works that we had recorded and therefore captured and preserved, was the fact that technology was being used as a tool to record. The screen was the mediator and essentially technology was the transport that allowed that work to be seen by people who were not in situ at the Opera House. But it was a very kind of... It didn't really have any agency itself. It was really about getting a live work that didn't really need the technology. If you were in the room, you would have seen it. The fact the camera was in the room was kind of almost neither here nor there. So the work existed without the camera. So essentially it was technology as kind of, as I say, a kind of backbone or a transport. And what I began to get more interested in was kind of technology as culture. How does technology digital screen? I use those words very liberally and probably sometimes in the wrong context. That's all part of the joy of it. But using technology as part of the culture. So the works that we see here are essentially works that have technology in its DNA, could not exist without some form of technical application. So here, for example, this is an early motion capture work. I say early, it's 2021. There's Serwah Attafuah and Soft Center. And then the next motion capture work we did was actually with a team of great Melbourne creatives, including Mat Spisbah, Harrison Hall, Sam McGilp, and the wonderful Lu Yang. And that really sort of took it to the next level. And I guess the hypothesis there, the question we were asking was, is it possible to use technology to collapse geography within a live performing environment? So we had a performer in Sydney and a performer in Hong Kong who performed together in real time within the virtual environment. The next kind of question, as part of the next commission that we put forward was, we've heard about the use of AI essentially in a creative process and kind of pre-production or in tools such as Ableton or Photoshop or what have you. And I was interested in how we might use AI within a live performance context. So the work we put on last year called Sonic Mutations, which was with the great creative studio Kopi Su and two Sydney artists, Rowan Salvage and Alexis Weaver. And essentially, Kopi Su created their own tool actually in collaboration with the artists. So it was devised in collaboration with the artists. Their own tool that basically allowed the artists to use AI as they were performing live and they both did it in very different ways and I can talk to that as we go. And then the last thing I'll probably talk about is the other AI work we did last year, which was called Music of the Sails, where the provocation, the rather... It's one of these people who work with me know that I have some of my best ideas at four o'clock in the morning. This was one of those ideas, which was as the Opera House hit its 50th birthday, how could the Opera House itself be the performer? It's welcomed people onto its stage. If the Opera House could perform, what would it do, what would it sound like? And so we worked with the University of New South Wales and their media lab there to essentially use what we call our master control data, temperature, water, all sorts of different... A large data set essentially of how the machine of the Opera House, which was then using a kind of daisy chain of their own AI models and some other parts again, which I can talk to, essentially translated that data into music, which ran for 31 days. So of course we advertise that as a 744-hour music artwork because it sounded very grandiose. But that was a great example of using new models that were entirely devised by University of New South Wales and using it to sort of translate A to B to C. Essentially it kind of translated the change in temperature into those numerical data strings into English language, which then subsequently was translated, pulled from the music data set, hot, cold, fast, slow, et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, all of this is to say that the works that I'm talking about in the works you see here, they're very... Like a lot of live performance, like all live performance, they're ephemeral. They come and they go very quickly. Some of them are not meant to be documented. Some of them don't want to be documented. What's interesting about this work is that already talking about a work that's two or three years old, it's already out of date. The technology that powered that original motion capture event, we could probably stage again with the very specifics of what was used then in terms of the iteration of the software that was used, the actual hardware and the suit and so on, has been superseded. So whether or not we could actually get an exact replication is a question to be asked. That's probably as much as I want to say as an introduction. I'm sure we're going to tell other things, but hopefully that gives some good context to the work. And thank you, Stuart. Melanie, do you want to take it from here? Hi, everyone. Lovely to be here. Okay. I am a historian of digitality who works on 1980s and 1990s stuff. These are some of my books. So asking me what the 21st century canon is going to look like in 2050 is somewhat interesting. But I have been working on preserving a whole lot of different types of born digital content, working closely with the GLAM sector for, I don't know, 15 plus years. So I am actually really taken by the pairing, the putting together of this panel. And it's come up a few times in our discussions with the emphasis on performance and GLAM. And they're not the same things. And I think that's actually something that we should see as a strength because, of course, the ephemerality that Stu has already introduced us to is something that we're going to be needing to return to frequently, I suspect. All right. So one point I would make is, of course, based on the cultural studies critique of canonicity, that we don't just want to be restricting our collecting and our view of what's culturally significant to the high end of the cultural spectrum. As I argue in my book, Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality, the low end microcomputers