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GAMA, Gateway to Archives of Media Art

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(European tool for artists)
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(the association of non-government organisations and independent creators in the field of culture and art)
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Barbara Borčić

The situation in the sphere of archiving and documenting media art, particularly video, is quite similar in most countries of Central and Eastern Europe (as proven at the V2_East Meeting on Documentation and Archives of Media Art in Central, Eastern and South-eastern Europe held in Rotterdam in 1996). In countries where video art had already established a tradition of its own, the documenting and archiving of this segment of artistic creation only began to develop in the second half of the nineties - and in most cases by Soros Centers for Contemporary Arts. Despite their considerable number, quality and long history, none of the art institutions in Slovenia have systematically dealt with, followed, documented, presented and reflected on video production. For this reason the decision to embark on the documentation and archiving of video art was not a difficult one. The actual needs of the protagonists themselves (such as the initiative for saving ŠKUC-Forum Video Production from deterioration and oblivion) as well as the growing interest for the presentation of video art in the international arena have ideally coincided with the planned documentation programme of SCCA-Ljubljana.

There are personal stories. When attempts are made to transform them into objective history, one cannot avoid adapting materials to previously adopted theses, simplifications and generalisations, even if one resorts to the critical analysis of history - which is the only acceptable approach for the authors and authoresses themselves. These stories are often attractive, but tendentious.

On the other side, there is the pragmatic world of documents and data. Nothing spectacular. But they are always there, waiting for someone to use them. They only begin to multiply when we begin to collect and classify them. And such is the experience of the team which embarked on the project of documenting video art in Slovenia.

At the beginning, it was necessary to clarify certain dilemmas: whether to make a selection of documents or (at least try) to include all available and accessible information on a targeted area. To store the information and leave the possibility of selection to the user, or to employ a more selective method and assume responsibility for unavoidable manipulation with information. Is the mass of information that needs to be thought through still useful for the potential reader? Can he or she plough his way through such a mass of data? Or precisely the opposite - is it the very mass of data that gives this documentation project archival value? To all those more seriously engaged in video art, particularly the avid researcher who patiently reads information and searches for links, it will certainly be welcome and enjoyable. And, hopefully, beneficial.

It was clear from the very beginning that the term video production is much too broad. Hence the decision that the subject of our  research would not be video as a technology, but the use of video technology as a means of expression and a carrier of information in the context of art and culture. Not a dominant, institutionalised use, but an independent, individualised, alternative, marginal and subversive use. For this reason, the Videodokument project is an attempt to encompass the wealth of video production - all the materials that were created and preserved - with emphasis on art video. It also presents the context in which video works originated and which video works helped to create. Here I refer to the social, political and theoretical context as well as to the context of artistic practice.

And now a word or two about the authors included in the category of comprehensive documentation. In this case, certain limitations were, of course, unavoidable. The main criterion was the number of so-called art videos (at least three) or a larger number of works of other video genres, such as video spots, the author's engagement in the field of analogue or digital technologies, such as film, network art, intermedia performances and projects. From here onward, the information on such authors was not subjected to any further selection.

We have documented things that have already been created and times that have passed. Although we had to deal with constantly emerging new materials and an understanding of the video medium that is incessantly changing and expanding to new fields, the collection of information had to be unavoidably limited  in time - up to the end of 1998. For this reason openness and all-inclusiveness are relative. A hidden or even unconscious mechanism is at work here, forcing us to accept certain restraints and limitations in spite of our opposition. This is probably the fate of every documentation project. One shouldn't forget that the document covers a period of thirty years, and was created with the intention of becoming, together with the reference archives, useful study material for further research and analysis, and a stimulation for the regular updating of video documents.

What's more, it is not possible to collect everything and arrange all the collected materials according to an ideal system designed in advance. It cannot be done without holes and errors. At times, the systematisation of data simply escaped our control. New data and contents which did not fit into the adopted method of classification kept reappearing. That is why we sometimes allowed deviations which were not in line with the rules of documentation, but, on the other hand, were demanded by existing artistic practice.

Authors are listed in alphabetical order. The collected information is presented in the following order: author, video work, other projects and presentations, and bibliography. Each author has also contributed a short bibliography and a statement presenting his or her views on video and the reasons for selecting video as a means of expression. Video works are ranked in three categories: art, documentary and music videos; we have, however, kept in mind that it is difficult, or even unnecessary, to draw the boundaries between these categories in specific periods - particularly in the period of intensive video production in the eighties. This was also the main reason for the emergence of terms such as art-documentary and art-musical video. Art videos are presented with a short summary and up to three scenes. The focus is therefore on art video and the words of the author, which add a subjective element to objective information.

A few other explanations and guidelines. Information on videos were taken from the so-called opening titles. If these did not exist - which is quite frequent in earlier videos - , the information was obtained from the authors themselves. This is the reason for the appearance of various names, depending on which one was used in a specific period or a specific video. For the purpose of clarity, a uniform sequence and numerous abbreviations are used. A history of video within the scope of the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana and a short chronology of events related to video in the Slovene cultural environment are presented at the end. The chronology, as well as the list of video works, perhaps most clearly reveal the occasional fluctuations in the interest for video.

Needless to say, numerous obstacles and difficulties were encountered in the collection and classification of documents. In most cases, authors did not have updated and well-arranged files and documentation, many items had been lost or misplaced. This applies in particular for earlier works. Consequently, our project had them rummaging for lost and forgotten documents to which artists attribute less significance, in contrast to current production. For editors playing the role of documentalists, this only strengthened our belief in the usefulness of our activities and immersed us in the long-lasting task of reconciling and updating information, as well as encouraged us to accept an all-encompassing systematisation that is more friendly to the user than the author. This was also an opportunity to meet with personal stories and partial recollections which, repeatedly in the focus of attention, began to regain sharpness. These often tell us much more about the production and reception of video and the distinguishing lines between various views of video than external, objective history, which is based on generalisations and thus conceals the differences and shifts, discontinuity and creativity. That is our advantage. It may very well be, as is the case with many documenting and review publications speaking of a specific artistic practice on the basis of documents, that the editors of this Videodokument will be the only ones to read it in its entirety.

In preparing this publication, we have consulted professional documentalists, colleagues from the spheres of art history, sociology of culture, media studies, and the artists themselves. Only one request for cooperation was rejected. We apologise for any errors or omissions that may have unintentionally occurred. Our wish is that the materials collected in this book and the essays published separately will contribute to a better understanding of the role and significance of video in Slovenia and stimulate an interest in video art, particularly among young researchers.

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In Focus

At some point,
in some place

(video screening from
DIVA Station archive)

Short Film Night:
21 Dec. 2017, 10.30pm

Slovenian Cinematheque
Free entrance!


Contemporary art
and art theory

Focus: curatorial practices and media & video art

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Zavod SCCA-Ljubljana
, Metelkova 6, SI - 1000 Ljubljana,
Tel.: +386 (0)1 431 83 85, Fax: +386 (0)1 430 06 29 e-mail: info@scca-ljubljana.si