Anamnesia: Unforgetting (VIVO Media Arts Centre)
Anamnesia: Unforgetting is a series of three screenings of videos from the 1970s and 1980s, collected through the early Satellite Video Exchange program. The videos are now housed in VIVO’s Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive, a collection of 4500 titles of international video art and related ephemera.
A Concise History of the Satellite Video Exchange Society by Sharon Bradley
VIVO Media Arts Centre, governed by the Satellite Video Exchange Society (SVES), is Vancouver’s first media arts access centre, and one of the oldest artist-run centres in Western Canada. The society was incorporated on July 23, 1973, following the Matrix International Video Exchange Conference and Festival.
Held at the Vancouver Art Gallery and organized by Michael Goldberg, Patricia Hardman and Noelle Pelletier, the Matrix Conference took place over the weekend of January 20 and 21, 1973 and was attended by over 160 participants from North America, Japan, England and France. In order to gain admittance to the conference, each attendee had to deposit a videotape that was duplicated and exchanged with other visitors.
A group of artists who connected at the conference — Michael Goldberg, Paul Wong, Renée Baert, Richard Ward, Charles Keast, Annastacia McDonald, Janet Miller, Patricia Hardman, Paula Wainberg and Shawn Preus — incorporated the Satellite Video Exchange Society and sought out a publicly accessible location to house the newly formed video library.
On August 1, 1973, SVES moved into its first home at 261 Powell Street between Main Street and Gore Avenue in Japantown. They opened to the public on September 17 of that year. As it was located in a renovated rooming house and some members resided in newly built lofts, it became known as the Video Inn. Video Inn provided a free videotape library and viewing space, Portapak cameras, and editing equipment to the community.
On September 15, 1980, SVES added a new department to its services, Video Out International Distribution, to circulate the video library to festivals, galleries, libraries and educational resource centres internationally. The addition of a distribution department meant greater exposure and increased income for artists, contributing to a wider acceptance of video as an art form.
By the mid-1980s, ongoing problems with mice and cockroach infestations became unbearable. A series of burst pipes and floods initiated a search for a new location. In February 1987, SVES made a brief move to 1160 Hamilton Street. The former warehouse was in the heart of Yaletown, an industry and manufacturing district. A name change followed the move. The double n was dropped, shifting Video Inn to Video In. Video In/Video Out, now fully articulated the society as a centre for artist run production, exhibition and distribution. A third move was initiated eight months later, when the owners decided to occupy the space.
In 1988, SVES relocated down the block to 1102 Homer Street, a 4,000-square-foot facility with ample room to house the tape and print libraries, multiple viewing stations, post-production suites, a graphic design and print production area, a video production and exhibition studio and staff offices.
In the years following the post-Expo ’86 sale of the expo land bank along North False Creek, gentrification reshaped the architecture and economy of Yaletown. In 1993, SVES was evicted and the building was renovated for an architecture firm. After a discouraging search, Rick Erickson purchased 1965 Main Street; with plans to provide a long-term, stable lease to SVES. The building’s interior was renovated to facilitate the many services the society offered. SVES staff managed the storage facility on the ground floor to supplement its income. The new centre was opened in June 1993. In October of that year, the society hosted a month-long twentieth anniversary exhibition titled, “Video In: 20 Bold, Brash & Beautiful Years” in its new location.
In 2007, the staff and board of SVES proposed a renaming and rebranding of the organization to represent the breadth of contemporary media art being produced and exhibited at the centre; and to bridge the division between the exhibition, production, education and distribution departments. Video In/Video Out became VIVO Media Arts Centre. In December 2010, VIVO inaugurated The Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive, a collection of over 4,000 international videotape titles, numerous special collections and thousands of print and image documents.
A Glossary of Terms
Day Books / The day books were journals kept by SVES staff and volunteers from 1973–1987 to communicate on a day-to-day basis. Notes in the day books track who was working at and visiting the centre, rants, gossip, repairs and maintenance, relevant events and news items.
Tape Viewing Logs / From its inception, SVES’ videotape library has been accessible to the public. In the early and mid-1970s, when video playback equipment was uncommon in most households, people could access the viewing stations for free at Video Inn to watch non-commercial documentary and art videotapes. Patrons included artists, students, international guests and residents from the diverse surrounding neighbourhood. Staff tracked usage, and then referenced the statistics to create lists of the top ten most viewed videos of each year.
