VDB at the Chicago Art Book Fair

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This November we are delighted to be participating in the inaugural Chicago Art Book Fair as a vendor and programmer. The CABF is dedicated to showcasing emerging directions and diverse legacies within small press arts publishing. The fair features an international group of over 100 arts publishers, small presses, book artists, comics artists, zinemakers and printmakers. The fair will take place over the course of three and a half days from November 16th-19th, and will also feature satellite programming and after parties. CABF is free and open to the public.

Stop by booth 114 and say hi! We will be selling books and media from artists in our collection, as well as some fabulous VDB swag. Additionally, there will be a special screening of recent VDB acquisitions, Saturday 18th at 5.30pm. The program features work screened at the 63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (Germany), including groundbreaking new releases from Nadav Assor, Sky Hopinka, Kent Lambert, Dana Levy, Jessie Mott & Steve Reinke, and Martine Syms.

Chicago Athletic Association
12 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

Find out more about the Chicago Art Book Fair via http://cabf.no-coast.org/

New on VDB TV “James Casebere and Landscape with Houses” by Rima Yamazaki

VDB TV: James Casebere and Landscape with Houses (2011)
Rima Yamazaki

Since the mid-1970s, James Casebere has been making photographs of tabletop models which he builds in his studio. The subject of his work ranges from suburban interiors to institutional structures, inspired by political events and social issues. In his photographs, these models often give the impression of reality. Each image transports viewers into an ambiguous environment, evoking a sense of emotional place.

For this documentary, the filmmaker Rima Yamazaki visited the artist’s studio in Brooklyn on a regular basis, from the spring of 2009 to the fall of 2010, and documented the process of making the series titled Landscape with Houses, for which Casebere built his largest model to date. As the subprime mortgage crisis occurred, he became interested in American suburban neighborhoods, and started building a model of an American suburban landscape.

The film mainly consists of the sequences shot in an observational style, and a sit-down interview conducted in May 2010.

About Rima Yamazaki

Rima Yamazaki is an independent documentary filmmaker specializing in contemporary art and architecture. Her practice is an exploration of cinematic expression in documenting, studying and reflecting on the arts. She works as a one-person film crew; all her films are directed, photographed and edited by herself. Her films have been shown at various film festivals and venues internationally. She received a BA in Social Sciences from Hitotsubashi University (Japan) in 2005, and a BA in Film from Hunter College (NY) in 2008. She currently lives and works in New York.

About VDB TV:

VDB TV is a rotating series of groundbreaking programs presenting essential video art, streaming free for the first time to the general public on the Video Data Bank website. From early media pioneers, to sensational contemporary artists, VDB TV provides unprecedented access to the culturally significant Video Data Bank archive of more than 600 artists and 6,000 video art titles. VDB TV is curated by prominent programmers and moving image art specialists. To advance accessibility to the VDB collection, all programs included within VDB TV feature closed captions for the hearing impaired.

Preserving Video History at VDB: A Q&A with Digitization Specialist, Kristin MacDonough

Video Data Bank has long been dedicated to the ongoing preservation of video works in the collection, and we have been working for a number of years towards the goal of full digitization of the archive. In September 2014, we welcomed archivist Kristin MacDonough as Digitization Specialist. During her tenure at VDB, Kristin’s work has been committed to the digitization project.

Working with Archive and Collection Manager Tom Colley, Kristin maximized the efficiency of VDB’s ongoing efforts. Thanks to her project leadership, we are delighted to announce the digitization of the entire VDB collection. It was with a heavy heart that in September 2017 we bid Kristin adieu; however we take comfort in the fact that she won’t be traveling far — in November, Kristin becomes the first Time Based Media Conservation Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago. Congratulations, Kristin!

  1. Tell us a little about your background, what inspired you to work in video preservation?

I think I’ve always been interested in general concepts and principles surrounding preservation. I strongly considered archeology or art history research, but in exploring these paths, I realized they weren’t quite in the direction I wanted to go at the time. Somehow, and I don’t recall how, I heard about audiovisual preservation. The more I learned about it, the more I discovered that the balance between hands-on work and forward-thinking research was at the heart of my interest in preservation. Then during my graduate studies, those same interests led me to specialize in video preservation. The learning curve has been steep since I don’t consider myself an engineer, but I also believe this is knowledge that needs to be passed on to the archiving field since the number of engineers currently capable of handling Sony ½” open-reel decks or CRT televisions is low. Plus, it’s unlikely people entering engineering fields will need or want to learn about this equipment, so archivists will be the ones dealing with them now and in the future.