of the 1980s, such as the homegrown Mighty Microbee, give us insight into everyday informal creative production, which has often been left out, but which gives us incredible insights into what people do with technology and the way in which technology affects everyday life. It's also a damn sight more feasible negotiating permissions and rights with an individual or a small collective who actually own their IP than a giant mega corporation or platform. And perhaps somewhere in between those things, I'm thinking of what the National Library of New Zealand's been doing with asking for people to donate their Facebook profiles so that there can be some collection of this social media site that is, you know, local and specific. But of course, you're going to lose the algorithmic aspects in just an individual's donated profile and that kind of makes me riff a little bit and think about Twitter, of which I've been an avid observer and user for a number of years. And I'm still on there. Twitter's dying, but it's not dead yet. And I'm kind of bizarrely fascinated to watch and, you know, hang around a bit longer. I'm also aware of the ethics of that and the points that a number of people have made to, you know, disengage and I respect that. But I've got to say, my COVID Twitter has never been better. So I don't know what's going on with the algorithm and that is one of the issues, of course, in this space is the black boxing of this. But yeah, fascinating. And that is a question that I think about probably not at four in the morning, but frequently, you know, how do we actually capture what it has been like to be, you know, on these platforms in the first quarter of the 21st century. I'm also a scholar of creative computing, both historical and contemporary, and have been running, as Matt said in my intro, several projects in recent years in conjunction with ACMI and other organisations on the histories and preservation of digital games and media arts. These are a couple of the project logos. You can find references, you know, links, et cetera, on our website, That's the kind of umbrella site from which the other projects are linked. And most recently, the Australian Emulation Network, or AusEaaSI for short. We've just published a recent report, if you haven't seen it yet, you might want to have a look, in which we talk about what we've done in the Archiving Australian Media Arts Project, which is we've been working on for about four years now. And though the content is very arts-focused, we have preserved and emulated 32 artworks from four different collections. And that's not, sorry, three different collections, let's say, Experimenta, dLux, and Griffith University Art Museum. And then there's more. There's like ANAT, and there's State Library South Australia's got the Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski collection, so it's actually many, many more in this project. But anyway, we detail it in there, and it's worth a read. And we've tried to write it with a view to what's involved in doing this kind of work if you're working with other kinds of content as well, because that's one of the things that the AusEaaSI Network is really trying to do. It's trying to float lots of different boats at once of the different kinds of born digital content that institutions have, libraries, archives, galleries, museums, university archives, et cetera. So perhaps just to say a little bit more about that, it's shared digital infrastructure, in which we're rolling out training in how to do this work, how to stabilise your disks, how to make disk images of your floppies, of your optical media, of your zips, of your whatever. I'm very pleased to be working closely with Cynde Moya at Swinburne doing this work. She's our digital archivist and convening a community of practice in Australia, which I think is super exciting. And this is a real workforce innovation. It's a game changer having a group of people doing this learning together who are committed in this space, having a consortium of 15 nodes around the country, multiple GLAM institutions, really all upskilling, is super exciting to be a part of. And here's the blurb on the project. You can play, I can give you a little taste, but you can play games and media artworks from the 1980s and 1990s from these projects over the Wi-Fi at ACMI here on your own device right now, served by EaaSI emulation as a service infrastructure. You just go to the website and search, say for Play It Again Games Collection and you'll find it. And here's a little, do I just press that and it'll start playing, a video capture of a game that no one's ever heard of called Gumboots Australia from the 90s running in EaaSI and it's just a window embedded in the website. But this is providing a solution, it's not the solution for everything, but it is going a fair way to actually making it possible to run content for which the hardware is obsolete, the operating system is obsolete, the utility software might be obsolete, et cetera. Of course the disk media carrier is obsolete. So exciting. In our lab we are preserving a big archive of utility software from the Australian Computer Museum Society to support this work and this is to make it possible to configure, yes there's a few gags about Swiss cheese. I actually showed this at a conference I was keynoting at in Lausanne virtually last year and yeah they weren't quite sure whether to laugh or not at the Swiss tourist jokes, but anyway. So yes we are imaging this large archive of software, some 30 boxes or 30 boxes at a time. I can't quite get my head around the scope and the scale, but there's a lot of software that will be available for partner organisations to use to bring their files that they want to emulate back and render them. And it's under Australian law, seeing we're interested in legal matters, it's actually legal to do this. And here's the excerpt that we're relying on. Section 113J is my favourite of the Copyright Act. This supports research purposes. So I would say that that's one impediment that would be faced by an institution wanting to mount an exhibition in 2050 because you would think that for cultural purposes