FARO, Brussels, February 14, 2013
WRO was founded in 1989 as an international festival of media art, which has surpassed its role of being just a cyclical event, and since 1998 has been operating as the WRO Center for Media Art Foundation. It is the first in Poland, and one of the largest surveys of media art in Central and Eastern Europe, taking up issues of contemporary art in the perspective of culture and communication. Since 2008, the Foundation has run the WRO Art Center, a public gallery that offers exhibitions, performances, screenings, lectures and workshops featuring Polish and international art.
Rony Vissers of PACKED vzw (Brussels), the centre of expertise in digital heritage that is coordinating DCA, talked to Bartek Korzeniowski (archivist, WRO) about the WRO collection, the purpose of digitisation, the chain of steps involved in the digitisation process and the dissemination of the project results.
PACKED: Could you tell me something about WRO’s collection?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We can basically divide our collection into three parts. The first consists of audio-visual material created as a co-production between WRO and the Polish Public Television (TVP) that documents media art festivals and art events throughout Europe, including the Multimediale festivals at ZKM – Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (Germany), Ostranenie in Bauhaus, Dessau (Germany) or Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria). It also includes a substantial collection of interviews with artists and theoreticians, as well as original artists’ works commissioned by the TVP and produced by WRO. The audiovisual material was produced between 1990 and 2001 and is stored on analogue Betacam SP videotapes.
The second part consists of the documentation of events organised by WRO itself, in Wrocław and elsewhere. It contains subsequent editions of the WRO Media Art Biennale.
Finally, WRO’s collection contains works of artists with whom we work and a very extensive body of work sent for selection for the WRO Biennale. We keep both the preview copies that were sent for the selection and the high-quality screening copies used during the festival presentation. Most of this audio-visual material is on videocassettes and DVDs. We noticed an technological shift from the analogue carriers prevalent in the first festival editions to the digital ones that we have received for more recent editions. For the WRO 2013 Biennale ‘Pioneering Values’ we received DVDs, but also Blu-ray disks, flash drives and file transfers. This shift is crucial for the way our archive functions both in terms of the technological and sustainability aspects.
PACKED: Has a part of WRO’s collection already been made public in the past?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We have always been very keen to make our archives available through different media and dissemination channels. In 2005, for example, we published ‘From Monument to Market. Video Art and Public Space’ is a multimedia publication with a book of essays and two DVDs containing a selection of Polish works related to the public space.1 This first publication was a result of a conference and a video programme that we curated and presented at the Kunsthalle in Vienna in 2002. Recently, we created an online version of the ‘From Monument to Market’ publication.
The material digitised within the framework of the DCA project will be made available on the same portal: video.wrocenter.pl., which was launched in January 2013. This example shows how working with archives and making them available to the public has changed over the last two decades.
PACKED: How many works or how many tapes do you have in the WRO archive? And are they international or only Polish?
Bartek Korzeniowski: The WRO archive holds approximately 6,000 items. It does not only contain artworks per se, but also a substantial amount of documentation featuring all kinds of artworks, from painting, installation and performance to media and computer art (although the genre boundary between each category is often very fluid). Furthermore, it also contains recordings of interviews and talks. The amount of this last type of material has been growing very fast due to the documentation since 2008 of regular programme activities at the WRO Art Center. There is a lot of material that documents various festivals, as our team traveled extensively for many years, covering art events as part of a Polish TV commission. What is interesting is that this material is often unique to the extent that even the host institutions do not have comparable coverage of their events. This leads to many requests being made to us to make such material available. For WRO the DCA project is one of the opportunities to meet such requests.
At the moment ca. 2,000 of the digitised materials we hold are available locally in our Media Library – to which people can come, sit down, and access the material. However we would very much like to go beyond that solution and make our contents available online.
PACKED: Most of the copies that you have are preview or exhibition ones, not real master tapes. How do you make the distinction between an artwork and its documentation? In a way, even the copies you have are often a kind of documentation.