The International Video Exchange Directory / First released in 1971 by artist Michael Goldberg and Image Bank, The International Video Exchange Directory was a publication listing the names and contact information of an international selection of video artists, activists and media producers. The project began when 1,000 postcards were mailed out internationally, soliciting contributions from interested parties. The first edition included 171 entries and subsequent editions listed over 500 addresses. The directory encouraged the free exchange of non-commercial video, while promoting an international network to share ideas and resources. Following the incorporation of SVES in 1973, the society took over the production of the directory, which was eventually replaced by the Video Guide. In total, eight editions of The International Video Exchange Directory were produced between 1971 and 1981.
Video Guide / The Video Guide was printed quarterly by SVES. It was published regularly from 1978 to 1992, and featured interviews, reviews, listings and articles profiling local and international video culture. At its peak of production, the Video Guide was distributed to every country, with the exception of Iran and Cambodia for political reasons.
We Come from Here by Amy Kazymerchyk
Since our first prospective discussions about curating in The Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive in January 2012, we have returned to the questions: why are we compelled by the archive—specifically the first decade of SVES’ consciousness—and why now?
Amongst pages of notes I’ve written in response to these questions, I have highlighted one line: It is the movements we are involved in now that draw our attention to movements in the past.
We are the curators and coordinators of Anamnesia: Unforgetting: Donato Mancini, Alex Muir, Cecily Nicholson, Sharon Bradley and myself. Our movements are the collaborations we have united in, the discursive and aesthetic projects we have contributed to at VIVO, and the conversations we have taken up with concentric communities. We’ve come together now–in the second decade of the 21st century. We look to movements of the past, in this case the work and culture that artists, activists and cultural workers from SVES’ early history were producing, because we imagine our time here as part of a continuum of friendships, practices and commitments.
It could be said that the foundation for our collaboration on Anamnesia was laid in August 2008 when VIVO hosted the Kootenay School of Writing’s (KSW) “N 49 15.832 - W 123 05.921 Positions Colloquium”. Kika Thorne was VIVO’s Curator/ Programmer at the time. Hosting the “Positions Colloquium” exemplified her curatorial philosophy that media art is a dialogic medium, allied with other dialogic disciplines and the communities that coalesce around them. Donato Mancini, Nicholas Perrin and Andrea Actis programmed the Colloquium. Andrew Klobucar, Rita Wong and Jeff Derksen contributed to curating and moderating panel discussions and presentations1.ike Thorne, the coordinators and moderators of the Colloquium positioned poetics in dialogue with decolonization, Post-Fordism, performance art, neoliberalism and the production of public space. VIVO has maintained ongoing relationships and collaborations with many of the poets and writers that presented at the Colloquium.
Early in Thorne’s tenure she established a conceptual framework for her curating titled An Age That Has Lost Its Gestures. Thorne took up Giorgio Agamben’s proposition that life becomes indecipherable when action is lost to power, to draw attention to the value of artist run culture’s founding processes and the impact of their entropy. Within this rubric Thorne cultivated critical opposition to Cultural Olympiad and affiliated funding amongst VIVO’s Management Collective and Board of Directors2/3/4. This gesture drew directly from SVES’ early political consciousness that Crista Dahl speaks to in depth in her interview. Refusing Cultural Olympiad funding and the restrictive contract that accompanied it, positioned VIVO to stage a reflective and critical forum in which artists and cultural workers could consider their production in relation to the events and systems around them. In the fall of 2009, a collective began meeting to strategise VIVO’s activities during the 2010 Winter Olympics5. Our position became SAFE ASSEMBLY, a consortium of discursive practices uniting performance artists, media journalists, cultural theorists, visual artists, housing rights activists, architects and poets. We gathered to demonstrate VIVO’s legacy as an artist-run centre committed to critical dialogue, artistic experimentation and the responsibility to respond.
Cecily Nicholson and Alex Muir were members of SAFE ASSEMBLY’s organizing collective. Muir was already an active member at VIVO. He had participated in a Technical Internship (2008) and SLAB 2: Votes for Sleepwalkers (2008); and was working as an event technician and exhibition preparator. With an interest in tracing the precedents for VIVO’s response to the 2010 Winter Olympics, he curated “Primer”, a programme of videos drawn from the early 1980s that provided varying sightlines into histories of Vancouver and politicised aesthetic practices6. He also built and programmed SAFE ASSEMBLY RADIO with Brian Beaudry and Kristen Roos; a project informed by his collaboration with Beaudry and Brady Marks on “Soundscapes” at Vancouver Co-operative Radio.
