Arc-hive, the first online platform for biomedia-focused artworks, is born

Six European institutions, including KONTEJNER, have been joining forces for the past 18 months to create the first open source digital platform to generate, centralize and share knowledge about artworks based on living materials or systems.

After a year and a half of intense work, the Arc-hive platform goes live and opens up to the public and users, becoming the first digital space in which to find information, knowledge and documentation on works of art focused on biomedia; that is, artworks that employ living materials or systems in their form and content. The project's main objective is to become a meeting point for the different agents working with biological materials, from artists, students, researchers, curators or scientists to museums, universities, cultural institutions and research centers.

The platform hosts and makes available a catalogue created specifically for the project, which contains valuable information on a selection of artworks focused on biomedia: description, technical data, bibliography and 3D models. But Arc-hive is not only a museum catalog, but also a resource generator: the platform devotes a large part of its space to making visible the collective knowledge that has emerged within the project with the aim of turning them into common tools that can be replicated, improved, and that allow the dissemination of good practices in this field of study. These resources include podcasts, exhibitions, publications, digitization protocols, workshops, symposia, videos, or case studies. The open source philosophy has been essential in the construction of the platform, helping to ensure that its development responds to criteria of ecological sustainability, technological sovereignty and social return.

At the same time, Arc-hive has brought a technical and conceptual challenge to contemporary archival practices, dealing with artworks that by their changing nature resist capture and cataloguing. The uninterrupted life cycles of mutation, degradation and regeneration of artworks predominantly based on biological materials have raised several questions around digitization and cataloging protocols: where, for example, does the most important part of an artwork focused on living materials reside? Is it possible to locate it and migrate it so that it can inhabit the digital field without being permanently distorted? Should we capture all stages of its life cycle? Should we correct or absorb extraneous elements that emerge during the digitization process? Should we assume that the completely generic and mathematical space of digital three-dimensionality always entails the elimination of its situated environment? How do we write code that feeds and sustains an ecosystem of common interfaces? What mutual learning can occur between the world of federated infrastructures and practices close to working with living materials?

Arc-hive has been possible thanks to the collaboration between six European partner institutions with diverse and complementary profiles that develop their activities within the museum, publishing, IT and audiovisual fields: Kersnikova (Slovenia), KONTEJNER (Croatia), Hangar (Spain), Bioart Society (Finland), RBINS (Belgium) and Cultivamos Cultura (Portugal), which leads the project. Arc-hive has been co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union, which aims to support European projects in the field of cultural production and innovation.

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