Interview with Johannes Gfeller (AktiveArchive)

La Caneva, Brussels, November 6, 2009 & HKB, Bern, November 9, 2010

 

Johannes Gfeller studied Art History, Theoretical Linguistics and Philosophy. He has been involved in video art since the end of the 1970s. He has been a professor for conservation and restoration of electronic media at the Hochschule der Künste (Berne University of the Arts or HKB) in Berne1 since 2001. Besides his teacher position, he also leads the research project AktiveArchive2 and in 2008 he co-curated the exhibition "Reconstructing Swiss Video Art from the 1970s and 1980s" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lucerne3. As part of the research project in collaboration with the Netherland Media Art Institute, Emanuel Lorrain and Rony Vissers of PACKED vzw interviewed him on his experience with the preservation of video art and obsolete equipment for installations. [Update: Since October 2011 Johannes Gfeller is the head of the master’s program Conservation of New Media and Digital Information at the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart, Germany.4

 

PACKED: Could you tell us about your background and how you came to work in the field of media art preservation?

Johannes Gfeller: I played my very first videotape in 1974. Four years later, with a group of friends, we created a sort of cooperative following the example of the community media, such as the Videoladen5 in Zurich. When we started, most people didn’t really know what video was. There weren’t really any shops where you could buy equipment; at that time you mainly ordered your equipment from catalogues. Although we actually bought very little equipment, back then we saw ourselves as pioneers.

 

PACKED: What type of equipment was this?

Johannes Gfeller: These were SONY ½” open-reel6 videotape recorders. We were amongst the last to buy them at that time. Institutions already had enough money to equip themselves with U-matic7 and for private use, the few who were able to afford video equipment for private use were already turning towards VCR8 or VHS9. However, unlike them, we could edit with a precision to the nearest frame, because we had a National editing table10 for ½”.

There was an important political dimension to this group but for my part, I had been a photographer since I was 16 years old, and was more interested in aesthetic appeal than in political activism. I had my own darkroom and a view cameras so I knew all about picture quality and the rough, simple rendering of video was of great interest to me. When I was a teenager, in addition to photography, my other hobby was electronics. Since we couldn’t afford to take our equipment to the after sales department, we had to ensure it was maintained ourselves. I therefore started by refreshing my knowledge of electronics in order to widden my understanding of video technology. After five years in this group, I gave it up to concentrate on my studies in art history.

 

PACKED: Was it during your art history studies that you made the connection between video technique and contemporary art?

Johannes Gfeller: No, because although I knew about video art, at the time I had a much more traditional approach to art history. Back then, it was impossible to work on video art at university – photography was only just acceptable as a research subject. The world of independent video was still quite small, and everyone knew everyone else. Since people knew that I was capable of troubleshooting installations, I was asked to be the technical assistant of a video festival directed by René Pulfer called Video Wochen im Wenkenpark in Basle in 1984, 1986 and in 1988. This festival was very important for me and for my knowledge of video art, as I was able to view many tapes and meet a lot of the artists-in-residence. I was also a technical assistant for some of their workshops. 

There, I built multi-channel syncstarter circuits for an installation by Alexander Hahn called 'Arthur'. It was a system that Rose Theuws brought from Amsterdam, and by analysing the way it worked, I built two improved copies with additional functions for her. For this system to work there was a beep on the tape, which paused the player when it was read. When the last beep of the last tape had been read, the players would start playing in sync. At that time, this system was quite in demand, and I therefore built quite a few of them.

 

PACKED: At which moment did the question of safeguarding this artistic heritage arise, and why?

Johannes Gfeller: It arose when René Pulfer, the director of Videowochen im Wenkenpark, realised during preparations for the third festival in 1988, that the first Swiss video artists were giving up their work, that others were dying, and that we were losing the earliest works from the seventies.

 

PACKED: Which strategy was initially employed?

Johannes Gfeller: Our first approach was simply to make copies. However, such work was already similar to restoration in that the majority of the tapes were no longer readable. Amongst the more complex pieces to be copied at that time was a video documentary by Joseph Beuys, which consisted of two cameras and two independent players recording the reknowned Aktion « Celtic + ~~~ » (Basle 1971) for four hours without interruption, except for changing the reels. It is a unique document, and since no one had any knowledge, experience or instructions for these old Shibaden machines, I was called in. That was also part of the Videowoche im Wenkenpark festival in 1988.

Back then, the web did not yet exist and we knew nothing about video restoration. All we had heard was that if the tapes were sticky and had a snowy picture, then they had to be cleaned. I had found a source on a BBS (Bulletin Board System) 11 that I had started to attend by modem in 1988. We were limited to trying to clean the tapes with paper tissues by running them using audiotape players. This allowed us to make sure that there was an image on the tape, and in the end we even managed to get some quite good results. Which is how I first got into video restoration.

 

Johannes Gfeller explaining the functioning of a Philips EL 3402 1" video machine. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: From this first practical approach towards video art conservation, how was the AktiveArchive project born?

Johannes Gfeller: An initiative by the Federal Office for Culture for the propagation and the support of electronic media had lead to the organisation of a major symposium in Basle in 2000, sitemapping.ch, to which were invited internationally reknowned experts as well as all the Swiss nationals working on the subject. The symposium was divided into four task groups: creation, distribution, education and the archiving group, which I was in charge of preparing. The results of the group were considered interesting and I was commissioned to propose a project, already called AktiveArchive, during the second symposium in spring 2001, and for which I made both theoretical and practical propositions for what was possible in Switzerland. Particular attention was given to the web, and when we spoke of supporting media art, no one thought about video, as it already seemed old fashioned. It was a bit of a struggle to insist that although efforts had to be made with regards to what was on the web, this was no reason to sweep aside the entire history and experience of video.

One member of the “Archive” task group during the symposium was the head of conservation at HKB, as I wanted to include someone from classical conservation to talk about the issues with video. During the second symposium, he asked me if I would be interested in working for the HKB. At the same time, I also obtained a third mandate from the Federal Office for Culture to set up a pilot project, AktiveArchive.

 

PACKED: What do you teach the HKB students?

Johannes Gfeller: I teach the history of recording techniques, and the possibilities for safeguarding electronic devices, and of course all types of migration of media and signals. I have few students, and most of them have a romantic image of art conservation when they get here. They have an interest for art and for manual work, but as they don’t have a technical background, they often know nothing about electronics. They usually learn to like this subject when they get here. Before applying to come here, they have to have trained for a year with a restorer. There are paper and furniture restorers, but there are almost none working on electronic media. This puts them behind students from other departments, and so it is hard for them to obtain a certain level of knowledge.

 

PACKED: What types of practical exercise do the students have to do?

Johannes Gfeller: Recently, a student repared a radio from the thirties. Although she had no knowledge in electronics, with patience and my help, she eventually got the radio to work again. Another of my students transferred cassettes, while another worked on a project for a videotape cleaning machine. I try to find a learning curve that avoids scaring the students with knowledge in electronics that they don’t have. We can’t turn them into engineers, and indeed this is not the aim of the course, but when you are working with tapes, there are necessary gestures and precautions to be taken and passed on. Even though students can’t repair a tape player themselves, we can show them how to clean it, how to open it, and what type of visual inspection can be made without any knowledge of its electronics.

