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In curating this exhibition, his aim is not to provide an analytical, historical survey but rather to submerge the visitor in a spatial experience that does justice to the extraordinary visual language of this transitory digital heritage. He has mostly chosen examples from the earliest years of the medium, when the animated digital images did not yet exhibit the realism of later screensavers. It is precisely the unpolished abstraction of the first generation of screensavers that appeals to him because they emerged entirely from the practical role they had to play in protecting computer screens. But the installation also includes several more recent and advanced examples developed by Apple and Microsoft.

Functional images but also free space

It is hard to imagine a more fleeting image than the screensaver. Depending on the type of computer and the date it was purchased, from the mid-1980s digital consumers were automatically supplied with such a ‘pause’ image, which appeared if the screen was inactive for a certain period. The screensaver prevented images or icons being indelibly ‘burned’ onto the visual display unit. In this sense, the animated image was purely functional: it did not need to tell a story, it demanded no attention from the user and it disappeared before one had time to study it properly. For computer users, the screensaver was a small oasis in the highly disciplined working environment that computers offered at that time.

Although many computer users have seen countless screensavers on a daily basis, most will have little memory of them because they were so peripheral, devoid of content and so fleeting. But also so lively, relaxing and pleasing that a new screensaver was always a discovery and often met with great enthusiasm. With every innovation in hardware and software, the screensaver took on a new form. And because the computer increasingly offered other forms of relaxation and the screensaver was a purely functional image, interest in historical screensavers faded as quickly as the images themselves.

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Messages Screensaver. Opnieuw gemaakt in CSS door Bryan Braun.

Digital oblivion

With his choice for several of the oldest screensavers, Rozendaal refers to an underlying issue: namely the undocumented disappearance of digital culture. This subject has a central place in his work as an artist. But everyday users of Snapchat and Instagram Stories are also confronted with the fleeting nature of their digital photo albums. Despite the enormous storage capacity for digital media, constant technological innovation means that much of our growing digital heritage will not survive. Old file formats are quickly rendered unreadable when new generations of software are launched and the hardware will not last forever. And there are countless media products that were never designed to be preserved. This is also true of the screensavers from our first computer games and PCs.



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Fish screensaver. Opnieuw gemaakt in CSS door Bryan Braun.

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