would be a no-brainer, but at the moment we're not there yet. And of course it's only legal within the walls of the museum which is another impediment. There was an exposure draft of legislation that came out in 2021 under the previous government, but was not passed before they were voted out. So that is work still to be done. We clearly have to band together and lobby for these exemptions to be made broader. I would also note just briefly that we're still playing catch up because this has been put in the too hard basket for a long time. Scientists haven't known how to preserve and make accessible this kind of content and so they've tended to be shy about going and gathering it. So that's fair enough, but we've got a lot of catching up to do and that kind of excuse doesn't really hold anymore now that we have a national emulation network, a legal basis for sharing utility software to make it run and a community of practice full of incredibly smart people to whom one can turn if you do hit a thorny problem or a brick wall. So if any of this interests you and you haven't already spoken to me, please do. I'm in the process of putting together a phase two funding application at the moment and I welcome all interested parties. I think it's also incumbent on creators to consider how sustainable their works are going to be into the future or not if they're okay with them being lost or forgotten. But complex digital artefacts are challenging and so really the responsibility does need to be shared. And so I guess I would ask the question what collective weight are we going to bring to ensure that contemporary culture can be collected, preserved and exhibited in 2050 because it's a bit like that, it takes a village kind of argument and I think there's a part for many different parts of the wider cultural sphere to play here in order to make that exhibition of or performance of or retrospective in 2050 possible. Thanks. Wonderful. Thank you, Melanie. And just to say that a lot of us are very excited about the emulation here at ACMI because you know it looks like we're doing work and we are doing work and we're doing fun work that's for the future so it is exciting for us. Kimberlee? Now I want to stay here for several days and just play games from when I was growing up. That's awesome. It does remind me of the old days of playing on the C64, the Commodore 64. Look I'm here because I can speak to, I'm the lawyer in the room right, so I'm here to speak to the legal frameworks that shape or intervene in these questions that we're talking about how cultural institutions can keep, how we curate the objects that we record and encode our history, culture, knowledge in. But I should preface what I say in a couple of ways. First most of what I can speak to relates to copyright which is the most, which is a or the most direct legal framework for a lot of the things we're talking about in the performing arts and the GLAM sector. But there are a lot of other legal, ethical, normative frameworks that are relevant when we're trying to collect, preserve and make available this material. Not least there are broader rights that we have or ought to have in the data that we generate or that's about us. If we think about image data sets like ImageNet and the others we've been talking about, there's lots of images of people and people don't have copyright rights in images of them but they may in some cases have data protection rights which comes with its own complexity. But we will, to an extent I'll leave that to one side although we can get into it in questions if people want to. But the legal issues are myriad and that's even before we get for example to questions like First Nations data sovereignty or broader ethical questions. And when we're talking about copyright's impact on our ability to collect, preserve something about this cultural and knowledge moment we're in right now, it is worth acknowledging even if only briefly that generative AI, this moment is a deeply discombobulating moment for copyright on top of a whole series of foundation shattering moments we've gone through in the last quarter of a century. We moved to digital, that's that word again, and copyright lost one of its anchors which was that sort of physical embodiment in things, right, books, manuscripts, sheets of music, pieces of art. And that meant that suddenly works were zipping around the internet and enforcement got hard and we all had conniptions in copyright land for a good 15, 20 years. But with generative AI and everything that we've been looking at this morning we're losing or we risk losing one of the few remaining anchors in copyright which is that copyright protects expression, right, the particular collection of words or lines or colours or pixels in the product of human creativity it's foundational to copyright that that's what's protected not the information inside it or embodied in it. So to go back to Eryk's idea of noise that he was presenting this morning, you know, noise isn't protected or the vectors or the ways in or out of that noise, that feels very much like information that's not protected. And that's where things are getting quite tricky, right, there's a lot of copyright scholars at the moment currently debating, you know, if copyright material is used to train a model and then you've got that kind of information somehow in the model, embedded in the model, is there a copy of the work in the model, difficult, or is it just a copy of the information, do we, you know, are the ghosts copies, are they infringements, you know, these are genuinely difficult doctrinal questions for copyright. So what it is that we're protecting is the subject of debate, right, copyright was just unashamedly written for a material world. There's a challenge too, going on here in Australia, which Melanie has alluded to there which is how we in Australia construct copyright. You know, the current copyright law we have here in Australia, frankly it isn't fit for 2005, let alone 2015, let alone 2050. It's constructed in the image of certain core copyright stakeholders and the way that policy makers think things happen. Like even that research