Symposium

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On Archives

WRO 07 symposium for 12th International Media Art Biennale, with Geoff Cox, Vincent Bonin, Sandra Fauconnier, Sandra Thomas, John Thomson, Wiel Seuskens, Joasia Krysa, Wulf Herzogenrath, Lukasz Guzek, Dorota Monkiewicz.

Date:
16 May 2007 → 20 May 2007
Location:
Teatr Lalek, Wroclaw, Poland

To observe the assembly of a global archive of the hybrid space of description and communication, consisting of a mobile, ever-expanding collection of media archives that presently join the common network and thus enable access to previously restricted works. Media art in perspective of history of art. To present the individual collections and their history; to compare the strategies of storage, exhibition and exchange of the works in the context of the changing aims, and the reception and exhibition practices of media art within contemporary art. To view the uses of new technologies and the self- organization of cooperating institutions, art centers, museums, galleries and independent formations as one of the themes of Biennale; the diverse structure of post-urban, post-physical space.

Review: WRO 07 Biennale Symposium on Archives

By Michal Szota.

The WRO 07 Biennale was accompanied by a two-day symposium devoted to digital art archives, and curatorial practice in the digital era. As the organisers of the symposium, we have decided to tackle these subjects for a specific reason: we are launching an new institution, WRO Art Center, whose objectives include archivisation and presentation of our media art collection, which is a great challenge, not least because of its sheer size (over 5000 works). Our interest in the topic of the art archive isn’t then purely theoretical.

The symposium was kindly chaired by Geoff Cox (UK), who also presented an insightful introductory talk on the evolving cultural and political significance of the archive, from the pseudo-scientific collections of the 19th century phrenologists, to contemporary Indymedia and peer to peer networks. Geoff’s understanding of the archive as an “active site of the production of meaning” proved to be an efficient conceptual framework for the following presentations.

In the first talk, Vincent Bonin from the Daniel Langlois Foundation (Canada) discussed the role of archivists and researchers as mediators between unstructured, ‘organic’ fonds and public presentation. He focused on two archival projects carried out by his organisation: Steina and Woody Vasulka fonds research and 9 Evenings - Theatre and Engineering research. The talk was accompanied by a presentation of the visual interface to the archival material,designed as a part of the projects.

Sandra Fauconnier from V2_ Institute (the Netherlands) presented the development process of V2_’s archive, which provided a perspective of an institution devoted to documenting, and not collecting artistic projects. She discussed V2_’s innovative flexible object-relation data model comprising multimedia data, which she co-authored, and demonstrated the V2_ archive as a successful model for a semantic data-set.

Sandra Thomas, the director of inter media art institute imai (Germany), a publicly supported distribution-focused archive of video art, discussed the preservation of cultural heritage undergoing physical decay. She described the process and the challenges of analogue data preservation, and presented the framework of imai’s archive operation.

John Thomson from Electronic Art Intermix (USA) gave a presentation on the emergence, evolution, dissemination and commercialisation of video art, and its ‘journey from production to being seen’. He showed the historical perspective of video art, from the birth of the genre to the era of media convergence, where, as he concluded, the idea of everyone having the possibility to become a video artist surfaces, pointing out that the archives and distributors, such as EAI, serve a significant role as a selective filter for the ever-growing stream of media art.

Wiel Seuskens from the Netherlands Media Art Institute (Montevideo) focused on the technical aspects of video preservation. He discussed the choices his institution has made for the storage of data, and presented MPEG-2 as the format of choice, in comparison to other video compression standards.

Joasia Krysa from KURATOR/University of Plymouth (Poland/UK) delivered a talk on the relationship between archiving and curating online. She discussed a number of examples of online curatorial platforms that facilitate new models of curatorial practice and archival exchange and at the same time indicate potential of archive as dynamic and collaborative form.

Prof. Wulf Herzogenrath from Kunsthalle Bremen (Germany) emphasised the importance of the curator in the process of public education, and discussed the collaborative process that led to the publication of 40 Years of Video Art. He also presented excerpts from the project’s collection and provided an insight into the choices made by the curatorial board.

Lukasz Guzek (Poland) discussed collaborative database projects hosted by his online art journal spam.art.pl. He focused on two platforms: a Library of Unrealized Art Projects, and the Archive of the Censorship of Contemporary Art in Poland.

In the final talk, Dorota Monkiewicz (Poland) presented a curatorial and art critical perspective on virtuality and virtual presence. She presented illustrations of the process of the multi-layered visual translation between the reality and the work of art by electronic means. The presentation was also concerned with art using traditional media (as opposed to electronic media), and yet reflecting on new media.

The Symposium turned out to be a successful review of the current state of media art archiving. Although the presentations focused on different, discrete archival and curatorial projects, there was a common theme pervading all the perspectives: There is an ongoing shift in the power relations between the curators, creators and audiences, effected by the increasingly participatory character of the Internet. The question that the symposium poses is how this influences media art archives, which by their nature operate at the intersection of the public and institutional control.

The abstracts of the talks, along with the speakers’ biographies are available at http://wro07.wrocenter.pl/biennale/symposium.php

The entire event was recorded, and the videos will be made publicly available on WRO website.

Michal Szota, WRO 07 Biennale Symposium coordinator

msz@wrocenter.pl