Bartek Korzeniowski: In terms of the material we receive for the WRO Biennale, most are preview and exhibition copies. However, with the artists with whom we collaborate regularly on exhibitions at WRO and elsewhere, we hold master copies of publications, new productions and the promotion of their artworks.
PACKED: What is the purpose of digitising the WRO collection?
Bartek Korzeniowski: The main purpose for digitisation is to make the content publicly available. However, preservation is also an issue for us. We use the digital files for many purposes including the WRO Art Center’s media library, multimedia publications like ’From Monument to Market’, ‘The Hidden Decade. Polish Video Art 1985-1995’, ‘Józef Robakowski. Energetic Images. Bio-mechanical Recordings 1970-2005’ or the ‘WIDOK. WRO Media Art Reader’ series, and most recently for creating new artworks and exhibitions that usesthe WRO collection as source material.
Re-use of archival materials is a concept that we initiated in 2012 with the exhibition ‘A Short History of Video Installations (SHVI)’2 and that we continued with subsequent projects. We call this approach ‘Active Archiving’. It means that we employ materials from the archive to create both new interactive interfaces, for example kinect motion tracking and genuine mobile interfaces, that allow new ways of browsing contents beyond the standard library query schemas. Another strategy that we use is based on creating new artworks, mostly installations, by juxtaposing elements of the archival materials or some ideas and concepts included in them.
PACKED: Can you give some examples of your ‘Active Archiving’ approach?
Bartek Korzeniowski: In ‘Concerto for TV Set and Diode (for Voytek)’ that was presented during the SHVI exhibition, Wojciech Bruszewski’s famous 1973 film ‘YYAA’ was incorporated into an installation that used a photodiode connected to a loudspeaker and a TV screen. The diode mounted on the TV screen read the changing image and sent a signal to the loudspeaker that was dependent on the light intensity level of the screen. In ’YYAA’, Bruszewski’s screaming of opened and closed vowel sounds controlled the shifting lighting of the set. In the installation this mechanism is reversed; the original audio of the video work is muted and what the audience can hear is the sound that depends on content on the screen. On another level, the piece is also reminiscent of Bruszewkski’s 1979 installation ‘TV Chicken’or ‘Telewizyjna kura’.
Another example is ‘On the Silver Globe for Zygmunt Rytka’, in which we used the photograph by Zygmunt Rytka that was taken in the night between 20 and 21 July 1969. It shows the text that says “The transmission from the Moon has ended” that was aired by Polish Television after the broadcast of the first manned moon landing. Next to the photo, there was also a video projection on the Convex cathode ray TV monitor from the late ’60s or early ‘70s that presented a YouTube clip of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon. That TV transmission was a phenomenal media sensation in 1969, and is now a memo circulating on the Internet.
These are among the installations that to a greater or lesser extent involve WRO’s archival contents of video artworks or photographs to create new objects. This way they attract a new audience that becomes familiar with them.
PACKED: This concerns use in-house: in the media library or in exhibitions. Do you also have an online catalogue?
Bartek Korzeniowski: The online catalogue is just being developed along with the video.wrocenter.pl portal that hosts our audio-visual contents. A first set of forty video works is already available there. A second set will comprise material created within the framework of the DCA project. Subsequently, we will look for new solutions including grants from the national Polish aggregator NINA to include additional material.3 A lot of WRO’s archival material is already digitised and ready for publication.
PACKED: Do you expect any obstacles when publishing the material?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Of course, solving the copyright issues takes a lot of time. The license and co-production agreements that we signed before 1995 do not contain a clause that allows online publication. The situation is especially difficult for the artworks; for the documentary material it is different because we often produced them ourselves or in cooperation with others, and have thus secured the rights. Yet, with some Polish TV co-productions we nonetheless have some issues: for example we can not use the edited broadcast versions because clearing the rights with all staff involved in their creation is impossible. Luckily, we can use the raw footage and edit it anew.