exception that you were talking about before which is like a massive improvement on what came before it, that provision dates from 2017, before that you had to effectively wait until something was deteriorated or destroyed before you could copy it to preserve it. You know, there was all sorts of weirdness in copyright land before the 2017 Act but even that Act, you know, it requires that you be on location in the museum, right. And you know, Melanie pointed out that well there was this bill in 2020, 2021 that was going to say well actually maybe research sometimes happens outside of a museum or people outside of a museum need to access material for research. That's not there in the law yet. So there are ways that copyright is constructed but you know, it's constructed in this image of people, you know, policy makers have this image of people going to museums or archives and doing research and accessing things there and anything outside of that is too commercial or too not researchy or something and shouldn't be allowed or at least not allowed without extensive years and years of licensing negotiations. So we have these, the law in Australia is constructed in these boxes and these images of the ways that things happen. One of the most brilliant things about being in this room as a lawyer who feels slightly like a fish out of water because not that creative is seeing the ways that creators and all of you in this room are pushing the boundaries in ways that show us what is possible, in ways that show us that those boundaries don't exist. And the more of this that policy makers see, the more policy makers we have in rooms like this, the more of you go into rooms where policy makers are, the better off we might be in having this negotiation about where the law goes. At the moment we're just on a collision course. But look, a couple of points about the law here. As I am looking at the sorts of terrific slides that Stu was showing before of the kinds of works that are being created or that I've seen over the course of today being in this room, copyright is a challenge for thinking about how we preserve, choose what to preserve, preserve things or keep things or curate things for that moment in 2050. Any of the kinds of works we're talking about that I have seen today have layers and layers of different copyright things in them. Music is one thing, software is another thing, text is another thing, images are another thing and different people may own all of these. Performers rights will complicate things. I'm sure Stuart can tell us all about all the different kinds of rights holders you have to try and licence material from if you want to do anything other than whatever is the little box in the copyright act. I love the emulation thing with software that Melanie has been telling us about. Then I look at that and I think, well, at least the kinds of software that you were trying to emulate, it was on disks and it was discrete things and you might have to emulate a computing program but when we're talking about the content of today that's sitting on an Instagram or a Facebook, can we even emulate that program into the future? Do we want to emulate that plot film into the future? How do you capture what's important about that for future thinking? Jarra Steel talked earlier about the websites that were games but are now gone because they were built in GeoCities which was a platform that no longer exists. Those things are gone or lost. I loved GeoCities too. It's gone. It's just a sweet memory but that's the point, right? What is going to be... maybe Instagram is never going to be a sweet memory but what is the sweet memory in 2050 that we don't want to just be reminiscing about? The ownership questions, the what is it the copyright protects are challenging, the intermediary question is challenging. I do think there's reason for optimism and hope here. Melanie has described we do have provisions in the Australian copyright law that allow for quite free in terms of preservation and quite free in terms of research. That cultural purpose of reaching audiences not so much yet and that's perhaps a point where we will need to continue to push and make the case for the need to preserve these things, give people those chances to experience things but they're there. The final comment I just wanted to make before we turn to the discussion because the little time is now in single digits is that idea of data donation is really, really worth pursuing. At the ADMS Centre we've had some big data donation projects very much focused on accessing and for analysis the series of ads that you might be showing on Facebook. We've had people sign up to let us just collect the ads, not all the other personal stuff that would raise privacy issues but just to collect the ads so we can see the streams of ads that people are showing. Actually there's been a big report published on it that makes really quite disturbing reading. There you go, teaser, go and find the report. This idea of data donation I think we're going to have to explore in some detail because it very much links to that question of these things are ephemeral because that's the other thing about AI that I'm noticing at the moment. Your interaction with Mid-Journey is ephemeral. It generates a series of images and then they're gone. Your interaction with chat GPT is ephemeral. It's personal to you. It's different from the interaction that another person will have with chat GPT. If we're trying to capture this cultural moment, the everydayness of these interactions, we're going to have to work out ways to collect some of that. So that's more than enough to be going on with. My little timer is now on a big red zero so I'm just going to stop, let the discussion begin. No, thank you so much, Kimberlee. That's really wonderful to hear. I think that you can actually, you cannot create all of your own strange spinning fonts and things like that on GeoCities and go and make your own website on it anymore but I think that you could probably go to the web archive and have a look at it. We see some of my past work still floating around there which would be wonderful to revisit that