 

PACKED: Within a framework such as that of the HKB, would it be possible to allow students in conservation and students in electronics to collaborate?

Johannes Gfeller: The problem is that most engineers study to work in the industry and to develop the technology of the future, whereas the world of restoration and conservation looks to the past. It is difficult to encourage such students to be interested in the conservation of old technology, because if an engineer doesn’t know about the latest technology, he/she won’t find work in the industry. What we really need are engineers who decide that industry is not for them, whilst remaining capable of using advanced technology to make video transfer easier. However, most engineers don’t want to hear about analog technology. If they do, it’s just a hobby.

What’s more, according to my peers, it is also difficult for some students to go beyond their own field and tackle something a bit more creative. Flo Kaufman12, who works with me at the HKB, was also a student at an engineering school. He has a good knowledge of electronics, but he also specialises in printing vinyl disks, and is involved in various creative projects. Since he was new to the world of video, he did a training course here during which we learnt a lot from each other. His highly specialised knowledge allowed him to consider how the video players could be improved to get the most out of the machines, by using more modern electronic circuits. If I could afford it, the idea would be to pay him full time so that he could develop the “universal machine” that everyone dreams about.

 

Electronic circuits in a Philips EL 3402 videotape recorder. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Would it be difficult for each museum to find this type of person?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, and generally speaking, museums have trouble finding the right people for the job. However, in each city it is possible to find the sort of handy man who will know how to repair a breakdown or find a solution. Of course, it is then necessary to teach these technicians the requirements of conservation, because they often have a tendency to try and improve things, which can be a risk with regards to heritage. Finding a technician who is both good at his job, and sensitive to the requirements of artwork conservation is no simple task.

My role here at the HKB is to give the students the necessary tools in order to be able to interact with a technician. They must be able to act as an intermediary between the interests of the collection and a technician who is going to repair a work. A conservator must not be dependent on the technician, it is important that they are able to talk to each other. For this to be possible he must understand the technician’s language and the way he thinks, as well as know the full range of different solutions.

 

PACKED: But this type of technician and knowledge about obsolete video equipment is also disappearing.

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, for instance there was a really good technician in Berne who recently lost his job because he didn't have enough work anymore in the field of media production as all the companies are closing down. He was a real expert in all CRT13 televisions. Unfortunately he is now working in an electrical power plant somewhere. Until I met Flo Kaufmann, I no longer knew of a technician whom I could trust and who could fix my technical problems, in Bern. I had to send our professional equipment to the south of Switzerland to get it repaired.

 

Different generations of monitors and TV sets in the HKB / AktiveArchive reference collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: The HKB now owns a collection of equipment that covers most of the history of video; how did it start?

Johannes Gfeller: During the autumn of 2001 when I started working here, I was also planning the AktiveArchive project. I had started to wonder what we would require and I therefore started buying old devices such as an old Sony Portapak14. Until then, I could never afford to buy new equipment, and I was used to buying second hand and recovering all sorts of devices, in order to repair them and clean them. This is more or how the collection began.

 

A SONY Portapak and a SONY ½” AV deck being maintained at HKB. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: What type of equipment has been gathered together?

Johannes Gfeller: We possess players for more than 30 totally different formats of tape; many more if you count the PAL15, NTSC16, High-Band and Low-Band variants. We also have several LaserDisc17 players, not all of which are compatible. This is why we have Philips, SONY, and Pioneer machines, all of which are in operating condition. LaserDisc players are in principle fairly durable.

 

From top to bottom: SONY 1"deck, SONY ½” CV decks and SONY ½” AV decks from the AktiveArchive / HKB collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

We then have many different monitors of all kinds. We have historical items of importance to the history of video art such as the first Trinitrons or the JVC Nivico and we also conserve certain portable SONY monitors that were widely used in artist workshops or in installations. They can be found in many publications of the time. Not all of the monitors that we conserve have been used for works of art; we also keep some of them in case their technical aspect is of interest to someone. There are no particularly strict criteria for selecting the equipment for the collection. We also have a collection of CRT video projectors18 in more or less good condition and some 16 mm19 projectors as well as slides, etc.

 

Different CRT tritube projectors from the HKB / AktiveArchive reference collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Of what use to the HKB is such a collection of equipment?

Johannes Gfeller: All these devices allow us to produce “counterfeits” in order to learn how certain historical works operated, such as closed-circuit installations. I’m thinking for example of TV Buddha by Nam June Paik, which worked with a camera and a Nivico monitor by JVC. In this case for example, the students can see that a camera with a modulator is required in this case, because the Nivico television set has no camera input.

We also have cameras that work with three Vidicon tubes, the first models of which had no auto-convergence system like the later models did. These cameras went out of focus all the time, so when we used them, we had to adjust the convergence with a grid, a bit like when adjusting a CRT projector. The aim is to give our students this knowledge of historical technology that is simple but important for a media art conservator.

 

JVC Nivico monitors in different colors from the HKB / AktiveArchive reference collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Where does the equipment of the HKB reference collection come from?

Johannes Gfeller: For the HKB reference collection, a greater part of the equipment was donated to me by institutions, universities and groups that knew me or with whom I had previously worked. For example, we have a Spectre20 video synthesizer from 1974, which is quite rare and that I got from the composer and conductor Jacques Guyonnet of the A.R.T. Studio in Geneva. It was the first analog/digital synthesizer, whith which you can separate a picture into several scales of grey and colour. It also includes shape generators and you can separate the video components and adjust the generated visual structures in real time.

 

A Spectre video synthesizer from the AktiveArchive / HKB reference collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Did you also buy equipment through websites?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, sometimes, but the problem you can encounter when you buy a video player, for example, on the web is that the people who sell such devices sometimes have their own personal definition of what “in working order” means. In many cases, it simply means that the device can be switched on, but not that it is capable of reading a tape.

 

PACKED: Is this collection catalogued?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, the majority of this equipment has been catalogued in a database that lists about 1,400 items. Ideally, the database would also indicate the exact location of a particular device, but I do not have the resources to organise the collection in an optimal manner. I don't know the exact list of equipment I possess by heart and so sometimes I happen to rediscover an item when wandering through the collection.

 

PACKED: Did you develop the framework for this database yourself?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, but the framework is different from that of a museum, as I have never bought a device for a work of art in particular. Our collection is a reference collection; a museum would require other information. Our database includes entries on the origin of the equipment (a university, eBay, etc.), the serial number, the voltage, the year of manufacture, how much it cost, its condition, its standard (CCIR, EIAJ, etc.), and for computers, for example, the processor. It would useful to include more notes about how it works and its history, but this is not possible for the time being.

