Sandra Fauconnier, working as an archiver for the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk), delivered a speech about video art distribution during the overarching theme It’s Not a Dead Collection, It’s a Dynamic Database. The NIMk curates and distributes works of art online through its website, which contains a searchable catalogue. The archive contains objects ranging from the seventies to contemporary works by established as well as upcoming Dutch and foreign artists. Fauconnier spoke about the ways in which the shift from the pre-digital to the digital era has faced the NIMk with challenges to how it was archiving its works.
Commercial enterprises such as YouTube, Vimeo and Ubuweb could become a nuisance, as they offer (semi-)legal ways to access works of art, while possibly not preserving the quality of the work and/or hurting the author’s intellectual property rights.
The strong relation between the artist and the NIMk is an important source of its success. Fauconnier gave some interesting examples of artists that contribute to the NIMk. First off, she talked about Marina Abramovic, a performance video-artist, who had been reluctant to show her work online.
Contrary to the former, Fauconnier mentioned Oliver Laric as an artist that embraces the web both as an inspiration and a distribution platform. Laric comments on popular culture by reappropriating and critiquing it in his work. Fauconnier cited Versions, a project of Laric from 2009:
In these examples, we see a paradox between old and new media. Artists like Abramovic want to maintain the control over their works. As Fauconnier explained, they try to protect the exclusivity that is their business model and avoid their works being pirated, or having to deal with other forms of unauthorized (re-)use. Another reason Fauconnier offered was that the web might not be the right context in which the artist’s work needs to be experienced. This argument is at once of a technical and aesthetic nature, because the internet might not be the proper medium for the work to be viewed through. Also, there is the added danger that work could be showcased in deteriorated quality.
Fauconnier underlined the advantages the web has to offer, and the ambitions of the NIMk to contribute ever more as a quality filter for the public and as a mediator for artists in the online sphere. She mentioned that the preservation of the works needs to be done in a sustainable way, always having the interests of the artists at heart. The NIMk tries to do so by offering a flexible licensing system when renting out work, and by aggregating content on other platforms, like educational websites. The institute is also engaging on a European level, with Europeana, a project funded by the EU that offers access to international archives and collections, by acting as a gateway.
Fauconnier then explained the several goals the NIMk strives for. Firstly, it tries to consolidate a solid infrastructure so that interested parties are able to engage with the artworks in a meaningful way by offering a contextualized experience. Secondly, there is a participatory nature to the project. Artists will be able to receive active input from the actual stakeholders and ‘connoisseurs’, the artists, curators and researchers, as Fauconnier put it. The institute thus plays an important role within the preservation of culture, by linking their online activities (the catalogue) to their offline events (for example, ‘de MediaKunstMobiel‘ or MediaArtMobile).
In the ongoing process of digitizing both old and new artworks, Fauconnier and the NIMk search for new ways of making video art more accessible through the website. There is, however, as she points out in her contribution to the second VideoVortex reader, an increasing amount of pressure upon cultural organizations – their positions being rendered ‘precarious’ by the current economical and political climate, as she put it. Someone in the public resonated that feeling, when he asked what the panel thought about the fact that many projects such as the NIMk, InstantCinema and Impakt exist alongside eachother. Is there a possibility that some would be rendered redundant? Fauconnier jokingly commented on that, when speaking on the subject of copyright issues within the curated works. She said: ‘We are small enough, so that people don’t notice’. That blessing may turn out to become a problematic issue in the near future.
Sandra Fauconnier’s presentation can be found here (PDF format).