not just for the nostalgia but just to step back into that moment of time but is that the kind of thing and I think that's a bunch of archivists who just went screen captured all of this kind of information and put it together for future generations without potentially realising that we were going to want to look at that and I guess Melanie this might be for you, like how important is it for a community of people to take it on themselves to start this preservation without the backing of the law or a cultural institution and just for grassroots preservation to actually get us to 2050 so that we can figure out the law later because it doesn't sound like it's figuring itself out in enough time. Yeah we owe a lot to game preservationists who were of course doing it to save the games that they played when they were kids that they loved and they've invented along the way a whole bunch of tools that have become central to the way, we're at the moment where there's a professionalisation happening of software preservation but it has been invented by people getting down to a really low level and figuring out how the magnetic flux changes as the disk spins on their Amiga disk drive or their Apple II disk drive and KryoFlux is one, applesauce is another. There are lots of these kinds of projects that have come out of hobbyist endeavours and we are all in their debt. Those are the same, emulator creators, the guy from the video game history foundation Frank Cifaldi says there should be statues erected to emulator authors and I'm in agreement. And I guess also the people who provide the tools for artists to start creating things that we're going to be using in the future and things that are not owned by large organisations and Stuart I was just wondering if you could just talk a little bit about Sonic Mutations and the AI project that that was and how the artists and creative technologists worked together on that project and then I guess the second part of that question is how do you commission and curate with an eye to the future and maybe Sonic Mutations is an example of that. I think the intrinsic, I think as we sort of alluded to at the start, the intrinsic difference with the work that I commission within screen to the rest of the work you'll see at the Opera House is that within the contractual framework of that commission is the capture if you like or filming or preservation of that work and that is not the case for 99% of things you see at the Opera House. So in the commissioning of the work you're also mindful that the way that the work will be read, consumed, perceived will be mediated through a screen and so therefore that changes the nature of the production, the way that it's staged and the creative decisions that go into that. So there's a sort of additional element that comes into it because of the nature of the presentation. But I kind of think of commissioning works that are underpinned by or reliant on technology the same way that for 25 years I've thought about buying a Mac and that's the decision which is the point at which to buy the Mac is today. If you wait for the next great model to come along then that will only be superseded by the next one and so on. The jumping on point is now, so the commissioning process is essentially the same. If you wait for the technology to improve or to be at a kind of apex where you think this is the moment to jump on you're already probably starting to go down the other side of the bell curve. And I'm really interested in being able to work with artists who are working with technology at a point where it's new and nascent enough that it can still be broken and stretched and kind of mutilated in ways where it hasn't gone up behind a fence essentially. And what's key about those two AI projects is that we didn't use any extant proprietary software, software as a service. Essentially they built their own frameworks, they built their own models in order to realise those projects which was why essentially they're both collaborations between artists and technologists or creative technologists and the work could not exist without them both working in harmony. So I guess it's sort of interesting in the commissioning pathway to think well they need to bring in technologists but they need to have a creative mindset, they need to have a let's see what we can break mindset as opposed to folks who are let's say coming from a platform specific are you working in partnership with a platform that's always going to be compromised in some way because of the nature of it. So I'm just not sure that can completely answer the question but those are some of the considerations around contracting and the nature of the work itself but also understanding that it is inherently kind of ephemeral even though we're ostensibly capturing. Can I, sorry, can I just ask you a question about that which is when you are commissioning like that you are recording it on a screen for some sort of preservation purposes. In that commissioning contracting process are you also trying to capture the underlying material like the model or preserve that or is it very much just focused on capturing because it's very easy to understand capturing the film and I can think about that very easily from a copyright perspective and that's actually relatively simple but if it's the underlying material so you can reproduce the experience at all that's quite a different question. I guess one of the kind of key changes that I made early on within my tenure was actually within the contracting framework which was initially the Opera House if you filmed a work or if we were commissioning a work like that the Opera House held copyright and I never felt really comfortable about that because it's not our work. We've commissioned it, it's the artists, the art we're paying to make it happen. We're providing resources, infrastructure, platform but it's not our work and so all the contracts now essentially anything that is created in that work is wholly owned by the artist. So the Opera House even if we film something we don't have copyright in that, we licence back so essentially all rights and everything that is commissioned