PACKED: Now you have focussed mainly on access and a little bit on re-use. When I look at the list of the carrier formats that you digitise, I guess that preservation is another purpose. I noticed for instance VHS.
Bartek Korzeniowski: The VHS cassettes copies we have are secondary or backup copies. The primary copy was almost always created with more sustainable formats, in most cases Betacam SP. This refers to documentaries, but also the artworks submitted on VHS cassettes for the WRO festival and subsequently the WRO Biennale were transferred to Betacam SP tapes. Which means that currently the threat of losing the material stored on rather quickly degrading VHS has decreased.
Nonetheless, we are planning to digitise this material directly from the original VHS carriers. On the other hand, the status of some of the VHS cassettes with covers originally designed by artists in the 1990s has changed over the years from being just a carrier containing the artwork to becoming an art object in itself.
PACKED: The quality of Betacam SP is better than VHS, but it is still an analogue format and like all other analogue formats is rapidly becoming obsolete. You will soon have to digitise the Betacam SP cassettes in order to preserve their content.
Bartek Korzeniowski: That is correct. What we now really need to do is to look again at how digitalisation was done throughout the years and unify the standards, if necessary by digitising the material again from the original carriers. This will also be a good chance to check on the quality of the original carriers.
I expect that our whole archive will be preserved according to the standards that are used for the material that is digitised within the framework of the DCA project.
PACKED: What is the added value of a project like DCA in this?
Bartek Korzeniowski: DCA is very valuable because it has allowed us to look at the digitisation procedures that we used in the past once again and to rethink them. This is crucial for us because the value of the archive has increased for our institution. At some point we became aware of its importance, and although we archived almost everything from the beginning, we didn’t have the sufficient knowledge, infrastructure and skills to archive in a professional manner. Today we treat the archive as one of the most important assets of our institution. Thanks to our participation in the DCA project, we now also know how to handle it properly and efficiently.
PACKED: Your situation sounds similar to that of Transmediale that also only realised after twenty-five years that they have an important collection and that they better take care of it.
Bartek Korzeniowski: This is a similar case. Nonetheless, we were drawing form our archival resources from the very beginning. The problem was that our archive was not preserved in accordance to standards that are applicable for audiovisual archives. Simply putting the videocassettes in order and registering them is not enough!
PACKED: I read that forty percent of the WRO collection was already digitised. I guess that this was before the DCA project started. What will be the percentage after the DCA project? How many works will be digital by then?
Bartek Korzeniowski: In the perspective of the whole archive, the amount of works that are digitised within the framework of the DCA project is rather small; we decided to provide only forty-nine works. Still, the DCA project is very important because we are working on a major reconfiguration of the archive and the experiences gained during the project are very helpful for this.
Currently we are working on a new archive or storage space. It is a very comfortable situation for us, being able to start from the most fundamental element. I think that by the beginning of 2014 we will be able to start digitising the remaining part of our collection.
PACKED: Do you plan to digitise the whole WRO collection?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Betacam SP is still an analogue tape format. Although it was a good format for archiving because it was sustainable, we need to start using digital file formats for both long-term preservation and access. We also still have some VHS tapes, but as I mentioned earlier these are only a very small portion of our collection. I estimate that within two years our whole collection of videotapes should be digitised.
PACKED: You referred to digitisation as a preservation strategy. Is your preservation policy the same for the artworks and the video documents or is there any difference?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, we treat them in the same way. However, some of the videotapes that contain artworks are also unique artefacts with artists’ imprint or traces of artistic activity. Some tapes are very distinctive.
PACKED: How do you deal with these artefacts? Do you also preserve the material objects after digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski:Yes. We keep the object even if the video signal is lost. Often we possess a better quality version that was obtained at some point during the cooperation with an artist. Nonetheless, as an artefact, the tape is still kept in the archive as a contextual material.
PACKED: Does this mean that you also document the artefacts, for instance by digitally photographing them?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Recently we did a series of presentations on our archive and this was a good opportunity to document some of the archival objects that are in one way or another distinctive. We will start doing this in a more systematic way.