Cecily Nicholson entered VIVO’s community through SAFE ASSEMBLY. As a poet, cultural critic and feminist activist, Nicholson contributed to the collective by establishing and strengthening relations with other Olympic resistance initiatives in the city. Nicholson, Nicholas Perrin and Am Johal coordinated the “Evening News”, a nightly report and dialogue forum for activists and cultural workers who were responding to the Olympics. She also read with Stephen Collis and Roger Farr for “Short Range Poetic Device”, a series of live readings that aired on SAFE ASSEMBLY RADIO7.
I collaborated with Thorne, Muir and Nicholson as a member of SAFE ASSEMBLY’s organizing collective, and in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, took over Thorne’s tenure. Along with the title, I was endowed with the gestures and relationships she had rooted. In the years following, I have developed numerous events and projects with Mancini, Muir and Nicholson. Together we have inquired into the ways that art can symbolically and concretely introduce new frames of interpretation and conjur new propositions within art, poetics and politics. We have continued uncovering the gestures of our age.
Nicholson continued working with Nicholas Perrin, Am Johal and Althea Thauberger to produce the series “Imminent Future” (February/November 2011)8. Cecily and Ivan Drury performed a collaborative poetry reading (January 2011), which was co-presented by Urban Subjects and KSW, and preceded Urban Subject’s residency and emergent exhibition “602,000 Works on Housing” (January-April 2011)9. She also read with Stephen Collis, Mercedes Eng, Ray Hsu, Reg Johanson and Kim Minkus at “To The Barricades” (May 2011)10. In her tenure as a Coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Nicholson programmed a screening of Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside by Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia at VIVO (February 2011).
Muir’s interest in The Crista Dahl through curating “Primer” led to his position as Video Out’s Distribution Assistant. He became intimately involved in videotape restoration and preservation, and apprenticed with Gerry Lawson from the Museum of Anthropology to repair our ½-inch open reel video decks and restore our earliest tapes. Muir continued to curate from The Crista Dahl, co-programming the “Top Ten” series (2011)11.ith Video Out Coordinator, Sharon Bradley, as well as numerous offsite initiatives. Since fall 2010, Muir has facilitated “No Reading After The Internet”, a monthly salon for communally reading cultural texts12.
Donato Mancini presented a talk titled “Signs of Counter-Protest” for SAFE ASSEMBLY’s “Evening News”, which analysed acts of resistance to resistance against the Olympic Games throughout history. He has continued to initiate and participate in collaborations between VIVO and Vancouver’s poetry and literary communities. As DJ PunDit, he curated an evening of revolutionary music for “Imminent Future” (February 2011). With Am Johal he co-programmed “An Evening of Revolutionary Poetry” (November 2010)13. He also launched his book of textual and visual poems, and conceptual writings on statistics, food, capitalism, death and lists titled Buffet World at VIVO (May 2011)14.
We can see reflections of the videos curated for Anamnesia: Unforgetting in the cultural conditions, social concerns and aesthetic inquiries of Mancini, Muir and Nicholson’s cultural production at VIVO. Of particular note is their range of inquiry and collaboration with disciplines outside of media art production. This has been a part of the cultural ecology of SVES from its inception.
Nicholson introduces her thoughts on her programme “Dispatches: wrested resumption in time and area”, by articulating the plurality of her social and political identity and allegiances. She affirms her solidarity with anti-gentrification struggles in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, multiply-oppressed women, hybrid identities and Indigenous peoples’ resistance. With thoughtful reverence, she places her body in time and place, naming the locus from which she approaches The Crista Dahl. She articulates her concerns about communication and solidarity between art and activist communities, torn between aesthetic judgment and embodied critique, and the many unresolved struggles within her purview.
Immersed in concerns of war and aware of cultural process as labour, my curatorial efforts in this project are earnest and given towards work that is hopefully legible and resonating within my wider communities, most of them founded in ongoing struggles.... I have a selection of ten videos spanning 1973–1979 in hand to render some meaningful arrays of figures in time and places relevant to civil and Indigenous rights movements. Edifying and beautiful overtones are clear and present.... Through multiscalar and discontinuous reflection on movement, the story of these documents contributes perspective on “multiculturalism” and “revolution” with the video medium both analogous and functional.