is held by the artists and how they then do that amongst themselves is up to whomever the contract is with but the Opera House itself holds no rights, we don't want to be a copyright holding institution in that regard if that answers the question. Certainly complicates keeping it and preserving it though doesn't it because I mean if you licence back. Yeah yeah I mean this is the fundamental question though at the heart of this panel is who wants to be preserved and what right do we have as an institution to preserve you know there are plenty of stories, there are plenty of cultures, there are plenty of things that do not want to be preserved and shouldn't be preserved and are devised to exist only in that moment you know. I mean for rightly or wrongly I came up through performance art and time based art where the idea of documenting a work was kind of heresy you know you were there and you saw the work as somebody lay down on the floor and did something weird and if you weren't there too bad you know kind of pics or it didn't happen and in this case well there were no pics and so I've kind of sort of grown up through that and thinking about that I enjoy the ephemeral nature of it the kind of you know very kind of momentary nature of live performance but I'm also aware that part of what the Opera House is trying to do is to allow broader access to the work and access in using that language to mean that more folks can see it because it has been recorded and has been distributed and so therefore in the act of trying to provide greater access to the work you are of course capturing it but it's actually it's less about the preservation of the work itself and more about can we get more people to see this work and so fundamentally if you don't want it to be recorded and you don't want more people to see it then it's not my place I don't feel anyway I don't feel it's the institution's place to force the hand of an artist to do that so therefore the cannon in 2050 is actually going to be based primarily on the people who from a performing arts perspective the people who have said yes or the people for whom rights was it was possible to unpick that very complex web of rights a very quick example you know one show that we filmed and was presented as part of that recent retrospective season I think there are about 30 different rights holders all of whom had to say yes before that work could then be streamed and so it takes one person takes one person to say no and the other 29 to say yes and it doesn't happen or takes one person to say actually when there should be you know I want to be paid twice as much and therefore everybody who gets paid twice as much and therefore it's too expensive it can't happen so I think there's a there's a lot in that who says yes first and foremost and who can say yes who has the agency to say yes before one can then say and then this is the canon, the canon will never ever be you know these are the masterworks of 2024 because there are so there are too many variables but I guess that also with the ephemeral nature of something if you don't see it but we're using technologies in order to share it with other people and with other countries like the Lu Yang work being able for people in two different cities to be able to come together and share culture so while we may not necessarily want to preserve it staging that and sharing that ephemeral nature is strengthening culture to help the rest of us sort of start thinking about these things if you did want to preserve that work and what how would you how would you begin with the Lu Yang work I mean you've got the broadcast signal you've got the background you've got the game environment I mean Melanie artists like like the Lu Yang worker increasingly using so much of what's now being developed for video games game engines and that kind of thing to create hybrid artworks is there things that you've come across or people in your community that you know how you could use what you're learning through video games to preserve some of those parts of the artworks? Well it's a lovely circular question and answer because I mean in our email discussions one of the things you were nudging towards was network games and world of warcraft and here we are I mean the strategy is machinima and documentation and Henry Lowood curates a beautiful collection of machinima on the internet archive because there's a recognition that it is performative it is ephemeral without all the other people in the environment it doesn't the game doesn't exist and so yeah be there or miss out. And what about the sort of Stuart we were talking before about the motion motion capture technology and you're talking about sort of the obsolescent of technology and that they might only last three years before something comes along it's more efficient it's better all of these kind of things but then you're also discussing the education sort of application of some of those obsolete technologies which would be great to hear you just sort of touch on again yeah I mean it's um you know education and it's you know this if I had a slide that had five circles on them you know education would be one of those slides you know that we we saw great you know excitement over the kind of motion capture works that we did and so in 2022 we started a new what we call live and interactive schools workshop where essentially we have four schools on zoom and so we can see up to a hundred kids in the classroom and they can interact with the educator on site and so did started running motion capture workshops where the artists could then take their cues from the kids and they basically together over the course of 40 minutes create a music video together based on the prompts of what sort of style what sort of dance move and all that sort of thing which is quite fun it's actually evolved last year we got two artists that were dance battle between the two of them over 40 minutes which is hugely entertaining but essentially it allows us to have like a sort of second life for for some of that technology that we put it into play you know and it's and it's not that they're sort of getting the cast off it's