PACKED: How do you deal with copyright clearance?
Bartek Korzeniowski: When an artist submits a work to the WRO Biennale, he or she decides to sign an entry form with a clause, which states that they allow us to use the submitted copy for the WRO archive.
PACKED: That is the current situation but I suppose that the situation was different in the past. Probably you had a different submission form twenty years ago. Also the Internet was not used as we use it today.
Bartek Korzeniowski: It has been our policy since the first edition of the WRO Festival, but certainly not all of the paper documentation has survived. However, In many cases we are still in contact with the artists from those early editions. Generally, after a short or long correspondence we are able to obtain their permission to publish the material online. Sometimes they ask for the presention of an abridged version of the work, sometimes they provide us with a modified version.
For the DCA project we have selected artists with whom we are on good terms. Nonetheless clearing the rights for the on-line use took us much more time than we had expected. Also we had a prolonged discussion with the Polish TV to analyse the specific co-production cases and to clarify how this material can be utilised.
For another digitisation project that we carried out in 2012 that was supported by NINA, the National Audiovisual Institute, we received funding that allowed us to cover license fees for the artists. This provided a good possibility for us to keep up a good relationship with them and to improve our chances of further cooperation.
PACKED: What is your experience with copyright clearance for online access?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Our experience was different in each case. For some artists it is obvious that online publication in a controlled environment is a good thing and obtaining or confirming the initial permission was not very problematic. Others needed further explanation, sending and approving the material.
There are two problematic factors that are hard to overcome: money and stubbornness. Especially when estates, heirs, beneficiaries or other third parties like collections are involved, things usually end up with different levels of financial expectation. On the other hand, some artists are really attached to their point of view.
For the DCA project we used documentations of artworks, not artworks. This made the process a bit easier. However, we still consulted the artists for advice on how to use the documentation that was created, either with their consent or with that of the institution that represented them.
Interestingly, WRO has published a series of multimedia publications, some of which I mentioned earlier. When we were working on them, the copyright for the materials used was obviously cleared. Yet, when we recently contacted the same artists asking them for extending the permission to cover the online publication, some of them said no. They find books and DVDs not only much more prestigious, but also a more controllable form for disseminating their works.
PACKED: Does your current entry form have a clause that covers online access?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, for the last few festival editions there was such a clause. The entry guidelines also indicate that if we want to make further use of the submitted work, we should seek permission.
Our experience is that most artists don’t object to the idea as long as it is for non-commercial archival and educational purposes. Today most of the artists understand that Internet is yet another medium for art presentation.
PACKED: What is the situation with the documentary material? Is it made by regular festival staff, or by people who are subcontracted by the festival?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Both. For the WRO Biennale 2011 ‘Alternative Now’, we had four recording teams. One consisted of students who were doing short, impression-focused interviews with the audience. Then there were WRO staff members systematically covering all events from performances and concerts to exhibitions. A Polish TV team in co-production with WRO produced coverage for the daily broadcast as well as more lengthy interviews, tailored for our needs, with both artists and curators. The fourth team took care of the Internet streaming of the key notes and discussion panels taking place during the event.
PACKED: Did you clear copyright with all of them?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We did with those we subcontracted. We hold the rights. With the WRO staff members there is no formal agreement that deals with the clearance of copyright as this is a part of our regular institutional activity and all materials created are at WRO’s disposition.
PACKED: Is the situation the same for the clearance of the copyright on the metadata. For most metadata there are usually no copyright issues, but for descriptive texts for instance they can pop up. Do you have any experience with this?
Bartek Korzeniowski: When we worked on the online version of ‘From Monument to Market’, not only did we contact artists to obtain the rights for online presentation, but also authors of the essays that were included in the initial book publication.
When we commission someone to write a text for us, we always ask permission for all forms of exploitation, an obvious part of which is online publication. We have a better knowledge about this than ten years ago. Everyone is also more aware of the way texts circulate nowadays. Nonetheless it is hard to predict what forms of distribution and fields of exploitation will be available in the future. You cannot predict new technological developments, but you can at least say that if a new form of technology appears, you want to have the right to use the content with that new technology.