 

The equipment database of the HKB / AktiveArchive reference collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Do you think that museums should actively collect equipment in order to be able to keep showing their installations?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, this is something that museums should be doing. If you take the example of the SONY cubic PVM monitors21, they are the standard for showing the video artworks of the eighties and nineties. However, I don’t think many museums have collected them, or are even thinking of doing so today. But I think that collecting equipment is crucial because I do not believe that replacing CRT monitors with LCD22 screens is not the solution. Having said this, I would have not know what solution to suggest in the case of an installation with several dozen CRT monitors. However, between such extremes, I think there is room for an approach in which the original equipment is favoured in order to show a work of art in a satisfactory way.

 

PACKED: In a museum, do you think that equipment should be allocated to a single work, or that – in the case of generic equipment – it could be used for several different works?

Johannes Gfeller: I’ve never had a collection of works of art, so I have never had to make this kind of decision, however I do know that the two situations exist. An example that speaks for itself is a work by Nam June Paik comprising 70 monitors Beuys/Voice – A Hole in the Hat, from 1987/90. When the Kunstmuseum in St.Gallen acquired the work, they also bought one hundred Samsung monitors straight from the factory. Consequently, some of them had not been tested for long enough and started having problems shortly after being purchased. But the biggest problem was that after the exhibition, the museum started to put these monitors to other uses. Whereas the original intention was to allow the museum to show the work for as long as possible, most of these monitors seem to have disappeared now that they are needed. 

 

PACKED: Would you consider an equipment storage space that is shared by several collecting institutions as a valid option?

Johannes Gfeller: It depends on whether we're talking about artworks that really need specific hardware because of their shape or volume, etc. or not. If it concerns dedicated equipment one should provide precautions to assure that it is stored as dedicated equipment and that it can’t be used for other works or purposes. But this doesn't mean that several institutions cannot collaborate and share their facilities. They would then have to make a clear distinction between what the dedicated equipment is and what the common pool of equipment is that everyone can use in the future.

A complementary policy could be to have the types of monitors that I call "standard monitors for a certain period", where you can prove that this standard equipment was once used by several artists and institutions. When the exact monitor type or model has been lost and can't be find to rebuild an installation, one could use this pool of standard monitors to show the work again. A pool of standard monitors is not in contradiction with the creation of a pool of generic hardware which would make it possible to show a videotape in the way that it was shown in the past and to project a video – not with the quality of today, but with a CRT projector in a dark room – and not in full daylight like as is often the case today.

 

PACKED: How could a museum start to build this kind of pool?

Johannes Gfeller: It is a question of financial means and critical mass. If a rich institution already has all the necessary storage space, then there is no problem. If all institutions had such means, it would be perfect. A shared pool might be a solution for institutions that do not have the necessary space, financial means or equipment. But sharing equipment would only be possible between institutions that have a friendly relationship and that are located less than, let's say 500 km from each other, because otherwise you would also have high transport costs. Sharing equipment is a matter of organisation, but also a matter of confidence. If a museum owns very rare equipment dedicated to a specific work, then they probably won't share it, but with some more general devices sharing might be possible. If several institutions started to become aware instantaneously that for instance CRT monitors are becoming rarer and that there might be a last chance to get them from companies or organisations that were loaning them in the past and that are not using them anymore, they could try to look for them together.

When a museum has financial restrictions, I would advise them to focus on standard CRT monitors that are disappearing nowadays and that offer the most possibilities in the future. Although I am a fervent advocate of differences in order not to end up with a poor approach in terms of past video art, I think it would be easier for museums to focus on standard pieces of equipment as well as to foresee equipment for special cases.

 

PACKED: When stored, do you think the equipment should be separated from the other components of the installation?

Johannes Gfeller: Some say one should not store the equipment together with the other parts as each part needs a different climatic environment. We should ask ourselves whether the best climatic conditions are the same for both the electronic materials and the artwork itself. For example, if it's paper work, more humidity is needed whereas if it is metal work, a level of humidity below 45 or 40% is better, etc. This means that a compromise might have to be found for all the elements that are part of an installation.

For me the danger of separating the equipment from the other parts of the artwork is that the equipment could be used for other purposes, even if it is labelled as an integral part of the work. Instead of being considered as a material component of the installation, it could be just considered as a mass-produced apparatus. This doesn't mean that during the restoration process we should confuse the equipment with a sculptural object made by the artist. I consider all equipment as mass-produced devices that can be replaced by the same model or sometimes by the same type of equipment, unless it has been signed, painted or modified in any way by the artist. In that case, it's a complete different thing. But I don't consider a piece of equipment as some sort of holy piece that the artist held in his/her hands. However, I think that to avoid wrong policy choices of the collecting institutions regarding the equipment, it would be better to treat such objects as part of the artworks. But I guess that different choices are possible for one and the same object.

 

PACKED : Do you have special recommendations concerning the temperature and the humidity for the space in which equipment is stored ?

Johannes Gfeller: In most cases, the temperatures recommended by the manufacturer are indicated in the service and user's manual. Cool and dry is the best that I can think of because it slows down every degradation process that might occur within the organic materials present in the equipment. Of course, too cold a temperature is not good either, and I wouldn't freeze equipment for example.

It would be a luxurious to be able to cool down a storage room for the equipment, but if in summer your storage room is at 28°C, it would be good to have it a bit cooler. All materials, even the casing materials degrade faster at a high temperature and it is the same for all material components of an installation. Permanent change of temperature and humidity is worse than a constant condition, even if that constant condition might not be ideal.

 

A 1" SONY video recorder stored in a plastic bag in the HKB / AktiveArchive collection. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: What kind of boxes or other packaging would you ideally use to store the equipment?

Johannes Gfeller: If a museum still has the original boxes, it would be good to use them - especially in the probable case that the work might need to be transported. The transport boxes for Sony monitors for instance were especially made for such. I keep the few original packages that I have; as a collector I can't throw them away, and I think that a museum should always keep them. Of course you can also make wooden cases for the equipment when international transport is necessary. Then the other question is whether it is good to keep the equipment stored in sealed boxes, because there is a risk that the gas concentration of all the materials can’t escape, so I would think that it's better not to have them stored in their sealed package. This is only an idea; I can't confirm it. As a compromise, you could maybe keep the boxes open, but then the storage room should be free of dirt. To further protect the equipment from dirt, you could wrap some paper or a cloth around the equipment.

 

PACKED: That would also protect them from light.

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, because with light in the storage space, all plastics would suffer from colour change. The white becomes yellowish because of ultra-violet light, but also normal light can bleach out a casing. This is not crucial for the functioning of the equipment but if you show a piece of equipment as part of an installation, it's better to have the proper colour.

 

A SONY VP-2030 U-matic player stored in its original cardboard box. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: What other specifications for equipment are important for a storage room?