Nicholson includes writers and artists such as Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and Jimmie Durham in her inquiry on the reciprocity between medium and message, the symbolic and concrete. Davis reminds us to consider experimental approaches to civil rights organising in the 1960s and 1970s, as lessons for confronting contemporary social movements, politicisation and cultural production. Durham, a former Director of the International Indian Treaty Council, member of the American Indian Movement and contemporary artist, embodies continuity and allegiance between political and aesthetic commitments. Audre Lorde offers one of the most blatant declarations for poetry—and by extension, symbolic production—as vital for existence.
Nicholson’s curatorial approach is informed by her critical and poetic writing practice. She has done more than just assemble excerpts of videos to facilitate a digestible viewing; she has intervened as a poet to construct a continuum between the material and ideological attributes of video documents, dispatches, communiqués and broadcasts from 1970s American civil rights activism, Indigenous resistance and prison justice, and the movements she is a part of. Nicholson acknowledges the traction between poetics, experimentation and resistance in media production in the late 1960s and 1970s that is still palpable at VIVO. She suggests, with the support of Davis and Durham, that we have to trust the confusion and commit to the enduring process of coming together. “There is no simple call for solidarity. A methodology for enacting solidarity cannot be prescribed and is, critically, a matter of ongoing relations.”
SVES has always welcomed artists who work at the margins of contemporary art movements, due to aesthetic or political differences, health and mental health concerns, economic and social barriers, or critical and disruptive identities. Byron Black was certainly one of the outsiders who frequented SVES (though he never felt he even belonged here), and the society remained one of Black’s active penpals through the 1980s.
Black took up the proclamation that video, as an affordable, accessible and portable medium, could accelerate global unity (also one of SVES’ founding values). His video correspondences and television broadcasts speak to a moment when international travel, correspondence and collaboration were kinetic, and the vernacular of movement was a part of the emerging medium. Forty years later, Black continues to travel, collaborate with locals in countries around the Pacific Rim, and evolve his practice to twenty-first century online forums for media correspondence.
While it is true that digital media (via analogue video) has created some forms of global community and expanded access to communication and social broadcast, it has done so at an expense. Media experimentation has entrenched artists and producers in product dependency. Consumption, not correspondence, has become the incantation of techno-capital. Black’s idealistic vigor for internationalism in the 1970s and 1980s was always bent by skepticism towards the global media sphere. Pragmatically, Black has worked as a media educator to push back against the imperial conditions that foster technology’s proliferation. In his video work, the tenor of his derision has always been a harmony of gallows humour, bouffant, and counter-orientalism. Muir takes up Black’s practice at this moment because the critique in his work, displaced in its time, has caught up with the present.
The broadest contours of the history of the era would suggest that the “we” of artist collectivity would undergo considerable streamlining as the years progressed—as befits the broader socioeconomic storyline, from which artists are certainly not exempt. For all the provocations to appropriate the means of communication and cultivate ourselves as supple, enabled subjects, it must be remembered that the machinations of the state and corporations were equally savvy and attuned. The allegorical figure of the artist as secret agent is met by a state all too happy to formally capture the public territory that the agent has tacitly conceded in their decision to remain clandestine. The vision of the savvy producer who is able to perform comfortably across multiple mediums, roles and languages, echoes eerily today in the swelling class of precarious labour.
Black’s anachronistic practice influences Muir’s experimentation with conceptual and theoretical notions of the archive in visual, literary, music and moving picture cultures. His inquiry can be read in the mandate for “No Reading After The Internet”: a monthly salon for communally reading cultural texts with an interest in reforming publics and experimenting with the act of reading, as its own media form, in our moment. By physically gathering and reading aloud from a range of texts that collate art history, visual culture, media theory and political history, we contest our mutual skepticism of media’s manifest destiny. In the spirit of early film and video artists like Byron Black—taking cues from the caméra-stylo, the pen pal, the written word preceded by the spoken, and the origins of media—the symbolic image, we are working towards reclaiming the gesture of media.
Byron’s work registers the latest innovations in the cycles of the aestheticisation of politics. A practice steeped in a conversation about image and persona intently observes the celestial rising of the concept of brand to the lofty plateau of the state itself. Reflecting on this exponential change in scale—wherein all space is subject to polish, and monuments are designed for their legibility to global jetsetters—Byron writes in a tape description for Collapse of Time that, “it was a sad day when the bottom fell out of the world but after all it’s only an upside-down smile a mile wide.”