Moreover, there are different types of metadata. What I said relates mostly to the long descriptive texts on artworks or phenomena that contextualise them.
PACKED: Who actually does the digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: From the beginning it was done by staff members and since September 2011, when I joined the project’s team, also by myself. During the course of the DCA project my colleague decided to become independent and form a one-man-company. He therefore changed his status from staff member to subcontractor. In fact, I did the same in January 2013. So, even if the digitisation process was subcontracted in part, it was still performed by the same people who have the required experience and belong to the WRO team, even if they worked in their own premises.
PACKED: Why did you decide to work like this?
Bartek Korzeniowski:The main reason was that some digitisation had already been done before the WRO joined the DCA project. So we had some experience in the procedure. I think that it is more beneficiary to do the digitisation in-house rather than to transfer it to an external, unknown subcontractor. When one does the digitisation in-house, one is able to improve one’s knowledge and skills. When one outsources it, a large part of that knowledge is not going to stay in the institution. We believe in developing our own solutions. Such experiences are invaluable and can be used in the future. This is especially the case for our archive because it is much more extensive that just the works that are digitised for the DCA project.
PACKED: Are WRO’s quality requirements identical for each work, for instance the file formats, codecs, compression and bit depth?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, but we have different quality standards depending on the use of the material. For the media library access copies, we use lower quality files, similarly for online presentation. All these materials are produced from the high-quality master copies.
PACKED: Do the digitisation quality requirements differ from one carrier format to another, for instance from Betacam SP to VHS?
Bartek Korzeniowski: No, we stick to the same quality standards for the different types of material.
However, this is also very case dependent, especially when one comes across low-quality or heavily degraded material and needs to decide how far one should go in retouching the material.
PACKED: Does that also mean that the quality requirements are the same for the digitisation of the artworks and for the video documentation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, we do not make a distinction in quality between them. Each type of material should be available in the best possible quality.
PACKED: How did you prepare the digitisation? Did you, for instance, create different groups depending on the carrier, or did you just take the tapes one by one from the shelves?
Bartek Korzeniowski: No, we took the works that show different artistic strategies and genres like performances, installations and video artworks and were created over the last twenty to twenty-five years. We took such materials so as to show a broad spectrum of our archive.
PACKED: That is the selection process. What I mean is: how do you prepare the actual digitisation once the selection is made? Do you divide the selected works in groups, based on the format of the tapes? Which tape did you decide to digitise first?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Only after a certain time did we start digitising in a meticulous, well-organised way. At the beginning it was more ad-hoc as we digitised something at the moment it was actually needed. The result of this approach was that we had digitised material from different periods, events and formats. It was a very incoherent approach.
The next step was to organise the digitisation in a more coherent way: year-by-year, festival-by-festival and format-by-format. As I already said the majority of our archive is stored on Betacam SP tapes. So technologically it remains a similar process. However, the digitisation itself is not our ultimate aim because in our case where a lot of the material is documentation there is still a lot of effort required, for instance, when mastering, editing and translating once the raw digital files are obtained.
PACKED: How did you approach the preparation for the DCA project?
Bartek Korzeniowski: For the DCA project we had a clear idea of what we wanted to digitise. We first made a list of the works to be digitised. Then we started with the work at the top of the list, took the cassette, digitised it, and continued with the next work on the list until we reached the end. Nonetheless, examining the archive and the physical carriers was still a very time-consuming task.
PACKED: Did this list include sub-categories in order to maximise the efficiency of the digitisation process?
Bartek Korzeniowski: If one cassette contained for example works ‘two’ and ‘eight’ on the list or their parts because some works were spread over multiple tapes, we digitised them during one session. First we digitised all tapes that contained related material and then in step two edited work by work.