Johannes Gfeller: In the case of my collection, I have bought more equipment than I had space for, so the result is that they are not really stored in ideal conditions. However, when we got our new storage space, I asked for a maximum number of power points because all equipment should be put onto mains every few months. This is not always feasible because of the place and the manpower but it would be important for a museum to do it regularly for a few hours. One of the reasons that lead an apparatus to break after just twenty years without being used is that the electrolytic capacitors can dry out. In this case electrical tension is of no help. But there is another reason: such capacitors also alter chemically, but the aging process can be reversed by putting them under electrical tension. This is one of the reasons why I'm wondering whether it is really intelligent to pack them perfectly. If the box is stored two meters high on a shelf, nobody will ever get it out and plug it in. If the cable is hanging freely and an outlet is near, that might be easier.

 

PACKED: If the equipment is regularly powered, how long does it need to stay ON before it's shut down again?

Johannes Gfeller: Several hours, a day or even a little more. But a day should be enough. One shouldn't just put it on and off, because it takes a while for the chemical processes to be achieved. Putting it on every few months or years for a day or more will help retrieve the original chemical cohesion. This could be crucial in order to extend the life of all such equipment. One should not fear that the equipment will break down if it is run regularly; quite the opposite. They were made to be put on, and once a month is nothing compared to the lifetime they were intended to have.

Manufacturers are not really interested in long-term data. They have a value based on the expected lifetime versus the temperature. The limit of each capacitor is printed on them; some are for instance 105 degrees23. If it is always at this temperature, it will last about 1.000 hours, whereas if it is at 50 degrees, it will last 3000 hours or even more. This is very well researched by the industry but not that much for the long term. Maybe they have this information and made the tests, but don’t consider it worthwhile publishing it.

 

PACKED: What other maintenance routine or special care would you recommend for the equipment?

Johannes Gfeller: Any equipment with mechanical parts such as motors, belts, bearings, etc., should be run regularly, even though it is probably not as important as for the capacitors. The oil present in some mechanical parts can dry out and in this case it should be removed, and the parts should be relubricated again. The belts present in some equipment are continuously stressed. One should take them out and put them in some kind of protected atmosphere with no oxygen so that they last longer. But who has the opportunity to take all the belts out of the machines, write down where they are stored, catalogue everything, put it on the right side on the shelf, etc.? I would love to do that with my equipment, but i'ts impossible. Moreover, it would also mean unscreawing parts, which is also risky.

The degradation of all the rubber parts is a fact. I think that trying to find suppliers and to know how you can help yourself rebuild them is more useful than trying to keep them as long as you can. The rubber parts must have specific properties and when these are no longer ideal then your migration process, or whatever you want to do with the machine, won't be ideal either.

 

PACKED: How do you replace the faulty belts of the players?

Johannes Gfeller: We have already had belts manufactured for the ½” CV player24 and for a National player. A Swiss company, Graf 25, reproduces belts to customer dimensions and specifications providing you order is at least twenty units. For twenty belts, it costs about €250. Another solution is to make them yourself, because there are hundreds of different sizes available, but in the end not often the one you need. We have also had to reproduce certain rubber rollers. Finding a company to do this was very difficult26.

 

A newly made roller for an SONY ½” CV deck. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: Are the belt specifications – such as their size – also included in the instruction manuals?

Johannes Gfeller: You will find this kind of information in certain instruction manuals: thickness, width, and length. This is the ideal situation, but unfortunately in the instruction manuals for SONY devices, you will find only the reference number to place an order. We therefore had to measure the actual diameter of the belts on the machines, because if you measure the old belt there is a good chance one would get the wrong size as the rubber slackens over time. When the belt is of a critical nature, you need a defined loss; you can’t have a belt that is too big or not big enough. If the curve is a little too tight, then it won’t be of great consequence to the picture, on the other hand it will exert more pressure and wear out the ball bearings more quickly.

 

PACKED: Do you document the equipment by collecting manuals and schemes?

Johannes Gfeller: I'm not systematically looking for the manuals, but I'm always glad when I find one. I really start looking for the manuals when I don't understand a piece of equipment, or when I want to know more about a specific function. Without a manual this sometimes results in a long research. When you repair equipment, it's obviously good to have the schematics. Although you can sometimes guess what is wrong, this can take a long time. Having the schematics is a clear gain in such a case. Especially when the problem is electronic, you can lose a lot of time. Although I understand most of the equipment pieces in our collection, some other people may not. This is another reason why the technical documentation is important.

 

PACKED: Would being able to identify the most fragile components in video equipment help one to know, for instance, what spare parts are important to store?

Johannes Gfeller: This would need some extensive research, and I think that it is one of the aspects that should be part of all case studies on video works, but unfortunately it is is almost never the case. One should note which component failed in the equipment and what was repaired by using information from the person who took care of the repair. I think that this would be useful information.

Knowing what fails most could then help to know what parts to store. If there was a repair centre that had all the parts just in order to do the repair, then any repair would be possible. Of course it couldn't be made on the same model as a classic service centre, which has to make profit. Often, the spare parts for an obsolete piece of equipment come from another obsolete piece of equipment. That is why an obsolete device out of function must always be kept for its parts. It is often the only way to repair an old video tape recorder for instance.

 

PACKED: One of the major problems encountered when transferring videos still stored on ancient format is the difficulty in finding spare playback heads for the old video players. What future solutions do you think there will be?

Johannes Gfeller: With regards to the companies that sell playback heads for old players, we don’t really know whether they have stocks or whether they manufacture them themselves. Recently, we have been in contact with one of the companies that makes playback heads for a Revox Studer player, as we would like to know if it is possible to make other playback heads from different specifications.

 

PACKED: Is modifying the machines in order to obtain a better transfer an option? 

Johannes Gfeller: Flo Kaufmann did some trials with some of the critical parts that make up the tape path. He had a nano-coat of a very hard metal, which is used for making wear resistant tools, applied to these parts. He would also like to use a similar Teflon-based alloy on the drum. He knows of many companies capable of doing this, because he studied in Bienne at a specialist engineering school which as a close relationship with the clockmaking and automobile industries.

 

Nano coating on the tape path parts of an ½” video deck. Photo : PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: How are the videotapes stored at the HKB?

Johannes Gfeller: We preserve the tapes at two levels of temperature: at 16°C in the depot for "working" access, and at 10°C for long-term storage, both at 20 to 25% rH. Certain tapes are preserved in sealed plastic with silica gel fitted with an indicator. When the silica gel turns light brown, this means that it is lightly saturated and that it has its maximum capacity of absorption. We do it this way as we have noticed that when we put the tape into a cool, dry storage space with silica gel, we get better results during transfer. We often leave the tape cases partially open, otherwise the process takes even longer. Silica gel and cleaning are the techniques that work best for us. In addition, I think that it is a treatment that is less violent than baking in an oven27, the long-term effects of which are not well known.

 

PACKED: Do the climatic conditions have an influence on the quality of a tape transfer?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, climate and humidity have a major effect. Sometimes at a cooler temperature of 16 or even 10°C, and with a reduced relative humidity, tapes and cassettes can be read more easily.

 

Climate controlled room for tape storage at the HKB. Photo: PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: HKB has developed a tape-cleaning machine. What formats has it been designed for?