sort of like well there's an immediate use of that well it still has you know we're still technically it's still operating and so we'll probably run another few years out of that but it's certainly at a point where it's a little more glitchy it's not quite as you know kind of the other side of the bell curve for the for the live performance work and so it sort of satisfies that use just trying to think about you know that that kind of reuse if you like of that material. I saw what you did there with second life. Can I can I put out there a wish list for a masterwork for 2050? Absolutely. And that would be an artist's activation using the robodebt algorithm. You know one of the great travesties of the first quarter of the 21st century in Australia has been that monstrosity that we have no access to we paid for it as taxpayers and people suicided over the incorrect debts that they were told they owed. You know we should have access to that I have no I have been asking our National Archives observers on our AusEaaSI project whether they've got it. Nobody really knows but I'm sure there are all sorts of rules and secrecy maybe you know Kimberlee, because you can't even make satire of parliamentary TV in question time so I'm sure there are all sorts of impediments and laws around whether or not that would be permissible but I think that ought to be something that we aspire to for a masterwork of 2050. Absolutely. Agreed. Kimberlee, do you want to as the lawyer on the panel. This is one of those oh you're a lawyer you'll be able to work that one out right. No not. We have five minutes left you could probably do it in that time. Legal advice in five minutes. You can't charge us. Oh you can't afford me. No I mean look challenging right because even if even if it were in the archives what's the what's the period 30 years of you know confidential. Can it be decompiled you know can we get inside it. Apps are possible. Can we get inside it in 30 years. Can we actually look at the workings of the guts of it. I've just realised that we've only got four minutes left and now I figured out how to use the iPad and can see all of your questions. I don't know where I got the shoes from. But let me try to get something very quickly. I mean abolish copyright is probably one that you can do in three, four minutes. Should we abolish copyright. Yeah that's got a lot of up votes. Oh sorry was that actually a genuine question. Should we abolish copyright. We need to as one of my books is called we need to reimagine copyright actually because creators still have rights. And ensuring that creators you know have an enduring interest in the things that they create and that we respect that and you know actually ensure that people get paid for the work that they do is actually really important. The problem is that copyright doesn't do any of that. It's actually not paying creators really well. It's not ensuring respect. And so in that sense you know copyright needs a kind of reimagining. Reimagining is actually really challenging because there's all these international treaties but there are ways that people have worked out to actually start thinking about how we can protect creators with copyright and not just the little boxes of stakeholders that have been built into the system. And so you know I was sitting here you know listening to the discussion thinking okay you've got creators who may let's assume we have a creator who does in fact want to preserve some sort of work but there's all these other layered interests and there's platform interests and things like that or there's you know there's they've got agencies or they've sound everything over to record companies or publishers. You know if we could work out ways that you know if we could ensure that creators have retain enough rights to do the preservation that we need so that you just need permission from creators even that would be an improvement for example on the kinds of scenarios that you're talking about. So you're not having to go to the big corporates you actually are dealing with the you know the individual creators who have a personal interest in the longevity of the work. And I guess the other thing is that the law changes but also the interpretation of the law changes and particularly within institutions the way they choose to enforce it. And I guess what we found is sort of softening of some of our contracts insofar as things like how much how long the duration of a license might be in fact getting to the point where we've kind of softened or acquiesced or caved in enough so that we can actually film something knowing that maybe it's only seen for 30 days but it's preserved and somebody will come along in 2050 and we'll enter into a brand new copyright discussion with someone else to say how do I show it. So case in point the 50-50 season of the Opera House the very first thing we showed was the 1973 ABC recording of the Sydney Symphony. No rights were currently held by the house and no rights were in play and we were going back to not just Sydney Symphony but actually the lead soprano and the conductor and to their estates in Sweden and wherever they were to essentially get updated new copyright to show that again. So it's almost like let's get it preserved even if it means that it's only available for a very short period of time or the presentation rights are somehow diminished but at least it's captured and that we have the ability to enter into a different negotiation later to ensure that it can be recirculated again which is true in film culture of course as well and it's true in music. Things come in and out of copyright but at least the work exists it's been captured even if it means there needs to be three or four different contracts throughout this life cycle let's say. Thanks Stu. I'm glad that you brought that up because that was one of the questions that I had that I wanted to sort of tease out more and there's plenty more questions that we could have teased out more but unfortunately we are out of time so I just want you to all put your hands together for our guests today and thank them very much for their time on the panel and their insights.