PACKED: Did you inspect the material in advance, before digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, a subcontractor did this. An engineer at the Polish Television cleaned the video player and inspected the videocassettes.
PACKED: Did you also have to clean videotapes?
Bartek Korzeniowski:No, they were all fine. However, the video player was cleaned and its heads adjusted.
PACKED: What kind of equipment did you use for the actual digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We used a Sony BVW-22P player for the Betacam SP and a NV-FS 200 player for VHS. As converters we used the DV Converter ADVC-55e by Canopus and the HD Express HDMI by MOTU.
PACKED: Did you experience any problems during the digitisation, for instance technical problems?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, our DV Converter ADVC-55 broke down during the process and we had to replace it by the MOTU equipment. We also had to deal with a server failure that resulted in a loss of digitised content and some data recovery.
The DCA digitisation actually includes two different processes: first converting the material from analogue to digital, then with the help of Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro4 mastering and editing the digital material into content that can be published on our website.
PACKED: Did you encounter any other problems during the digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: There was a case in which two works were mixed up. If one read the synopsis of the works, they were almost the same. It turned out that the wrong material was digitised and that for some time the wrong material was used. It was in fact due to the wrong label on the tape. We only discovered this after a group viewing of the material.
PACKED: Did you make any adjustments during the digitisation by using a TBC or noise reduction?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes. Although we were keen to keep the material as close to the original as possible, some adjustments were essential, especially with the sound. In terms of image we paid special attention to its clarity and fluidity. The Betacam SP materials were still in good shape. Sometimes we increased the brightness or adjusted the saturation. More work was required for the sound.
PACKED: How did you do quality control?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We used Exiftool and VideoSpec to obtain the technical metadata with which to compare digital files. More problematic was comparing the analogue and digital material.
PACKED: Is the quality process influenced by the fact that you do the digitisation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, we know what the digitisation set-up is and how it works. The situation would be different if we had to send a tape to a lab. Then we would have to check the technical metadata that is embedded in the file to find out what actually has been done. This is another reason for doing the digitisation in-house.
PACKED: A quality control check with a validation of the format and the codec is also difficult because it is hard to get the software to do this. Applications like VideoSpec can only extract the technical metadata, but do not perform a real validation.
Bartek Korzeniowski: There is also another thing. There will always be some difference between the original analogue version and the digital one. There is a kind of mismatch between the analogue and the digital signal. For instance in terms of colour accuracy, it is not as easy to compare both signals, even if you use two identical and colour-sync monitors. There are always some small differences. This is a general thing. You cannot assume that digitisation is a kind of one-to-one process, moving from one realm to the other. Both realms are different and to some extent incomparable to each other.
There is also a difference between viewing the material on a TV set with a cathode ray tube and viewing the same material on a computer monitor with a liquid crystal display.
PACKED: Did you end up in situations where you thought that the digital version is worse than the analogue one?
Bartek Korzeniowski: There have been some cases where we thought that we should do the digitisation again to check if something went wrong during the process, or whether the difference has to do with the very characteristics of digital reproduction. One has to compare the analogue input and the digital output on the same screen before doing any adjustments to the latter.
PACKED: Do you discuss this with the artists?
Bartek Korzeniowski: No, rather with my colleague in the digitisation studio. Our digitlisation mostly concerns the video documentation. Here the proximity with the source material is not as critical as with the artworks. This also requires working towards obtaining the best quality of image and sound, but it does not create so many dilemmas, like for instance those related to colour differences.
PACKED: What kind of database system does WRO use?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We use a mySQL database5 that was initially built for our media library. It contains all essential metadata: identifiers, names, abstracts, technical details, and so on. What is missing is the shelf mark or the physical location of the tape. That is important information for the management of the collection and one of the elements that we need to improve in our collection management system. There are a few other elements like checksums, but generally the database proved to be well designed and we just need to add some additional metadata fields.
PACKED: Does the metadata schema that is used in your collection management conform to a metadata standard?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, it is based on Dublin Core.6 We use a reduced version of Dublin Core.