Johannes Gfeller: We can clean almost any format by changing a few parts, depending on the width of the tape. It can be used for ¼”, ½”, 8 mm, Video8, Hi828, ¾” and 1”. We have had parts manufactured that can be installed on the machine depending on the format that we want to clean. This was very expensive to do, which is also why we also used some parts from a Sony PortaPack and from an RTI29 machine.

 

The HKB / AktiveArchive's magnetic tape cleaning machine. Photos: PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: How does it work?

Johannes Gfeller: It has three types of motor that have different power ratings. Also, it is possible to modify the tape path and to add guides or rollers with cleaning paper. It is possible to clean the backside of the tape, which is sometimes the dirtiest, and also the side that causes most problems, using these different cycles. What’s more, since it is the side of the tape that has no data printed on it, it can be cleaned more extensively. The machine is also equipped with a vacuum system that has a filter, and it is possible to carry out the process under a cover in order to catch all of the particles. This vacuum system is also useful in cases in which the tape might contain dangerous particles such as spores. This machine is a prototype that could be reproduced by others. Because we are a public institution, I believe that our role is to share the results we achieve. What’s more, RTI machines are very expensive.

Before we developed this machine, we had another prototype built from a Revox 1/4" magneto, which I had used to clean dozens of tapes. Cleaning machines for ½” tapes used to exist in the IT sector, as these tapes were inflicted with problems of dirtiness rather than deterioration. RTI machines were not originally designed for dealing with tricky tapes or restoration. It is a tape evaluator that was used to determine whether or not tapes that were to be reused were still in good condition.

 

PACKED: I have also heard that RTI machines were designed to remove particles remaining on new tapes from the manufacturing process. 

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, this was one of the recommendations at that time. However, some such recommendations date back to the beginnings of a certain format, which was later improved. Unfortunately, some ideas are hard to kill. A good example of this is that of archival rewinding, which recommends rewinding tapes every year or two. This was true for the tapes with a carrier that was prone to shrinking, as when ventilating the tape one could release the pressure created by the shrinking of the carrier, but the tapes of today no longer have the same problem. I think it is more sensible to use the time and energy to transfer the tapes rather than rewind them. What’s more, if you rewind them regularly, there is also a risk for the tape as a mechanical stress is applied.

PACKED: What other types of treatment do you use on the tapes?

Johannes Gfeller: We sometimes open VCR cassettes to remove the tape and clean it, because with VCR, there are no cleaning machines such as the RTI on the market. We did this on a sticky tape. Sometimes the guide posts inside the cassette become corroded, and you have to clean the post and replace them, or even remove the tape completely.  

We also have two ½" EIAJ on cassettes. Instead of repairing the video player, we will probably remove the tape and put it on a ½” open reel spool. Our EIAJ cassette player would appear to be quite complex to operate, and even if we repair it we will probably get a better final result with the open reel tape player.

 

A ½” EIAJ tape format in a cartridge. Photo: PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: What do you consider to be the most problematic equipment in an installation?

Johannes Gfeller: For me the most important components are clearly the monitors and the projectors. Sooner or later the original ‘information carriers’ will be migrated; the original players won't be very interesting unless it's specifically for their shape and because they belong to the installation. In the exhibition Reconstructing Swiss Video Art from the 1970s and 1980s that we put up in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lucerne we had a case in which the U-matic player used for the piece G/Gorgones by Eric Lanz was really playing the tape. Although it was a sculptural as much as a functional part of the installation, I think that the playback hardware will become of less interest. It would be a luxury to keep it in working order as well as having the 'information carriers' in that format, especially for tapes that were not made to last for a whole exhibition. Even if the U-matic players have a repeat mode, it is a question of cost. To take the U-matic format again as an example: a cassette can last for a month, but can also fail after two weeks. I have one or two stacking pallets with cassettes, new stocks, but some day it won't be possible to get them anymore or only in a degraded condition. Beside the availability of the tapes, the cost of repairing and cleaning the tape players is an important argument.

Even though I do tend to advocate for keeping the old equipment, I would say that for practical reasons we should change the information carrier and also what I call the 'work carrier': the playback equipment that plays the ‘information carrier’. But we should keep the ‘picture carrier’: the monitors or the projectors, as long as possible.

I think people would agree with me for the monitors. If I were to argue that the old ‘not so good’ projector should also be kept instead of using new ones, I know I would have more difficulties being understood. But time will tell! (laugh). Why keep one of the first LCD projectors of 800 to 600 lumens? Why not? Maybe we should not keep them for all installations, but just to show that in the beginning of LCD technology it was considered to be very chic and that people chose to use a new LCD at a time when they could also have used a tri-tubes projector. This is also a cultural and historical question of a kind. But I'm aware that they are luxury questions and problems that aren't highlighted.

Not all the parts of an installation can be preserved, and not all of the parts must be preserved in the same manner. Of course, I'd like to have all in its original state, and I even work hard to keep the tape players working, but only for a temporary show or to have it as a reference. I do this more for research purposes than for everyday exhibition practices. They should maybe also be kept to show students, future curators and art historians that this was the reality twenty years ago.

 

PACKED: You should also explain these issues to the audience because 99,9% of the visitors might not be aware of the facts at all.

Johannes Gfeller: Of course when I give arguments for such issues, I'm thinking of people who should be aware of them, but I also think that people should be informed. I hate it when in an exhibition a work by Bruce Nauman for example is shown with the sole indication that it is a DVD installation: no notice that it was made on U-matic and later transferred to DVD, and of course, no notice either that the projector currently used is not the original type of projector30.

 

PACKED: During the Lucerne exhibition you used a very old type of SONY video monitor.

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, it was a very rare black and white SONY monitor that took me a long time to find. Two of them are now in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern. During the exhibition in Lucerne we used them for Aléatoire I et II by René Bauermeister and L'envers à l'endroit by Gérald Minkoff. These monitors are impossible to find on eBay, and the four that I got hold of were given to me by institutions I was already in contact with. They held out perfectly, whereas with a standard television set of the time, we had a few problems when the horizontal frequency went out of sync due to poor contact.

 

An early SONY monitor used for the exhibition "Reconstructing Swiss Video Art from the 1970s and 1980s". Photo: PACKED vzw.

 

However, although they are rare today, you can very often find these large B&W SONY monitors in the video art catalogues of the times. For exhibitions, my choices of equipment is usually based on this type of document. For example, for the 40 Years of Video Art, the ZKM made the choice of showing a large quantity of works on WEGA31 or on Braun television sets. We also possess WEGA sets in our reference collection, as they were fairly well known for their design back in the sixties. Personally, however, I would not have used them for the Lucerne exhibition, because although they are monitors of that period they were never - or almost never - used to show video art.

 

PACKED: During that exhibition, all the equipment was from that period and almost all of it was in working order, whether it was the screens, the tape players or even the projectors. What were the most problematic devices?

