Torben Søborg:
Some personal remarks on how it started and developed
- and about networking across Europe

Working as schoolteacher in the start of the 1960’ties I was interested in using audio-visual aids. In 1962-63 I was Fullbright teacher at Long Island, NY, USA, and took an AV-course at Hofstra University College. Back in Denmark I got published a book about the use of flip-over and flannel boards in education and later a book about overhead projector and one about using slides ( with co-authors).

In 1965 I got a job as study lecturer at Haslev Teacher’s College and started a department for audio-visual aids

In 1967 it was possible to get Sony and Shibaden video tape recorders and cameras to use in teaching, and I established the very first video workshop in Denmark at the college.

We started out with the equipment of that time - Sony reel-to-reel tape recorders and black/white cameras - but in 1975 we bought one of the first U-matic edit suites in Denmark.

Ordinarily the video workshop served as a student facility. The studio was equipped with two black and white cameras controlled from the control-room with tape recorders, but also one camera used by a camera man. The idea was to use it for the so called micro-teaching. The students did a small teaching job with children from the local school. The session was taped and a college teacher and the student looked at it for help with teaching technics,  

When the Ministry of Education was cutting down on the colleges, the video workshop simultaneously also maintained various external functions.

At that time the town of Haslev took part in the first experiments with local cabl television and I worked as studio manager. I went on a tour to UK to study the experiments with what they called community television. Back again at the video workshop I created courses for those among the local population wanting to make local TV, and later also courses for people from small local museums wanting to use video in their work. On a more informal level the wrkshop additionally served as an open workshop where I solely came to decide among the applications tendered.

In 1982 I was a bit tired of always teaching other people to use video and not doing anything for my own sake. My daughter in Stockholm told me about a Nordic Summer School in Umeå having courses for video art in July 1982. Being also an art teacher I applied and was accepted for a month-long course with the Norwegian video artist Marianne Heske and the Dutch couple  Madelon Hooykass and Elsa Stansfield as instructors. I produced a video installation WAVE MOTION and made a video art performance Felt, 2 square meters at the main street in Umeå.
The video installation WAVE MOTION was originally for 3 monitors, but later I expanded it to 8 monitors – see images and description at http://www.videokunst-danmark.dk/torben/Wave.htm  - and I was invited to show it with the Danish artist group Ny Abstraktion in Charlottenborg Art Hall in Copenhagen 1985 (as part of the Fools Festival) and later at Eymaros Art Space in Athens, Greece 1990. A funny thing is that when I was invited to a film festival in Thessalonika, Greece the next year I met two Greek artists and they told me they had enjoyed to see my installation at the Greek television.

It led to that I already September 29, 1982, was invited to show video art tapes in Malmö, Sweden (Den andalusiske hunden biter igen) and again October 30 also in Malmö (Den magiska lampen. Nya videoexperiment)

At that time I was also editor of Dansk Video Tidsskrift, and when I came back from Umeå the Danish artist Niels Lomholt had written an article about video art with a list of people in Denmark working with video

This led to that Niels Lomholt and I organised the 1. Danske Symposium om videokunst (First Danish Symposium on Video Art) November 11, 1982, at Huset in Copenhagen, inviting the people from the list to participate .Among the participants were Svend Thomsen who later took part in starting Video Gallery Trekanten, students from the Media Education Line at Roskilde University Centre plus representatives from Dansk Filmcentrum and the Art Libraries' professionals who at that time were among the few potential video distributors in Denmark. The symposium discussed the following objectives: 1. Production facilities and possibilities 2. Problems with distribution   3. How to spread information about video art 4. Danish videoart? 5. Possibilities for a form of organisation. A small report was published by Dansk Video Tidskrift.

