GAMA e.V. Supports UNESCO’s Mission for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage

UNESCO has adopted 27 October as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to increase the public awareness of the importance of preserving and archiving audiovisual materials and their carriers (film, video and sound footages, radio and television), and to provide an incentive to protect and maintain these documents which are an essential part of our cultural heritage.

Worldwide, small and medium sized art centres have supported experiments in new media, provided access to new technologies and exhibited and distributed media-based art. As a result many have considerable collections of videotapes, new media artworks, documentation and ephemera; collections that tell a far more complete history than could ever be told by the few select pieces held in major institutions. Unfortunately, most of these independent collections exist under a constant threat of deterioration, obsolescence, inaccessibility and disrupted funding streams. How to bring these media archives into the future? How to conceive the future of media art archiving? The archives are jeopardised not just because of the fragile and vulnerable archiving material which is subject to fast chemical decay and technological out-datedness but mostly due to a lack of recognition of their importance by the (national) authorities.

Archives at risk: protecting the world’s identities is the slogan of this year’s celebration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. We are accepting a consensus that we are not able to comprehend the development of culture and society in the 20th and 21st Century without audiovisual archives and the material that they preserve. The slogan of this year’s celebration could not be more accurate for media art archives. A vast majority of organisations dealing with archives of contemporary art are facing a sever lack of support by the authorities which would allow for a sustainable and professional work in this field.

The GAMA Portal (Gateway to Archives of Media Art) provided access to a wealth of information about the works of both well-known and emerging European and non-European media artists. The material on media art initially came from eight European media art archives and included (previews of) experimental film and video art, performances, installations and; documented and further contextualised with texts, lectures and events. The portal was launched at Ars Electronica in 2009 by a consortium of 19 partners ranging from IT experts, academic and cultural institutions to archives and distributors. Since then the GAMA foundation transformed from a portal into a knowledge and project sharing group with a biannual public roundtable on media art archiving. To open up the dialog on archiving and politics to support sustainable and professional work in this field.

Gaby Wijers

on behalf of the GAMA association

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