PACKED: Two new interesting metadata standards have been developed for cinematographic works: EN 15907 and EN 15744.7 They do not only allow the description of the works, but also the different versions and their different copies. All of the different versions and copies are linked to the same entity.
Bartek Korzeniowski: We are aware that we need to work a little bit more on our metadata schema.
For us the first step is to rearrange the physical archive, order it again from scratch, and register all information that might still be missing in our collection management system.
PACKED: If WRO holds a certain artwork and also some video documentation about this work, how do you deal with this? Is the artwork and the video documentation described in your database in two separate records that are linked to each other?
Bartek Korzeniowski: No, until now both were described in the same record. The documentation is usually described in the ‘comment’ field.
This is one of the things that we had to deal with in the DCA project. A lot of material that we used is actually documentation. The result is at least two types of descriptive metadata: one that relates to the work, the other to the documentation.
Beside this one also has, for instance, the administrative metadata and the technical metadata.
PACKED: When you deliver the metadata to Europeana, do you deliver metadata about the artwork or about the documentation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We decided to deliver the metadata about the artwork because in Europeana you have a very limited set of metadata fields, and because of this you cannot provide very precise and detailed information. If Europeana were to develop and implement a new standard, maybe we would change our approach but at this point we just deliver five metadata fields.
PACKED: Why did you make this choice to deliver only information about the artwork and not about the video documentation?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We made this choice because of the final user. In this way he or she gets information that is more useful at the first contact. The documentation is a secondary element to the original work. Nonetheless, on our website we will provide a richer set of metadata that will make a distinction between the artwork itself and the documentation.
PACKED: When the user is looking for an artwork by, or a documentation video about, Zbigniew Rybczyński8, he or she will probably use ‘Rybczyński’ as a search term and not the family name of the lesser-known creator of the documentation video.
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, that is true. However, our system will at some point still give the name of the creator of the documentation video because it will be included in the metadata. Our website also uses tags, so you will be able to look for either documentations or artworks, or both.
This distinction is important to the media art field, and it is unfortunately something that Europeana does not yet fully understand. The GAMA portal9 is far better in this because it has four classes: ‘Person’, ‘Artwork’, ‘Event’ and ‘Resource’. In the ‘Event’ part it can be stated that it concerns, for example, an interview or an exhibition, or even that the material is a hybrid object containing an interview, documentation of an artwork and possibly even some excerpts of the original work. One can have documentation on an exhibition of which, for instance, a part of the material consists of an interview that explains the works. The different types of material are far more precisely shown in GAMA than in Europeana.
PACKED: Will WRO become part of the GAMA consortium?
Bartek Korzeniowski: WRO is already part of GAMA, although only after DCA we will provide them with some content. They are also our aggregator.
PACKED: Did you also have other reasons to become part of GAMA?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We had been thinking about GAMA for quite a while, and the DCA project was a good moment to become part of it. GAMA knows how to aggregate and present information on media art as it is designed for that purpose.
PACKED: What is your digital storage solution?
Bartek Korzeniowski: At the moment we keep three copies: one is on the computer on which the actual digitisation was done, the second is on the server, and third is on an external hard drive disk. This third copy is an archival copy for safety purposes only, stored in a metal drawer. Because the three copies are stored in one building, we need to change this a little. We think that a solution could be cloud storage, or another server that is not in the same building.
Years ago we had a situation during which the server was down and some of our material was lost. We had more material digitised. A part was lost; another part was recovered. It is important to have more than one back-up copy.
PACKED: Do you use checksums to be able to check the integrity of the files?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We started using checksums during the DCA project, and we have them for all material that was created within the framework of the project. This is something completely new for us.
PACKED: How do you plan to make the results of the digitisation accessible on WRO’s website?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We will have three points of entry: Europeana, GAMA and our own website.
Europeana will get a limited set of metadata and a thumbnail that after clicking redirects you to our website. We will not use GAMA as a dark aggregator, but also as an aggregator that publishes richer metadata and 30 second clips; this will also be interlinked with video.wrocenter.pl where we keep the full-length material. Our website will also hold the richest metadata.
