The Archive of Digital Art (ADA)

Donau Universität Krems

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A collaborative and social “living” archive, the mission of the Archive of Digital Art (ADA), founded 1999 by Oliver Grau in Berlin, is to document the ever-changing world of Media Art––also called Digital Art or New Media Art––and its related disciplines at the intersection of art, science, and technology from the mid-20th century to today.

Within ADA, documentation is not understood as a static concept, but rather to be a “living” process based on user-generated content that integrates continuous exchange between artists, scholars, technologists and users. With newly developed social software, an open access policy allows the ADA community to contribute their own visual and textual documents; and code themselves keyword metadata for ADA’s research database.


Prof. Dr. habil. Oliver Grau, MAE

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As a research database, ADA's mission is to actively establish documentation strategies for artists, curators, and preservationists. One defining strategy is an "expanded concept of documentation": the documents are archived on ADA by the artists and scholars themselves with: biographical and bibliographic information about the artist, their inventions, awards, and statements; lists of events, exhibitions, and publications (including title, date, location, funding); graphic images of the installation of the artwork; digital images of individual artworks (exhibited, in process, and in all its varying iterations); information on the software used and hardware configuration (technical data); technical instructions (schematics); type of interface and display; video documents (interviews, presentations, artwork interactions); references and literature about the artists; information about the technical staff; institutions; and copyright.

This data structure creates both a chronological historical representation to portray the continuous development of an artwork, as well as a network of analyses, in which objects are arranged in different contextual and visual environments. ADA functions both as an information-carrying database as well as a digital platform for research and discussions by combining an interconnected data infrastructure and an open digital community. The research on ADA is based on a comparative and multi-perspectival definition of Digital Art, which acknowledges the collaborative structure of artworks, its technological foundation, its relationship to scientific research and its processual, modular and ephemeral mediality. The database connects data entries based on keyword, bibliography and institution-metadata to understand the network structure of Media Art on an institutional, technological and aesthetic level.

Traditional, hierarchical archival methods are disengaged towards a social, co-creative documentation platform by visibly documenting entries from each community member, creating an open online exhibition tool and connecting community members with chat functions.

A second defining strategy is to “create bridges” between “traditional” art forms and “new” media art. Through keyword links, which are based on a triadic structure (aesthetics, subject and technology), media artworks are connected to collections from art historical databases. The complex data infrastructure allows users to analyse artworks beyond epochal or genre-specific borders, and to create rich histories of Media Art from its historic predecessors to various genres like Bio Art, Net Art, Virtual Reality Installations and other genres that culminate the phenomenon of Media Art.

Abt. Digitale Kunst, Angewandte Wien
Abt. Interface Cultures, Kunstuniversität Linz
Media Art Research Thesaurus, 2016,
Oliver Grau, Sebastian Haller, Janina Hoth, Viola Rühse, Michala Seiser. "Documenting Media Art." Leonardo Vol. 52, No. 5, pp. 435-551,2019.

Oliver Grau und Inge Hinterwaldner (Ed.): Retracing Political Dimensions: Strategies in Contemporary New Media Art, Berlin/Boston 2021.

Oliver Grau, Wendy Coones, Viola Rühse (Ed.): Museum and Archive on the Move: Changing cultural Institutions in the digital Era, Berlin/Boston 2017.

Oliver Grau: For an Expanded Concept of Documentation: The Database of Virtual Art, ICHIM, École du Louvre, Cultural institutions and digital technology, Paris 2003, Proceedings, pp. 2-15.