The Collapse of Time that Black speaks of may be the command of abstract over concrete time. As Mancini elaborates, abstract time is measured by the clock and tied to the rhythms of production determined by industrialisation, the march of progress into modernisation and global capitalism. In this paradigm, time equals value. As a time-based medium made of cheap, consumptive materials, with an unbridled capacity to articulate time, an archive of video is an archive of time—indeed one that threatens to become abyssal. Taken one step further, anamnesiac or a pathological inability to forget—in this case born of a pathos to record, to document, to archive. Mancini acknowledges that although the video archive does not produce capital as such, it is a material symbol of capital via abstract time. Thus the video archive, in this case The Crista Dahl, can be used as a site of resistance against capital.
In the archive, the act of resistance against abstract time is enacted through curating, “a hostile, violent cutting across the abstract grid with the temporal knife of the concrete”. The temporal knife is the concrete body of the curator, in the concrete present, enacting the concrete events of restoring, watching and reading.
In line with Mancini, Nicholson and Muir enact concretisation in the archive by attuning to the polytemporalities or polyrhythms present in the videos. In “Dispatches: wrested resumption in time and area”, Nicholson works with the concentric temporalities of political movements and the overlapping strata of duration, materiality, and address. In “What’s a sentient being like you doing in an incarnation like this?” Muir draws on global temporalities of Black’s forays through Indonesia, Thailand and Japan, and the paradoxes of a perpetual outsider.
Mancini’s programme “Year of The Strike, Hour of The Knife” connects Santiago, Chile and Vancouver, Canada, as two strategic centres for the emergence of neoliberalism in the 1970s and 1980s. The multifarious rhythms that flow through these works address the scars of struggle and protest across the landscape, the body and the city. Following the rhythm of The Crista Dahl’s international catalogue and the global agenda of neoliberalism, the programme zigzags across borders and cultural contexts between 1975 and 1989.
Mancini also traces the continuity between the emergence of neoliberalism and the current socio-political and economic climate. In winter 2009/2010, the BC Liberal’s arts and culture funding cuts, followed by a significant rent increase (catalysed by development speculation of South False Creek and Mount Pleasant where VIVO is located) had significant ideological and financial impact on SVES. There is no doubt that the BC Liberal’s social and cultural policies, the Olympics and Vision Vancouver’s collusion in the subsequent development boom are conjunctive. Indeed, this pattern of causality can be traced to the BC Social Credit Government’s 1983 “Restraint” program. Premier Bill Bennett announced rollbacks to education, social service, environment and culture programs, and deregulated labour laws and union contracts, to open provincial resources and services to private corporations. His budget shuffle also financed the presentation of Expo ’86, which like the Olympics, introduced the province to global investors. The most recent wave of restructuring, mega-events and development is undoubtedly part of a thirty-year-plus continuum of neoliberal reformation.
In revisiting Lorna Boschman’s Your System Stinks: A Video About Welfare Rights (1989) and Rich Rommell’s Expo Forever (1987), reality takes on an anamnesiac haze. The transpiring crisis within which media artists, producers and cultural workers established SVES, has precipitated the conditions we continue to work within today.
When lacerated by the “temporal knife of concrete time” we see so poignantly the continuum between past movements and our own. SVES’ history has left an indelible print on its contemporary culture. We only hope this poignancy continues to be felt, by the future, towards the work that we were doing when we were here.
- 1. Positions Colloquium presenters: Andrea Actis, Michael Barnholden, Dodie Bellamy, Colin Browne, Clint Burnham, Jules Boykoff, Ted Byrne, Louis Cabri, Peter Cole, Stephen Collis, Peter Culley, Michael Davidson, Stacy Doris, Ivan D. Drury, Laura Elrick, Roger Farr, Robert Fitterman, Maxine Gadd, K. Lorraine Graham, Maxwell Heller, François Houle, Reg Johansen, Kevin Killian, Brian Kim Stefans, Andrew Klobucar, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Donato Mancini, Sachiko Murakami, Sianne Ngai, Pat O’Riley, Nicholas Perrin, Judy Radul, Lisa Robertson, Kaia Sand, Colin Smith, Rod Smith, Julianna Spahr, Catriona Strang, Rodrigo Toscano, Aaron Vidaver, Mark Wallace, Darren Wershler-Henry, Tyrone Williams, Rita Wong.
