In the seminar ‘Had To Be There?’ David Curtis said that the ‘fundamental role of an archive is the re-presentation of the work’ so it is no surprise that the quest for authenticity should be implicit in the title as well as weave throughout a number of the presentations which were invited to consider the archiving of time-based media within the context of new information systems and the growing trend of collaborative, site-specific and process based new media.
The symposium coincided with the exhibition Re: [Video Positive] Archiving Video Positively which re-enacted a number of installation works originally commissioned for the Video Positive festivals which ran bi-annually between 1989 and 2000, and presented a new work by Thomson & Craighead. This also marks the launch of FACT’s free online archive—http://archive.fact.co.uk
A series of informative publications have charted the inspiring history that has taken Merseyside Moviola as a video art screening concern to the institution of FACT —the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. The pocket sized FACTORS series—and its companion mini anthology X-FACTOR —looked at the commissioned artworks across the years the festival occurred with articles assessing the works in the context of the culture and politics of the time. In the 1989 FACTOR for example, Chrissie Iles writing of David Hall’s ‘A Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse)’: ‘In formal terms [the work] is also striking in its prescient re-interpretation of both the minimalist sculpture of the 1960s, of which Hall was a part, and the post-minimalist artistic hybridity of the 1970s, which he helped to create’.
The work—initially shown at Tate Liverpool in 1989—has 15 monitors stacked upright and facing the gallery wall, with the exception of one which faces the viewers and shows a 30 line image of the moon on equipment identical to that used by John Logie Baird in the 1920s. The warm glow of the manipulated colour from these light sources creates an ‘aura’ around the form accentuated by the discord of a media onslaught of voices from TV broadcasts and films. Conceptually striking and sculpturally imposing, the work seems as pertinent now as a comment on the iconic and pervasive appeal of communication technologies.
The trajectory of practices by some of the artists in the show chronicle advances in art and technology that have occurred in the past two decades—Thomson and Craighead’s 2007 work ‘Beacon’ uses live web searches which transmit randomly selected words on an old style railway flap sign, and in the more politically engaged work of Keith Piper, who has consistently explored various applications of digital technologies within gallery, non-gallery and virtual environments, in an ongoing examination of racial, gender and class identity issues. A memorable quote from Piper once stated ‘identity is not in the past to be found, but in the future to be constructed’—the same applies to the narratives of art archives.
Malcolm Dickson is director of Street Level, Glasgow