  1. What have you been working on during your time at VDB?

When I started three years ago, I was hired to digitize the backlog of videotapes in the video art collection. Since the video collection includes tapes from the early 1970s to today, most of the tape masters are on either U-Matic (¾”) or Betacam SP, with a few Digibetas as well. I made suggestions for purchasing new equipment and set up two new digitization stations in order to digitize more U-Matic tapes where I could constantly monitor the process. After the first year, the project was extended to include the Videofreex Archive, a collection consisting of mostly original ½” open reel videotapes. Then in the third year, we made our services available to other departments across SAIC and digitized collections for them. During the three-year project, I digitized over 2,500 video and audiocassette tapes.

  1. What technical puzzles have you encountered during the Digitization Project and how did you overcome them?

At times, every day of the week could feel like a technical puzzle. Format, machine, and software obsolescence are persistent concerns when digitizing video, and with that in mind, machines and software need to remain interoperable. Upgrading a Mac OS or changing out a machine in the equipment chain can affect the digitizing process. When changing a component, I had to be sure to track or document each step I made and be able to reverse my steps if they didn’t work out.

  1. How has your understanding of video as an art form changed during your time at VDB?

The exposure to so much video art has really helped me understand the scope of work that is out in the world. We know artists make works for a variety of reasons, but there is almost always a message, whether it’s an aesthetic, a political, or social one. At the same time, it is hard for me to watch video art and not look for errors or unintentional video artifacts, but I also feel like I get to see beyond what the artist originally intended.

  1. You spent a great deal of time with the Videofreex collection. Would you tell me how you went about preserving and digitizing those tapes?

About fifty percent of the work on the Videofreex collection was building a functioning playback environment. The ½” open reel machines came to us in various states of disrepair and deterioration. We acquired several ½” open reel playback machines, cleaned them, and with the help of a local engineer, Gary Chang, we were able to repair five decks and bring them to full working order. Along with Electronic Industries Association of Japan (EIAJ) standardized ½” black and white tapes, we are now able to digitize tapes recorded before 1970 (pre-video standardization) and tapes recorded in color. The other part of the work was stabilizing the media. Some of the tapes were not kept in the best storage conditions since they were recorded nearly fifty years ago. The tapes were cleaned with a custom built tape cleaner — which VDB commissioned — and then baked in a food dehydrator to temporarily stall the effects of deterioration so the tapes could be played. During the digitization process, tapes were monitored for technical errors to determine if those errors were recorded into the content or part of the playback/digitizing process. To determine this, multiple recordings were often made and compared side-by-side. It was important to remember that this was new technology at the time, and the Videofreex were still learning as they went along. Still, our goal was to capture the best image possible.

  1. Name some of your favorite video works from the collection and your reasons why.

Some of my favorites are the early recordings from the Videofreex and the experimental works they made. The group documented political demonstrations in New York City and Washington D.C., including the 1971 May Day protests against the Vietnam War. The videomakers would record public service announcements (PSAs) from organizers, which they would show the other attendees later in the day. The content included information about staying safe while protesting, or how to talk to police if you’re detained. A step towards democratic social media, which seems as relevant today as it did in 1971.

In some of the experimental work, such as Me’s and Youse and Mushwolf, they played around with superimposing faces in the video, which created a comical effect. In Pulsa, another experimental piece, they took advantage of the inherent image lag of a Portapak cathode ray tube, by setting up strobe lights in the yard at night and recording the lights turning on and off or moving around. The image lag creates an effect that makes the lights look like bright comet tails in the dark.

  1. Any final thoughts?

With regards to the archive, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished. Digitization at VDB has helped the artists by making their works more technically accessible, and getting those works out into the world.

Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives: A one-day symposium on the state of the archive

“This material will still be here when you leave.  Someone else will study it.  These images will encounter other times, other faces.”