- 2. In personal correspondence (September 2012), Kika Thorne states her position was informed by two decades of experience forging a dialogue with artists, architects and writers including: Barry Isenor, Marie-Paule MacDonald, Kenneth Hayes, Adrian Blackwell, Cecilia Chen, Christie Pearson, Luis Jacob, Mark Wasiuta, Kathleen Pirrie Adams, Mike Steventon, Jubal Brown, Adonis Huggins, Dan Young, Allan Graham, Ben Donoghue, Allan Antliff, Amish Morrell, Jane Hutton, Michal Maciej Bartosik, MAMA and many others about the production of the city and counter responses to neoliberal privatization. Some of her prior projects included participation in the October, February and April Groups (1996-1997), Anarchist Free School & Space (1999-2003) and Ambience of A Future City (2001). The latter was made with Adrian Blackwell in collaboration with Catch Da Flava, RAG and Bread Not Circuses. Bread Not Circuses had galvanized Toronto citizen’s capacity to annul the 2008 Summer Olympic bid. Ambience of a Future City conversations involved urban planners/critics Helen Lenskyj, Stephen Kipfer and Michael Shapcott. (Fuse 26.2) Lenskyj authored Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda (2000), Best Olympics Ever: Social Impacts of Sydney 2000 (2002).
- 3. Overlapping VIVO Management Collective members 2007–2010: Sharon Bradley, Jen Fisher, Julie Gendron, Emma Hendrix, Amy Kazymerchyk, Katherine Lee, Asa Mori, Dinka Pignon, Gabriel Schroedter, Kika Thorne. It should be noted that VIVO Curator/Programmer (2005-2007) Julie Gendron’s commitment to build relations between VIVO and community based organisations in the Downtown Eastside helped ease collaboration during the Olympics.
- 4. VIVO Board Members 2008–2009: Todd Davis, Heather McDermid, Lois Klassen, Alanna Maclennan, David Lee, Judy Piggott, Rafael Tsuchida, Georgia Scott, Carmen Pollard, Tiina Liimu, Mark Penner, Andrew Power.
- 5. SAFE ASSEMBLY was collectively organised by Am Johal, Amy Kazymerchyk, Lois Klassen, Alex Muir, Cecily Nicholson, Nicholas Perrin, Emilio Rojas, Kristen Roos, Althea Thauberger, Kika Thorne and cheyanne turions. Together the collective programmed: “Afternoon School”, Safe Façade, “Primer”, “The Evening News”, The White Pillows and “Covering Up”.
- 6. Primer’s programme: Ay Sudamerica! (1981) by C.A.D.A, Persons Unknown (1980) by Ken Kuramoto, B-84: Leaving the Ground (1981) by Byron Black, Our Noblest Aspirations (1984) by Andreas Nieman, Vancouver Canada or They Chant Fed Up (1980) by Kim Tomczak.
- 7. Clint Burnham, Jeff Derksen, Kim Duff, Reg Johanson, Donato Mancini, Naava Smolash and Rita Wong also read for “Short Range Poetic Device”.
- 8. Imminent Future’s inquiry pronounced: “If we no longer hold assumptions about The End of History, ‘progress,’ or the legitimacy of an avant-garde, then the question must be posed: Who are we? What is the worth of the poet in a society that already knows better than itself? Who can and who can’t imagine a future? What is so terrible about the Terror? Where’s the comedy in apocalypse?” Their February 2011 event presented: Candace Hopkins, Joshua D. Goldstein, Jerry Zaslove, Fiona Jeffries, Tania Willard, Charles Demers, DJ PunDit, the real featuring the unreal and Christie Lee Charles. In November 2011 they presented: Harjap Grewal, Tone Olaf Nielsen, Raymond Boisjoly and Glen Coulthard.
- 9. Urban Subjects is Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen and Helmut Weber. 602,000: Works on Housing also included the exhibition of Bitter/Weber’s video works (1997–2000); the production of But life is not changed magically by a poetic act; screening of Living Mega-Structures (2003/2004) followed by a panel discussion with Ivan Drury and Amy Kazymerchyk; and lecture on the Revolutionary Imperative by Neil Smith. Urban Subjects worked in collaboration with the 2011 Olympic Tent Village Coalition and the Downtown Eastside Neighborhood Council.
- 10. Part of La Commune: Paris 1871 / Vancouver 2011. Programmed by Stephen Collis. Co-presented with Simon Fraser University Department of History, English and French.
- 11. Screenings were programmed from lists of the top ten videos screened in: 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1990.