Johannes Gfeller: With hindsight, we encountered fewer problems than we anticipated. For G/Gorgones by Eric Lanz, the top-loader U-matic32 player broke down, although this was rather predictable since no maintenance had been done beforehand. The player held out for two weeks and then we had to replace it with a more recent model that the artist had used to show the work himself. We also had to replace a CRT video projector in a work by Anna Winteler whereas another CRT projector without a ventilator made in 1983 similar to the original one that was used to show the work by Chérif and Silvie Defraoui called 'Cartographie des contrées à venir', and which we expected would be the first to break down, lasted for the entire exhibition. Some of the CRT projectors of the collection were burnt-in, and for the Lucerne exhibition, I had to make an operational CRT projector out of several faulty ones.

Then we had a problem with the work by Alexander Hahn, in which the five U-matic players had to be sychronised. Having made the synchronisation system myself at that time, and having already installed it in Basle in 1988, I was quite familiar with the work. We realised that the piece of art did not always work as it should, because the exhibition staff sometimes started it up without having correctly synchronised the tapes. 

 

PACKED: Did all of the equipment used during the Lucerne exhibition come from the HKB reference collection?

Johannes Gfeller: For the exhibition, some of the devices were taken from the reference collection whereas others were bought specifically for the works of art, with the photographic documentation as a reference for what was originally used. We then bought the exact same model or the closest possible model.

 

PACKED: What became of the equipment bought for the Lucerne exhibition? Did it become part of the HKB reference collection at the end of the exhibition? 

Johannes Gfeller: After the exhibition, we kept most of the equipment, except for the white portable monitors used for the installation by Hannes Vogel called Der Lichthof, for example. This work belonged to the DKM Foundation in Duisburg which, after having acquired and shown the work, gave all the original televisions to a retirement home. For the Lucerne exhibition, we looked for similar television sets, with the same asymmetrical design, in white with a black part on the side where the buttons are placed. We found eight more or less identical sets that allowed us to show the work correctly. These eight television sets were sold back to the collection at the end of the exhibition, so that they could continue to show the work. We did the same with the monitors that were used to show Heim-Welt by Guido Nussbaum. We found them in the attic of a television salesman and changed two of them during the exhibition. Today, the institution that owns the work has the original television sets, as well as the ones we used at Lucerne.

 

PACKED: In the exhibition catalogue, you can see that for some of the “reconstructed” installations shown in Lucerne, the investigating work of a true detective was required in order to understand how the piece of art worked and was to be shown.

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, for a work by Bauermeister we had only a sketch with a diagram of the installation entitled “installation project”. The videotape itself existed, and had been produced in a manner that was explained by the diagram, although it had as of then not yet been presented to the public. With regards to the equipment used, we followed the instructions of the diagram, which were sometimes very clear, such as those concerning the AV video player. With regards to the U-matic player, and considering the period at which the work had been conceived, it could only be a SONY top loader type. It was the same for the cameras; they could only be a certain SONY model.

 

PACKED: What kind of restoration do you do at the HKB?

Johannes Gfeller: For TV für Millionen by Wolf Vostell for the exibition called Changing Channels held at MUMOK in Vienna, we changed more than fifty components such as resistors, electrolytic capacitors, and even paper condensers that gave us a lot of problems. We also replaced the original tube with a new identical one. As Wolf Vostell had had a defect built into the circuit, we reproduced the very same defect on a new circuit by modifying the electronics in exactly the same way. Of course, with this work we cannot change the cabinet, which was modified and painted by Wolf Vostell, let alone replace the CRT by a flat screen, for example. This model of a CRT television set was manufactured in 1959, but the work itself dates back to 1967. It is one of the oldest works from this period that is still operational.

 

PACKED: It is a work of art that is similar to that of Nam June Paik using modifications.

Johannes Gfeller: Exactly, and there was indeed a sort of competition or rivalry between the two artists. Wolf Vostell always stated that he was the first to have used a television set in a work of art.

 

PACKED: Did the television set hold out for the duration of the exhibition?

Johannes Gfeller: I tried to convince the museum that it would be a good idea if the work wasn’t switched on all day, that there should be intermissions from time to time. The curator did not agree. Luckily, the work held out for the entire duration of the exhibition with just an hour’s break during the day. However, something can break down from one day to another. With a television set, it is usually the tube or the filament.

With the original tube, there was also a problem with the high voltage transformer. Luckily, I had bought a box full of coils a few years earlier, and one of them was adapted to this new tube. The other solution would have been to reproduce a coil, but that would have been a very big job. The specifications of the coils are almost identical for all television sets of that day and the electronics include only basic functions. As for the tube, there is a market for stock cathode ray tubes.

 

PACKED: Do you think that it would be necessary for collectors and museums to establish similar time limits and intermissions when showing particularly critical works of art, due to the marked obsolescence of their components?

Johannes Gfeller: For Wolf Vostell’s work, I tried providing calculations to make a good case and persuade the curator. If you consider the fact that a cathode ray tube can operate for 15,000 hours – this is a figure I’d read somewhere, but it is definitely a low estimation, I'd say more like30,000 hours –, taking into account the fact that the tube has already bee used and is worn, one could imagine that it would work for another 5,000 hours. With this type of calculation, it is then simple to draw a graph and prolong the life of a device. To show the work intensively for a long period of time and then put it into storage for 5 years, as the curator suggested, is a bit of a shame as it denies the public access to the work of art for a very long time.

 

PACKED: Do you follow any particular principles or rules when restoring the equipment that is part of a work of art?

Johannes Gfeller: There are certain purists who would replace a faulty old capacitor by hiding a new one inside the device, to be as close as possible to the appearance of the original electronics. We do not work with technical museums, so this does not seem necessary to us, because the capacitors are not an important or visible part of a work.

 

PACKED: How do you evaluate the importance of a device, and the loss it represents for the work of art when it is no longer useable?

Johannes Gfeller: I believe that a work of art is also a historical object, and not just something that is “functional”. The equipment is not just something that is used to tell and to pass on a part of history; the devices are also artifacts that are typical of a certain period and of a certain social and cultural context in which they were manufactured. The equipment is valuable from a historical perspective, as is its design and its appearance, which may sometimes have been modified by the artist. The equipment is often the place in which the content of a work of art resides. If you take away this envelope, you risk making pieces of art homeless. Some of these homeless works will still be able to tell their story if the material of the tape has been transferred to another format. However, I believe that the older a work is, the more its material becomes closely linked to its technical environment, and the more valuable its equipment becomes.

 

PACKED: Is the value of a work of art also linked, in a sense, to its technology?

Johannes Gfeller: What is sure, is that the value of a work and the reasons for which it is highly regarded change over time. Sometimes, the material appeared to be the essential part of a work of an artist at the time of its creation because it was truly in touch with its time. I think that a work can lose something when that certain tension created by technical restrictions no longer exists. Often, the material used to create such works was simple and the value of this material can become very anecdotal or even ridiculous without the original technical conditions.