— Akram Zaatari, artist, speaking about the Arab Image Foundation photography archive

The concept of “the Archive” has gained potency over recent years, particularly in the realms of art and culture. Depository of information, home for memory and data, source of inspiration and inquiry for artists and researchers — archives function in a multitude of ways across disciplines.
For more than forty years, Video Data Bank (VDB) has served as a valuable resource for alternative video art histories, and has itself evolved into an “accidental” archive. VDB is a pioneer in fostering awareness and scholarship of media art — from a renowned anthology of early video art, to feminist and queer-focused curatorial projects, and media activist collections — long advocating for this most democratic and widely distributed of art forms.
This October, VDB will host Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives, a one-day symposium centered on alternative archival content, practices, and strategies, from archivists, academics, and artists. Among the questions posed:
  • What makes an archive?
  • Who is the archive for?
  • Is the archive neutral?
  • Who controls the archive?
  • Can the archive be a progressive tool?
  • How can the archive survive in the current political and financial climate?

We are happy to welcome Josh MacPhee of Interference Archive as our keynote speaker, as well as representatives from organizations including: Black Film Center/Archive, Chicago Film Archives, Experimental Sound Studio, Media Burn, Public Collectors, Read/Write Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sixty Inches From Center, South Side Home Movie Project, and artist Joshua J. Kent.

Click here for the full schedule

Click here for the full list of participants

Co-Prosperity Sphere
3219 South Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60608

Thursday, October 5th 9.00am-5.00pm

This event has been made possible thanks to the Lyn Blumenthal Memorial Fund

Eventbrite - Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives

Academic Back To School Savings

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September is finally upon us! Students and faculty are eagerly returning to colleges and universities everywhere. Save up to 20% on purchases made before October 31st, 2017 by taking advantage of VDB’s academic back to school savings.

Video Data Bank’s compilations and box sets offer great value to educational institutions, allowing students, faculty, and researchers direct access to the work of moving image practitioners shaping the field of contemporary art today. This fall also sees some exciting new releases from Cecelia Condit, Frédéric Moffet, and Zhengfan Yang.

Use code B2S17 for 20% off any compilation or box set
Use code FALLSAVINGS17 for 10% off any other purchase
Through October 31st, 2017

40 Years of Visionary Video

VDB’s 40th anniversary year is now officially behind us! The last 12 months have bought a whirlwind of activity as we marked four decades at the forefront of video and media arts, and celebrated the extraordinary video artists in the VDB archive.  The year saw some exciting projects and special events:

Video Data Bank is now officially 41!  As we move into our fifth decade, we are honored to represent the work of all 600 artists in the collection, from pioneers of the 1960s and 70s such as Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, and Yvonne Rainer, to the latest works by emerging and established contemporary artists, including Coco Fusco, Sky Hopinka, and Martine Syms. We look forward to continuing and deepening our relationships with artists, users and audiences, and to embracing the challenges of the future — be they new delivery systems, changing technologies, or social and political challenges.  We continue to believe in arts power to transform the world! Here’s to 40 more years…

— Abina Manning
VDB Executive Director on behalf of the VDB Team

VDB TV: Decades “Sandwiched Between Trauma and Apocalypse” launches today!

VDB TV: Decades

Sandwiched Between Trauma and Apocalypse: history as it intersects with biography and the rewriting of the past

Paul Chan | Ximena Cuevas

Jesse McLean | Walid Raad | Steve Reinke

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VDB TV: Decades
Sandwiched Between Trauma and Apocalypse:
history as it intersects with biography and the rewriting of the past

“By relating history to biography, we find ourselves snuggly positioned between trauma and apocalypse. It is between these two points that this program unfolds, each work radically reconfiguring this relationship between history and biography to make meaning of the present. These videos by Paul Chan, Ximena Cuevas, Jesse McLean, Steve Reinke, and Walid Raad propose subjective rewritings of historical events, claiming agency over how these pasts are understood. The works variously articulate the irreconcilability of worlds — we live together in alternate, yet parallel realities.”