Then I was asked to participate in 1. Nordiska Video Konst Seminarium at Hannaholmen, Helsinki, Finland, January 31 – February 3 1983, and also to invite 3 other Danes working with video art: Niels Lomholt, Tom Elling and a femal artist. I showed the installation Wave Motion and  my videotape LIVING-ROOM / LIVING ROOM? and was asked to give a speech Video + Art = Video Art which you can read at my website http://www.videokunst-danmark.dk/torben/essay1.htm with a follow up Video Art and Art Criticism – Thoughts after a Panel discussion www.videkunst-danmark/torben/essay2.htm . The first essay was later published in the Swedish art magazine Kalejdoskop,nr. 3-4, Kristanstad, 1983 – a special number about Video Art in Scandinavia.

Already the following month, February 11-13 1983, I was invited to show video at VIDEOKONST, Gothenburg Art Museum, Sweden.

And then it rolled: I showed my videos at 8 more venues in 1983 – both in Denmark, Sweden and Germany - and it went on like this the following many years. To make a long story short I will just mention some – you could call it – highlights.

From September 1983 and a few years on Niels Lomholt organised Falling Annual Livingroom Video Festspiel at his home in Falling and invited both Danish and German / English video art people to take part for a couple of days. It gave me good contacts – and I think it was through these contacts that some of my videos were accepted both as part of Infermental – International Magazine on Video Cassette, Budapest, Hungary and VIDEOCONGRESS, a similar video magazine by 235 in Cologne, Germany. The magazines were often screened at different places, not only in Europe.

Together with Niels Lomholt and with financial support from the Danish Ministry of Culture we collected and printed in 1984 KATALOG OVER DANSK VIDEOKUNST / CATALOGUE OF DANISH VIDEO ART representing 30 Danish artists working with video art and 4 production groups. This catalogue once again raised the question about distribution, As a follow up the Video Workshop in Haslev established THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK as a non-profit agency for promotion and distribution of Danish video art outside Denmark.

The old printed version of "Katalog over dansk videokunst /Catalogue of Danish Video Art" from 1984 is now both outdated and out of print. To replace this THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK created an online virtual Archives of Independent Danish Video Art. The web site collected information of independent Danish video art works and Danish artists working with video. By independent meant that these artists were not associated with a commercial gallery. They might have connection to one of the small video workshops to be able to make videos if they did not have their own equipment. We just made our own videos

In an interesting essay in the Catalogue to the exhibition Videokunst in Deutchland 1963-1882 the German video artist Ulrike Rosenbach ask: Warum haben Künstler angefangen mit Video zu arbeiten? Was hat uns daran so fasciniert? Although Ulrike Rosenbach started working with video at different time and different ways, I have the same feeling as Ulrikke describes: ... video ... es war die totale Autonomie für mich … the total autonomy, the total freedom in the way that you yourself controlled all parts of the process to a result – independent of others: It was video for, by and through our selves.

The DATA BANK has distributed Compilations of Danish Independent Video Art for screenings in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Columbia, DDR, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Moldova, Montenegro, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, USSR and Yugoslavia. Often I just organised that THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK could show compilations of Danish video art by sending a compilation tape with post. At the end of 2004 the DATA BANK stopped its distribution activity.

In March 1984 we organised 2. Symposium about Danish Video Art at Svend Thomsen’s Gallery Trekanten. The chairman of the board of the organisation of Danish Visual Artists took part and I was asked to join Danish Visual Artists as the first member working with video art.

Together with Huset in Copenhagen we organised Nordic Video Art Seminar, January 31 – February 2 1986, and invited artists from Sweden, Norway and Germany – and also the director of Glyptoteket Art Museum in Copenhagen because we wanted to involve the art museums. It turned out to be a good idea, because I / The Danish Video Art Data Bank was asked to show Danish video art at the museum in the summertime for several years.

In 1987 I was asked to become Scandinavian Commissar to Festival International d’Art Video in Locarno, Switzerland, and for some years I took the night train to Switzerland to take part in the festval.

Through all this I got to know many of the European video artists. It was an informal network which often had the effect that you were invited to other festivals: You took part in a festival in Berlin and met the curator of European Media Art Festval in Osnabrück, Germany, and at this festival you met the curator of Retina Festival in Szigetvár, Hungary, and was invitet for many years to this festival – one time to be jury member. And here I met Pauline from Scotland and came to a festival in Glasgow – and so on. It became a very useful network and it got me be to festivals also in Greece, Italy, Serbia, Romania, Latvia, Russia and Portugal. In Lissabon I was asked to be on the international jury, and in Bukarest I met a girl from Budapest. She asked me to show Danish video at the art museum and at the academy of arts – and she said: You can borrow my apartment at the Pest side. I will not be there.