If certain works are transferred to using modern technologies, for example from a video tube camera to a webcam, etc, it could become truly ridiculous. I think however that if maintained within the technical conditions of the day, the work keeps its value. With any restoration effort, you have to be careful not to lose too much. Indeed, by updating the work repeatedly, it is de-historicised until it loses its historical nature. I think that this is valid for any work of art. It is wrong to think that such works can live forever by systematically updating them.

 

PACKED: Are you saying that a gap appears between the physical work and the material it shows when the equipment is modernised? 

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, a work of media art is no different from a painting in that it is ingrained in a certain period. Evidently, we will encounter major problems when attempting to preserve certain works in the future. Those with several cathode ray tubes will of course be very problematic, but perhaps we will also find new tube manufacturers.

We have always lost works of art, and we have to accept that more media art works will be lost in the future. The question remaining is whether we allow fate to decide, or whether with certain criteria we can influence which works of art will endure. When we do case studies, we are already contributing to the creation of such criteria. They are variable, and they relate to a specific collection.

 

PACKED: What do you believe should be the artist's position in terms of the conservation choices regarding a work of art?

Johannes Gfeller: Recording structured interviews with the artists is important. However, the conservators must also develop their own vision. This point of view must be based on the history of the work, the way it works and its concept, as well as on the media used. If the original integrity of the work cannot be safeguarded, it is good to know what the artist thinks, although his/her opinion should not always be accepted at face value. Sometimes, an artist will take the opportunity of a restoration to update or “improve” a work. For example, he/she might use a better camera which might not have been available at the time.

During the preparations for the Lucerne exhibition, we often had to explain to the artists that our goal was to show the works of art in their original form, and not to update them. You need the courage not to systematically follow the opinion of the artist, and try when necessary to convince him/her of the importance of such or such an aspect or element of the work. It is important to find a compromise or a solution that suits everyone.

 

PACKED: The AktiveArchive project didn't only focus on video works but also on the preservation of computer-based art. Here also the obsolescence of the hardware is already a major problem. To finish this interview could you list some of the important questions addressed in this part of the project?

Johannes Gfeller: I think it is one of the crucial problems to resolve. Keeping old computer equipment in working order is much more difficult than for any analogue equipment. We can try to do so but it's more or less a question of luck, if not simply impossible. If it's just the mains plug adaptor that is faulty you can change it, but if it's the motherboard that's faulty, then in most cases you should just forget about repairing it. You can try to store other pieces of the same equipment but one day this strategy will also enventually end.

 

PACKED: Does the HKB reference collection also include computer equipment?

Johannes Gfeller: Yes, we also collect computers, but not systematically as we do with video, because it is a new field in conservation. We have a few, such as a 486 for example, if only for installing a certain piece of software on it. I have also recovered some fairly old computer monitors, such as the green Hercules and the first Color Graphics Adaptor by IBM33 as they are already hard to find today. One day they will be used to show how characters were displayed at that time. The feeling you get when you see or interact with a device also belongs to the work of art and you can try and preserve this. Indeed, Jef Rothenberg has already raised these questions in case studies on emulation.

 

Vintage computers and monitors in the AktiveArchive / HKB reference collection. Photo: PACKED vzw.

 

PACKED: What would you suggest a museum collecting computer-based works should start by doing?

Johannes Gfeller: The first thing to do is create an exact description of the work and its behaviour: what it does, how it looks and feels, what its content is, etc. Then the data should be migrated, because the source code that is kept on, for example, a floppy disc34 won't be readable in a short amount of time. If you transfer the data onto a hard disk, you will still need the program to play this data, but we don't know if it will be possible to install that specific program on a future platform.

 

A Commodore Amiga 500 computer at the HKB. Photo: PACKED vzw.

 

My collaborators Tabea Lurk and Jürgen Enge are developing models for such,35 because we have these main topics of migration, emulation, reinterpretation etc. But this is quite a theoretical way of discussing the problems: in practice nothing is resolved. For example if you take into account that you can virtualise the work, which means that you have a virtual machine that you can define as a Windows XP, a Windows 95, etc. the new platform emulates and virtualises the old software, but it could be that the new machine doesn't have a serial interface anymore, and you would need an adaptor. Finding an adaptor would not be a major problem, but depending on the way this control code was written for the external hardware, which is very often custom-made, it could well be that it doesn't work anymore. For example, all controls which are time critical and which use the serial interface as a counter like many application do, won't work on this virtualised platform.

Then you also have the older graphic format problem because the best solution would be to show it on an 800 to 600 pixels Cathode Ray Tube monitor, to give the original feeling. While it is not widely discussed in the art field yet, it is a major topic in the gaming scene. Gamers are not happy if a new computer emulates the old game, because they don't have the same feeling. I think that the art conservation world could learn a lot from their way of seeing things. It might look like a nostalgic idea, but my argument is always that we don't repaint a painting just because we have new and better paint and materials. They are degrading, but we have to keep them in their time. I think we should also think like that for computer based art, but we don't have long-term feedback yet on how a part of their historical aspect can be saved.

 

 

Notes:

 