PACKED: Once the material is available on the web, it becomes difficult to control re-use. We have already discussed the use of an embedded watermark. Is the provenance information important in case of re-use of the material?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, we are very open and can share all our material online, but require that our material is properly attributed. We decided to use embedded video with WRO Art Center’s logo. Although this is a bold solution, it is also discouraging to see that the provenance information gets lost when the material migrates over the web.
PACKED: Sharing the digitisation results online is one thing, sharing the gained knowledge and expertise with your community is another. Can you tell how you plan to do this?
Bartek Korzeniowski: We are arranging a conference with the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Wrocław. They are creating a new faculty of art mediation, and are looking for some new, fresh ideas, not only for creating art but also for popularising, or making art more accessible. We thought that the DCA project is something that is core to the subject, as this is about making art more available, not just keeping it in the archive.
Instead of presenting the digitisation results, the idea is to present some digitisation case studies and as such, how the results were achieved. Different approaches and workflows were followed by the institutions invited. We want people to talk for up to twenty-five minutes about their collections and what they do, but also about how they do it.
We hope to have very different examples of the material being digitised: artist books, large sculptures, videos, photographs, posters and so on. Although digitisation is one word, there are many strategies for the digitisation of different artworks, but also many strategies within the different institutions. It would be interesting to show how different institutions handle this and whether they have similar experiences. Did they change their practices during the DCA project or not? Did DCA manage somehow to standardise the digitisation procedures or not? It will be like an open presentation, maybe with a panel at the end and some discussion.
It will take place on 10 May 2013 in Wroclaw, during the WRO 2013 Biennale.
PACKED: Has WRO already organised any other dissemination activities?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, a workshop and a lecture that I did with students. They also took place at this department of art mediation at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Wrocław. The participants were students who mostly have traditional art backgrounds; they were painters actually. I wanted to introduce them to the different digitisation strategies, and how the processes differ from material to digital-born works.
Of course, I sometimes went into detail, but the whole idea behind those classes was to make students familiar with what digitisation is, that it has many levels, and it can also be a creative strategy. It was not only about storing and preserving things, but also making them available.
Partly as a result of these classes the students started working on a photo archive at an institution for mentally disabled children. They are creating an exhibition in collaboration with them, using that archival material. You never know what will happen and what spark it can initiate.
PACKED: Did the digitisation make it possible to re-use the archival material?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, or at least inspired them to somehow use the material creatively.
We also did some workshop-based classes. We went, for instance, to the archive, took a videotape, and did the whole digitisation process step-by-step; we took the videotape, prepared the metadata, digitised the tape and made the results accessible. So it was not only about how digitisation works in theory, but also from the practical point of view. We discussed the different strategies that can be used for the digitisation of different types of artwork.
PACKED: Do you think that this will also help artists or art students to take care of their own video work?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Possibly. Preservation is one important thing, but this also opens up the possibility for them to use archival material in a more creative way, like found footage in film or video or the photographs found in the archive of the institution for mentally disabled children.
The students who organised the exhibition were painters. For paintings the digitisation strategies are different to, let’s say media art. Digitisation is not a way of preserving the painting as an object, but of documenting it and making it available as a reproduction. We talked about the standards for the creation of digital files, about the importance of technical metadata, about colour correction and colour management procedures. Most of this information was new to them. Yet, I think it might be of use.
PACKED: Do you have the impression that the deliverables that have been created as part of the DCA project are helpful, for instance the deliverable on the digitisation workflow?
Bartek Korzeniowski: Yes, some of the material that I presented during the lectures was taken from the deliverables. I did not force the students to read the deliverables, but as material from which you can digest some elements, it was a good source of knowledge. The deliverables are important, but they only meet the knowledge level of a certain group of people. However, if we digest the information and make it online available in a more accessible language, it can become a good resource for many people.