Some festivals you enjoyed to attend year after year – The European Media Art Festval in Osnabrück, Germany, Festival International d’Art Vidéo in Locarno, Switzerland, Retina in Szighitvarr, Hungary, Falling Annual Livingroom Video Festspiel in Falling, Denmark and Monitor at Frölunda Kulturhus, Sweden.

Fools Festival in Copenhagen 1985 (mentioned above) was an exception. Niels Lomholt, Svend Thomsen and I were asked to arrange a lot of video art screenings. We all three used our networks to invite people to send us tapes for the festival and we got it all well organised, but … we were told, that the artists would be paid for the tapes, but when the festival was over we did not get a penny. The festival director declared the festival bankrupt! And it took very long time before we just got a small amount.

How the informal network really worked was not always easy to understand. Once I a got a call from an Australian video artists. He wanted to visit me and the video workshop. When I asked where he had learned about me, he said that it was in New York. Simon Biggs and I got really good friends

At one of the many festivals in 1991 I met Alan McCluskey from Gen Lock in Geneve, Switzerland. He published a small newsletter IS INFO SERVICE, a monthly European Newsletter about creative Video and had started the European project Les Cent Lieux (The 100 places). The idea was to create as many more or les permanent screenings of creative video and video art as possible. I took the idea up with the project Månedens video (The video of the month). Every Thursday between 4 and 5 pm the video workshop / Databank would screen 1-3 video art productions at the Haslev Public Library, and the next month 1-3 new videos. Little by little we extended the project to 3 other public libraries in Denmark.

At a meeting in Berlin February 21, 1992 attended by 17 people from organisations working with video in 12 European countries to create EVS European Video Services. Once again it was Alan McCluskey who took the iniative. The purpose with EVS was to create a Europe-wide forum for critical discourse and provide a milieu in which critical thought, networking possibilities, informational and creative exchanges could thrive. This by - among other things -  publishing a bilingual magazine and an info-service. I represented The Danish Video Art Data Bank and Dino Raymond Hansen the Danish Film Institute video workshop. I remember that we published some numbers of the magazine, but the problem was of course financial. It was difficult to get money enough to continue – the same problem I had with DANSK VIDEO TIDSSKRIFT.

I don’t remember the year but it was at a meeting at Time Based Art in Amsterdam with among others the people from 235 Köln, Osnabrück and Gallerie Schwarzer Bär, Hannover. We tried to formalise the network by creating European Media Art Network. I remember I was asked to make a newsletter for the Network because the DATA BANK in 1996 had started to publish a website - a GLOBAL CALENDAR - with information about video and media festivals, exhibitions, screenings and related activities all over the world. This website contained information about more than 4.000 activities.

March 1, 2006 the DATA BANK had to close this GLOBAL CALENDAR because of lack of resources to keep it updated.

One day in the fall of 1988 I got a phone call from an ambassador from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He told me, that there should be a cultural exchange between Denmark and France and he wanted me to show Danish video art at Musée des Beaux-Art Mulhouse November 3-20 1988, and he wanted be to be there at the opening November 3.

I then used the network to arrange that a compilation of Danish video art also was shown at ECART in Lyon November 15 and at Ecole d’Art Limoges in November. I did only attend the opening in Mulhouse. 

Click here to see an example of a compilation. This one was screened at RETINA Festival in Szigitvar, Hungary in 2001.

Little by little we got more small video workshops in Denmark . The Danish Film Institute got two: One in Copenhagen and one in Kolding, but also other supported by a community or really independent. And eventually we formed a rather loose organisation. In November 1993 the  Danish Ministry of Culture asked me to represent these independent workshops in the board of the Danish Film Institute, which I did for 10 years – until I discovered that the workshop organisation did not exist anymore.                                                                         

 


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