- 12. “No Reading” was an adaptation of “Thought on Film”, a communal reading series that was curated by cheyanne turions at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society from 2008–2010. Alex Muir, Kika Thorne and Amy Kazymerchyk collaborated with cheyanne on its programming. When cheyanne left Cineworks in 2010, VIVO adopted the series and shifted it to reflect our cultural position.
- 13. The invitation read: “In times like these, it is impossible to be too political, too literal, too direct, or too vulgar. So help us bring a little concrete to the city of abstractions, a little historical texture to the city of glass. Test what it’s possible to feel. Make a scandal of your sincerity. In counter-celebration, join us for a night of revolutionary poetry. Twenty Vancouver writers and artists will weep and wail poems of revolution by (such poets as) Amiri Baraka, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Velimir Khlebnikov, Edwin Rolfe, Kenneth Rexroth, Cesar Vallejo, Tsang K’e-chia, Huddie Ledbetter, Osip Mandelstam and Paul Éluard.”
- 14. Published by New Star Books (Vancouver).
Cecily Nicholson, Donato Mancini, Alex Muir, Amy Kazymerchyk and Sharon Bradley interview Crista Dahl.
Cecily: Crista, can you tell us how The Crista Dahl Media Library & Archive began?
Crista: It began with the tapes from the Matrix Conference and the print information that accompanied them, as well as the print materials that initiated the conference. I can give you a brief outline of how this happened. In 1971 Michael Goldberg and Image Bank sent out over 1,000 postcards internationally to people involved with small format hand-held video equipment, inviting them to form a network. The people who responded were compiled in eight International Video Exchange Directories between 1971 and1981 that were then sent out all over the world. Network members were also encouraged to trade videotapes with each other through the mail. At Matrix, all attendees had to deposit a videotape with the conference to be admitted. Previously, the video exchange used various locations to ground its activities, including Image Bank, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the New Era Social Club. Shortly after Matrix, the network communication, publication and dissemination of the directories and the library of tapes settled with the Satellite Video Exchange Society (SVES). So this collection of print and tape materials is really the beginning.
Amy: When did you get involved in the video exchange?
Crista: I got involved very early on. I attended Intermedia meetings in 1970 and was really excited about Michael Goldberg’s ideas about connecting internationally. My own work was heading in a similar direction and I committed to supporting him as much as possible. In 1972, after the postcard dissemination process was under way, Michael, Patricia Hardman and Noelle Pelletier began co-ordinating Matrix. I was working more than fulltime and couldn’t help, so I asked my daughter Shawn Preus, who was already involved in media arts and community video production, to get involved. Shawn and Paul Wong were responsible for dubbing and distributing tapes for attendees. Matrix was great for seeing work from around the world, meeting artists and activist producers, and defining a moment in time and space. I loved it. And of course some of the people who were part of Matrix, including my daughter, Shawn, continued on and established the Satellite Video Exchange Society. Everything I had talked to Michael about was happening.
Donato: So where was the first library? Where did the tapes and print materials from Matrix go?
Crista: Michael had received a Canada Council sculpture grant and used the money to rent a place down the street from the New Era Social Club at 261 Powell Street. This would become the home for SVES. Renée Baert wrote the first draft of our non-profit charter, which was further developed by a planning committee, then approved by the members. The Powell Street location became Video Inn, a public tape viewing library and a real home for some of us. We worked incredibly hard to open the doors of the centre. The building was located in what is still called Japantown and there were derelict Japanese baths in the basement. During the Second World War the Japanese were interned in interior camps. Their businesses and assets were seized by the government to pay for their internment, and the neighborhood became very depressed. It was still very depressed when we moved in. At the front of the building there had been a small barbershop. Behind it was a rooming house stretching all the way to the backdoor—some 3,000 square feet in all. When we took it over it was a dirty, creepy mess. The rooming house was a long hallway with single occupancy rooms on either side. Each six-by-twelve-foot room was defined by a single light bulb. Everyone pitched in to knock down the walls and build one big dividing wall across the middle. Gan Matsushita heroically stripped the ceiling to expose the wood and enormous beams. The front space was built for viewing tapes and had one loft. The back space was divided for offices, editing desks, production equipment, a combo darkroom, kitchen, bathroom, shower and the space for Andrew Krumins’s 12-foot hand-made table. We had our weekly dinner meetings at this table. When Woodward’s department store dissolved we got shelving from them. We dismantled and rebuilt it to suit our videotapes. We also got some furniture from the Vancouver Art Gallery when it moved to the courthouse. Everyone contributed to creating the space in one way or another. It was a very interesting and intense group of people with a range of interests in art, politics and social change that opened Video Inn’s doors.