— Aily Nash

Continue reading Aliy Nash’s essay Sandwiched Between Trauma and Apocalypse: history as it intersects with biography and the rewriting of the past

Aily Nash is a curator based in New York. She is co-curator of Projections, the New York Film Festival’s artists’ film and video section, and a Biennial advisor and co-curator of the film program for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. She is program advisor to the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Short Film section. She has curated programs and exhibitions for MoMA PS1, NYC; Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYC; Anthology Film Archives, NYC; FACT, Liverpool, UK; Image Forum, Tokyo, Japan; Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain; and others. Her writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, BOMB, Artforum.com, Film Comment, and elsewhere. Nash curated five seasons of the Basilica Screenings series at Basilica Hudson (2012-2016). She has taught at Parsons and Bruce High Quality Foundation University in New York. In 2015, she was awarded a Curatorial Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation.

VDB TV: Decades, a five-part curated screening series exploring VDB’s unique archive, casts a distinctive eye over the development of video as an art form. This program is streamed for free on the VDB TV platform as part of Video Data Bank’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations.

Purchase Sandwiched Between Trauma and Apocalypse

Purchase the entire VDB TV: Decades Series

About VDB TV:
VDB TV is a rotating series of groundbreaking programs presenting essential video art, streaming free for the first time to the general public on the Video Data Bank website. From early media pioneers, to sensational contemporary artists, VDB TV provides unprecedented access to the culturally significant Video Data Bank archive of more than 600 artists and 6,000 video art titles. VDB TV is curated by prominent programmers and moving image art specialists. To advance accessibility to the VDB collection, all programs included within VDB TV feature closed captions for the hearing impaired.

VDB TV is supported in part by a Media Arts award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

VDB at the 2017 ALA Conference & Exhibition

Video Data Bank (VDB) is pleased to partner with the American Library Association (ALA) during the 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition, taking place in our hometown of Chicago, June 22nd-27th. During this event-packed conference — which will feature well-known speakers including Ron Chernow, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Hillary Rodham Clinton — staff from VDB will be sitting on a number of panel discussions, tabling in the exhibition hall, and hosting the ALA Video Round Table Gala at the Gene Siskel Film Center. If you are in Chicago for the weekend we hope that you will join us for what promises to be an exciting few days of exploration and discovery with colleagues new and old. Development and Marketing Manager, George William Price and Distribution Manager, Zach Vanes will be available for individual meetings on Friday 23rd and Monday 26th. Please see our About Us page for contact information.

Friday 23rd-Monday 26th
ALA Exhibition
McCormick Place West Building
Level 3
Halls F1 & F2
Booth #4635

VDB staff will be available to discuss all matters related to video art, distribution, and preservation.

Saturday 24th, 3.00-4.00pm
Audiovisual Materials and Issues with Degradation and Storage
McCormick Place, W179a

Tom Colley, Archive and Collection Manager
Kristin MacDonough, Digitization Specialist

Film, video, and audiotape are increasingly at risk for physical degradation due to poor storage environments and their chemical properties, known as “inherent vice.” These vulnerability issues continue to gain attention. Likewise, knowing preservation best practices of analog objects is growing in importance, especially as digitization isn’t a feasible option for many institutions. This panel will discuss the science of this deterioration and ideal vs. practical solutions for storage through case studies and discussions.

Sunday 25th, 10.30-11.30am
Preservation Showdown: Audiovisual Edition
McCormick Place, W184d

Kristin MacDonough, Digitization Specialist

Two teams will go head to head to debate the statement “The preservation of analog audiovisual media is the single most important preservation issue facing libraries (and archives and museums) in 2017.” Teams will include members from the Preservation and Reformatting Section and the Video Round Table, bringing their different perspectives to each side of the issue. Audience members will be expected to ask questions during the debate, and the debate will be followed by an open discussion with the audience and the debaters.

Sunday 25th, 7.00-9.00pm
ALA Video Round Table Gala
Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.

Tom Colley, Archive and Collection Manager
George William Price, Development and Marketing Manager

Join the Video Round Table for drinks and hors d’oeuvres followed by a presentation on the media collective Videofreex from Tom Colley, Archive and Collection Manager of Video Data Bank. One of the earliest video collectives in the United States, the Videofreex formed in 1969 at the legendary Woodstock Music festival, and went on to tour the country with the newly available Portapak video equipment interviewing counter-cultural figures of the day. In 2001, as part of Video Data Bank’s mission to preserve and archive important historical video, they began amassing the Videofreex’s vast tape archive on the now-defunct half-inch open reel video format. The presentation at the Gene Siskel Film Center will include rarely seen gems from the Videofreex archive, including historic interviews with Fred Hampton and Abbie Hoffman.

