How to preserve an artist’s lifework for future generations?

Preserving artistic intent in an arctic data vault / Arctic ice will keep Minna Alaluusua´s art for ever

Is an individual artist’s legacy part of the world’s cultural heritage? Minna Alaluusua, a Finnish experimental artist, had pondered this question for a long time. By coincidence, she read an article in the national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about the Arctic World Archive – an initiative started by a Norwegian company, Piql, in 2017 to protect and safeguard the world´s most valuable digital content in a secluded, arctic data vault completely cut off from online cyber-attacks and natural disasters, and with minimal human intervention. A true safe haven. She was intrigued by the idea of being able to safeguard her artistic legacy for future generations and possibly for hundreds of years.

Minna Alaluusua is an experienced experimental artist from Helsinki, Finland. With a degree from Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture and studies in the University of Helsinki, Alaluusua has participated in a broad range of cultural projects and applies a very borderless and innovative approach in her own artwork. She combines good ideas and innovativeness with various aesthetics. Her artistic development has followed the same path as the art history of the twentieth century. She started oil painting while only three years old – now she has 40 years of experience in oil painting. From painting and drawing she switched to photography and video – she has practiced photography for over 20 years. After painting and photography, she focused on site-specific art, installations, different kinds of performances, dance art and conceptual art, and then on new media art, media art installations and participatory art, among other things. Alaluusua utilizes every possible way of creating art available to her at the time and innovates continually with new forms and content. However, her passion most often lies in performative and conceptual art. Alaluusua has combined her previous experience in contemporary art, liberal arts, and poetry art, as well as her experience working as a Media Designer at Corporate Development at the Finnish Broadcasting Company to create artworks that give people new experiences, empower them, and encourage better ways of thinking, creating and living. She has also created several interdisciplinary artworks and collaborated with many scientists and artists from other fields.

One of Alaluusua’s interesting self-reflections regarding her development as an artist involved in several types of expressive processes is understanding and documenting how her artistic intent has been shaped and also how to preserve this intent while preserving the authentic way it was established. “One of my biggest questions in recent years has been how do we keep documenting artistic intent and expression over time so that it will not be coloured by new experiences and styles. I want my art to be perceived in the way it was created when I made it. Even though everyone is entitled to have their own perception and interpretation about my art, I like the idea of being able to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that my art and expression remain in as genuine and authentic as possible. “ “I wanted to be able to protect and preserve my artworks in the best possible way, and at the same time I believe that this might also be of interest to future generations. My works include different types of art pieces including various types of pictures from paintings and prints to photographs, videos and different types of three-dimensional art works and I realized that the best way to keep this documentation would be to digitize everything and then preserve it in the best possible way. When I read about the Arctic World Archive, a digital vault where you could store digital content for decades and ensure access for future generations, I immediately knew that this could be the type of initiative that would help me protect my art works.”

To view the works storaged in the Arctic World Archive please click here:

The Arctic World Archive is an initiative created in 2017 by the Norwegian company Piql, a global expert in preserving digital content for decades and even centuries. The idea of the Arctic World Archive was built on the Global Seed Vault, which is a repository for the world’s most valuable seeds and protected in a mountain vault up in the Arctic. Piql, whose cutting-edge technology has developed a very unique storage medium, saw the opportunity to create a similar Global Vault for digital data, whether pictures, documents, videos, databases or art collections. Large public and private institutions like the Vatican Library, the National Museum of Norway and the National Archive of Mexico have already deposited some of their most valuable digital assets in the Arctic World Archive. The question is, could art works of an individual artist also be stored in the vault?

“Originally the Arctic World Archive was for institutions and companies to place a copy of their valuable content as ultimate disaster recovery. We want this to be a place that can describe and document history and cultural heritage for future generations. But what is cultural heritage? Is it only historical documentation kept by public institutions? What about contemporary works from individual contributors? Would works from a Finnish artist document something about cultural development in Finland? Would the artistic intent of that artist be able to say something about the society and former communities for the generations of tomorrow? These were the questions we debated when Alaluusua approached us and wanted to take part in the project”, says Alfredo Trujillo, product manager at Piql. He continues: “We concluded that we do believe an artist to greater or lesser degree is an important part of a country’s cultural heritage and thus a good fit for the mission of the Arctic World Archive. In February 2018, the collection of Minna Alaluusua was placed under protection in the vault, keeping her artistic life and information safe for the future.”

If the artist ever would need to access the material stored in the arctic vault, there are mechanisms in place for her to be able to access the information, tomorrow or 10 years from now. “This way I know that I will never be at risk of losing my legacy. At the same time it is also nice to know that my contribution and artistic intent will live on forever.”

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