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40yearsvideoart.de – part 1

All electronic data carriers have only a very limited life span. Museums and collections alike are confronted with this dilemma, which, with videotapes and other related media, can be recognized in the form of 'white noise' on the screen. But also included in this technical horror story is the total loss of digital data. An awareness of this problem has increased because the artistic practice which utilizes video as a tape, installation, or projection is meanwhile familiar territory. Even if the classical concept of 'Video Art' no longer seems to play a role today, what led to the success of the medium is still a question left unresolved.

For that reason, the initiative of the German Federal Cultural Foundation "40yearsvideoart.de: Digital Heritage" focuses on saving, maintaining, and mediating the cultural heritage of Video Art, which has become one the most influential art forms of the twentieth century. For the first time, such a complex, mediating and exhibiting project is carried out by five museums in the Federal Republic of Germany: ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe and the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen Düsseldorf, the institutions responsible for the overall project, work together with three partners – Kunsthalle Bremen, Lenbachhaus Munich, and the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.

Over the course of two years, and following the organizing of a symposium in July 2005 at the Kunstsammlung NRW in Düsseldorf, it was possible to investigate original masters, to compare and evaluate copies, and store all the formats on high-quality digital formats. In addition, model restorative work on the electronic information of selected historic videotapes could also be tackled. In this way, discussing the results and processes will be continued with concrete viewing material. It is planned to present new research findings in Part 2.

In the summer of 2004, a jury (Dieter Daniels, Rudolf Frieling, Susanne Gaensheimer, Søren Grammel, Wulf Herzogenrath, Nan Hoover, and Doris Krystof) compiled an exemplary selection of works, a panorama of 59 historic but also current works ranging from 1963 up to the present. This initial, overview-oriented selection will now travel as an archive to several locations in a concerted action, exhibited at the same time by the five participating museums. Apart from this, each museum presents its own focal point as an expansion and contextualizing of these videotapes. The spectrum of these exhibitions embraces the "1960s" (Bremen), the "1980s" (Düsseldorf) as well as the present "Update.06" (Munich). Handled at two locations is a "Revision" of the selection – in light of the chosen artists from the former GDR (Leipzig), and with regard to the existing collection of Video Art and restoration practices (Karlsruhe). From the standpoints of form and content, this allows the concert of thematic focal points to investigate the conditions of an historic and present-day exhibiting potential and the relevance of Video Art.

Two publications are accompanying this initiative-project of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes: a comprehensive, full-color catalog edited by Rudolf Frieling and Wulf Herzogenrath, and published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, which includes excerpts of all the works on a DVD-ROM; for copyright reasons, the DVD Study Edition, including all the works in their full length, is only available to institutions in the fields of education, teaching, and research.

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