VDB TV: Decades “Future-Past-Present: A Journey Through the Twenty-Tens so Far”

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Basma Alsharif | Rosa Barba | Doug Ischar | Nicolas Provost

Steve Reinke | Martine Syms | Matt Wolf | Akram Zaatari

VDB TV: Decades Future-Past-Present: A Journey Through the Twenty-Tens So Far

“How can one even start to articulate the conditions that determine the artistic output of a decade that has begun to experience such violent rupture? How does one give voice to a decade that began with the utopia of post-millennial transparency only to descend into a whirlpool of continual lies? ‘Post-truth’ is the accommodating misnomer that has been instrumentalized by news media to articulate the ‘alternative facts’ that have been propagated by the presidential campaign and policies of the newly-elected President of the United States, former reality TV star and real-estate mogul, Donald Trump.”

Continue reading Omar Kholeif’s essay Future-Past-Present: A Journey Through the Twenty-Tens So Far

Dr. Omar Kholeif is the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Arthur and Carol Kaufman Goldberg Visiting Professor and Curator at Hunter College, New York in Fall 2016. He has curated over 100 exhibitions, commissions and special projects, including the Liverpool Biennial, the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale and the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Previously he was Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Senior Curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester; Head of Art and Technology at Space, London; Curator at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool; Senior Editor at Ibraaz Publishing; and Artistic Director, Arab British Centre, London. Dr. Kholeif is the author and/or editor of over twenty books of criticism, poetry and fiction, including, You Are Here: Art After the Internet (2014), Moving Image (2015), The Rumors of the World: Re-thinking Trust in the Age of the Internet (2015), and Electronic Superhighway: From Experiments in Art and Technology to Art After the Internet (2016).

VDB TV: Decades, a five-part curated screening series exploring VDB’s unique archive, casts a distinctive eye over the development of video as an art form. This program is streamed for free on the VDB TV platform as part of Video Data Bank’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations.

VDB TV: Decades now available for purchase!

About VDB TV:

VDB TV is a rotating series of groundbreaking programs presenting essential video art, streaming free for the first time to the general public on the Video Data Bank website. From early media pioneers, to sensational contemporary artists, VDB TV provides unprecedented access to the culturally significant Video Data Bank archive of more than 600 artists and 6,000 video art titles. VDB TV is curated by prominent programmers and moving image art specialists. To advance accessibility to the VDB collection, all programs included within VDB TV feature closed captions for the hearing impaired.

VDB TV is supported in part by a Media Arts award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

VDB at the 63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and LOOP Barcelona 2017

Video Data Bank at the
63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen
May 11th-16th, 2017

Video Data Bank’s Development and Marketing Manager George William Price, and Distribution Manager Zach Vanes, will be in attendance at the 63rd International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany.

They will present a program of new works by VDB artists Nadav AssorSky Hopinka, Kent Lambert, Dana LevyJessie Mott in collaboration with Steve Reinke, and Martine Syms. If you are attending this year’s festival we invite you to join us in the Lichtburg Filmpalast Sunset for VDB’s screening on Friday, May 12th, 10.30pm.

We congratulate the other VDB artists being screened at this year’s festival including David Cort and Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Harun Farocki, Paul Garrin, George Stoney, and the Videofreex.

George and Zach are available May 11th-15th, and can be contacted at george@vdb.org or zach@vdb.org throughout the festival.


Video Data Bank at
LOOP Barcelona
May 18th-27th, 2017

Abina Manning, Director of Video Data Bank, is collaborating with LOOP Barcelona to present Looking in the Mirror, I See Me at Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Part of VDB’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, the screening takes place on Wednesday, May 24th, 5.00pm.

The artworks in this program, all made by women artists active in the 1970s – video’s first decade – occupy a number of positions and points of view in relation to women’s role in society. The artists included in the screening are Lynda Benglis, Hermine Freed, Suzanne Lacy, Barbara Aronofsky Latham, Susan Mogul, and Linda Montano.

Abina will be in attendance at LOOP Barcelona May 22nd-27th and can be contacted at abina@vdb.org.