  • 5. See: http://www.videoladen.ch/50_archiv.html
  • 6. ½” open reel is an analogue video format introduced in 1965. The ½-inch tape is not inside a cassette but on an open spool. The tapes were used in combination with the first portable video recorders and were widely used by artists, lecturers and activists. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of ½” open reel: CV (Consumer Video/Commercial Video) and AV (EIAJ Type 1). Although the tapes look identical, the players are not compatible.
  • 7. ¾” U-matic is an analogue video format that was developed at the end of the sixties and consisted of a ¾” video tape in a cassette. It was the forerunner of the analogue Betacam.
  • 8. VCR (or Video Cassette Recording) is a format for recording video to ½ inch magnetic tape, developed by Philips in 1972. A long-playing version (VCR LP) appeared in 1976.
  • 9. VHS designates a recording standard of video signal onto ½ inch tape developed by JVC in the late 1970s. Its mass distribution was launched in 1976. During the 1980s and 1990s, VHS became the standard format of general public video ahead of its competitors: Sony Betamax and Philips V2000.
  • 10. "It was in fact a recorder with an “edit” button and a digital counter that emitted a tone to mark the player being started, and then a second tone to mark the edit button being pushed.” Johannes Gfeller.
  • 11. A Bulletin Board System, or BBS, is a computer system running software that allows users to connect and log in to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, a user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins and exchanging messages with other users, either through electronic mail, public message boards, and sometimes via direct chatting. Many BBSes also offer on-line games, in which users can compete with each other, and BBSes with multiple phone lines often provide chat rooms, allowing users to interact with each other. Originally BBSes were accessed only over a phone line using a modem, but by the early 1990s some BBSes allowed access via a Telnet, packet switched network, or packet radio connection. As the use of the Internet became more widespread in the mid to late 1990s, traditional BBSes rapidly faded in popularity. Today, Internet forums occupy much of the same social and technological space as BBSes did, and the term BBS is often used to refer to any online forum or message board. Source: Wikipedia.
  • 12. Flo Kaufmann was born in 1973 and lives in Soleure in Switzerland. He is an electronics engineer, a sound engineer and an artist. See: http://www.floka.com/
  • 13. The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun (a source of electrons) and a fluorescent screen, with internal or external means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam, used to create images in the form of light emitted from the fluorescent screen. The image may represent electrical waveforms (oscilloscope), pictures (television, computer monitor), radar targets and others.
  • 14. In 1967, Sony introduced the first PortaPak, the Sony DV-2400 Video Rover. The first ”portable” video system, this two-piece set consisted of a large B&W camera and a separate record-only helical ½” VCR unit. It required a Sony CV series VTR to play back the video. Even thought it was clunky and heavy, it was light enough for a single person to carry it around.  However, it was usually operated by a crew of two -  one shot the camera and the other carried and operated the VCR part. (Source: The History of Camcorders, Mark Shapiro.)
  • 15. The European colour TV broadcasting standard featuring 625 lines per frame and 50 frames per second. It has a more complex colour encoding* system than NTSC*, but provides better colour fidelity and better resolution. Source: Kramer Electronics LTD
  • 16. NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) is the American standard for the video colour system. It uses 525 picture lines that are scanned at a speed of 30 images per second. The European standard PAL (Phase Alternate Line) uses 625 pictures lines that are scanned at a speed of 25 images per second.
  • 17. A form of optical media that, unlike DVD, stores video as a composite analogue signal. The LaserDisc was first introduced by Philips and MCA in 1972, and has been on the market since 1978. LaserDiscs can be in glass or plastic. There are essentially two types of LaserDisc: those mastered for constant linear velocity (CLV) and those mastered for constant angular velocity (CAV). CAV discs store approximately 30 minutes of video, can be controlled in a frame-accurate way and can be still-framed. CLV discs can store approximately one hour of video but cannot be controlled frame-accurately and cannot be still-framed. Once a popular display format for many artists, the LaserDisc has now largely been superseded by DVD. LaserDiscs could not handle saturated areas of colour, and would produce artifacts appearing as herring bone patterns. CAV discs did, however, have the advantage of frame-accurate external control. Source: http://www.eai.org/resourceguide/glossary.html?laserdisc
  • 18. A CRT projector is a video projector that uses a small, high-brightness CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) as the image generating element. The image is then focused and enlarged onto a screen using a lens kept in front of the CRT face. Most modern CRT projectors are colour and have three separate CRTs (instead of a single, colour CRT), and their own lenses to achieve colour images. The red, green and blue portions of the incoming video signal are processed and sent to the respective CRTs whose images are focused by their lenses to achieve the overall picture on the screen. A main advantage of CRT projectors is the superior black level compared to LCD and DLP based projectors. But compared to LCD and DLP based projectors they are larger and heavier, require far more time to set up and adjust, and the absolute ANSI brightness achievable is lower.
  • 19. 16mm film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1923 as an inexpensive amateur alternative to the conventional 35mm film format. 16mm refers to the width of the film. The format was initially directed toward the amateur market and was often referred to as sub-standard film by the professional industry. But 16mm has been extensively used for television production, and is still used by experimental filmmakers and other artists. The two major suppliers of 16mm film today are Kodak and Fujifilm.
  • 20. http://web.archive.org/web/20120215025906/http://www.ems-synthi.demon.co...
  • 21. Sony trinitron cube monitors (e.g. PVM 2030) are common devices used to show video art in museums and galleries.
  • 22. An LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display, is an electronic flat panel screen which uses the light modulating properties of liquid crystals (LC). LCD screens have replaced cathode ray tube (CRT) screens in most domains. They are generally more compact, lighter, more portable and cheaper
  • 23. 105°C are the most common type of capacitor along with 85°C capacitors. This refers to the maximum temperature that the capacitor is able to withstand.
  • 24. See note 6.
  • 25. See: http://www.grafbelts.ch/
  • 26. See: http://www.typ-gummi-tgw.ch/
  • 27. Tape baking is a process that is used to restore magnetic tapes such as audio cassettes and video tapes that have begun to go through a chemical breakdown due to age and are suffering from sticky shed syndrome. Baking a tape consists of putting the tape into a specialised oven for a certain duration, generally at a temperature between 40°C and 60°C max.
  • 28. Hi8 is an analog video recording standard for mass-produced Sony camrecorders, for which 27 manufacturers acquired a license. It is an evolution of Video8 (8mm).
  • 29. RTI is an American company that sells (amongst other things) machines that clean and evaluate videotapes of different formats such as 1 inch or U-matic.
  • 30. As seen in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basle.
  • 31. See the interview with Christophe Blase: https://www.scart.be/?q=en/content/interview-christoph-blase-zkm
  • 32. The first models of U-matic players and recorders like the SONY VO-1600 or the VP-2030 had their cassette loading system on top. The more recent models have a front-loading system.
  • 33. The Color Graphics Adapter (CGA), originally also called the Color/Graphics Adapter or IBM Color/Graphics Monitor Adapter, introduced in 1981, was IBM's first color graphics card, and the first color computer display standard for the IBM PC. Source: Wikipedia.
  • 34. A floppy disk is a removable storage medium for computer data, the name of which comes from the flexibility of the magnetic storage medium, as opposed to that of a hard drive. The most common sizes are 8”, 5.¼ ” and 3½”: this dimension corresponds to the diameter of the magnetic disk. Source: Wikipedia
  • 35. See the interview with Tabea Lürk and Jürgen Enge: https://www.scart.be/?q=en/content/interview-tabea-lurk-and-j%C3%BCrgen-...
interview_tag: 
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Uncaught exception thrown in session handler.

PDOException: SQLSTATE[HY000]: General error: 1114 The table 'sessions' is full: INSERT INTO {sessions} (sid, uid, cache, hostname, session, timestamp) VALUES (:db_insert_placeholder_0, :db_insert_placeholder_1, :db_insert_placeholder_2, :db_insert_placeholder_3, :db_insert_placeholder_4, :db_insert_placeholder_5); Array ( [:db_insert_placeholder_0] => diGmRqD3x0kzm9dV52DPKeSVy923G3yPiAkd2kFj3jI [:db_insert_placeholder_1] => 0 [:db_insert_placeholder_2] => 0 [:db_insert_placeholder_3] => 10.10.10.1 [:db_insert_placeholder_4] => messages|a:1:{s:5:"error";a:25:{i:0;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:1;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:2;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:3;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:4;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:5;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:6;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:7;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:8;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:9;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:10;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:11;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:12;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:13;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:14;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:15;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:16;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:17;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:18;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:19;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:20;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:21;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:22;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:23;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";i:24;s:247:"<em class="placeholder">Notice</em>: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in <em class="placeholder">element_children()</em> (line <em class="placeholder">6595</em> of <em class="placeholder">/data/www/html/includes/common.inc</em>).";}} [:db_insert_placeholder_5] => 1721589896 ) in _drupal_session_write() (line 209 of /data/www/html/includes/session.inc).