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     Video Art / Media Art Preservation:  Studies and Suggestions
                     THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK

 

Preserving video art

As already mentioned THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK in 1984 published - with support from the Danish Ministry of Culture - the bilingual “Katalog over dansk videokunst / Catalogue of Danish Video Art” with descriptions of well over 100 video works by 30 artists.

 There have been created quite a lot video art works since then but the problem is that it is not possible today to view and experience many of the works from the catalogue, partly because they were produced at video standards which now are outdated and even not exist anymore and partly because we have had to discover that analogue video tapes do have a limited durability.

Most of the works though are produced on low band U-matic. This standard still exist but for how long? As far as I know Sony has now stoped the production. At the Data Bank I still keep the old well-worn low band and high band U-matic decks and edit suite in shape but anyway we must realise that the lifetime of these perhaps more than 25 years old U-matic tapes are running out especially if the storage has not been optimum and if they not have been “aired” in most of these years.

Well - perhaps many of these first video art works are not “Big Art” (whatever that is?) but if for nothing else than historical and research reasons I feel they should be preserved. They are after all a part of our cultural heritage!

 In the light of this THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK prepared a report and proposal (published only in Danish) to secure, protect and restore Danish video art and creating an archive for this purpose. 

 To secure, protect and restore modern art, especially when it comes to a rather new kind as video art, is still a relatively “uncultivated” field with no clear definitions. Also because the electronic/digital media is a fast changing field with standards that do not last for very long. And also the electronic/digital media are “young” in the sense that we do not know too much about durability and the process of ageing and there is almost no expertise on this field.

 We took contact with Montevideo/TBA, the Dutch Media Art institute, because we knew that they are working with the same problem and had made some research and considerations, published in a report in 1999.

As a result of this research they had - at that time at least -  decided to transfer all analogue tapes to digital Betacam because they found that in this way you best preserved the “originality” of the original video art work. They found that other digital techniques like DV and DVD inevitably by more or less degree of compression “destroyed” the original analogue art work: You would not be able to “recreate” it in its original form.

 Also to transfer the analogue art work to a more or less compressed digital media raises the moral and the copyright question: Could you at all take the liberty to “change” an art work, produced at an analogue form by transferring it to a digital carrier? Gaby Wijers from Montevideo raises the question: “How far does digitisation change the meaning of the video work? By definition, digitisation of video art means changing the carrier and playback equipment of the work of art”

  Well, we find that you could also argue that this is less important in view of the problem that the analogue video art works will be destroyed if nothing is done.

 I know that KIASMAand AV-ARKKI in Finland with the consent of the video artists are digitising masters in Mpeg2. The artists get a DVD-copy, which they can use for promotion and distribution. They state that they do not find any other realistic solution but anyhow it would be interesting to hear the considerations/thoughts they have done to the above-mentioned moral and copyright question.