Amy: You said that, “Everyone contributed to making the space…”. What was your contribution?
Crista: I had been attending post Intermedia meetings called the Little Hot Stove League at the New Era Social Club that Glenn Lewis co-ordinated. This is where the Intermedia archive had been deposited. I did some work organizing their files and would like to have done more, but I wanted to keep my commitment to Michael and be close to Shawn. It was easy for me to fold into arranging tapes and filing paper at Video Inn. When I had time off from work I organized the tapes, print materials and even the kitchen! I was seriously multi-tasking at the time—raising four kids as a single mother, working fulltime, pursuing education and making art—so my time at Video Inn was intermittent. Later on when I was living there it was easier to get serious work done. Someone at the Video Inn nicknamed me “The Mother of Tedium”, for my capacity to spend a lot of time testing out different methods of organizing tapes and labelling everything in sight! I don’t have a practice without archiving. There is nothing that I have done since I moved to Vancouver that does not reflect archiving of information in some way.
Amy: When were you introduced to archiving?
Crista: Archiving has been a part of my art practice since I was living in San Francisco in the 1960s. I was making super realist paintings at that time. I had applied to the San Francisco Art Institute and was accepted but didn’t have the money to go. I decided to get my own books and teach myself. The problem was that the art history books primarily covered western art, with the last few chapters touching on Asia and North, Central and South America—usually referenced through archaeology and anthropology. I was most interested in these chapters, and they changed my art practice. By 1968 I’d taken my boys out of the Vietnam War, and landed in Lund, BC, marrying John Preus, a US draft dodger. I was still painting, but had decided to do “primitive art” on my own. I was making handprints on rock walls and tracing outlines of my hands with sticks. I started collecting and organizing archaeological information. I have a compulsion to loosen the tangle out of time and space. It’s beautiful to see flowing information.
Donato: Did everybody work on a similar schedule as you did, during their off-work hours, or were some people employed by SVES?
Crista: There was no money at the start and then there was a salary for two and a half people to share, one way or another. Money went towards projects and whoever could do them. But it was tough, because when someone completed the defined project they were out of work and had to go on unemployment insurance. I was working two jobs: teaching at the Vancouver Society for Total Education and running my Life Rhythm Workshops at the Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey Art Galleries. I was able to hire Video Inners within my contracts. That helped support Shawn Preus, Andy Harvey, Paul Wong and Annastacia McDonald. When I lived at Video Inn I took care of some evening shows, cleaning and tons of dishes. We all chipped in, in whatever way we could, and supported each other the best we could. There was always one staff person at the centre to welcome people. This person also multi-tasked any number of activities. I can remember doing mail-outs, making drawings for directories and helping with the Video Guide layout, among other things. Because we were all working any number of jobs, making art and travelling, we had to be knowledgeable about all the tasks at Video Inn. We were constantly sharing and switching roles. At the weekly dinner meetings people would sign up for a shift from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. No one had regular shifts. Someone would just commit to be the staff person for a day, one week in advance.
Donato: Can you tell us more about the weekly dinners? It sounds like they were important bonding moments.
Crista: My best memories come from the weekly dinner meetings. Anybody could come and eat with us, so we usually had about 15 people at the table. We took turns cooking and the meals varied wildly. Rick Ward would never buy anything, so he would forage and pick dandelions. Charlie Keast once brought breakfast cereal and milk. Paul Wong was, and is, a wonderful cook. He always prepared deluxe Chinese food. Barbara Steinman and Ross Gentleman were also terrific cooks. Their most memorable meal was a Greek feast. My best meals were stuffed salmon and Happosai, a Japanese eight vegetable stew. The meals started because we were spending a lot of time together doing construction and there were eight people living there off and on. At the beginning of the dinner we would review the previous week’s agenda really quickly because we had already talked about it all week while we worked! Visitors would comment on the ease of our process. After decisions were made we would eat and drink. At some point in the evening the next week’s agenda was scribbled on paper.
Cecily: We can see in the day books that people from the Indian Centre (so called at the time) were coming in to rent equipment in order to videotape a benefit event. Can you explain a bit more about how peopled used the space and who used it?
Crista: Like I said earlier, after the huge renovations, the front half became the tape viewing space. The walls had shelves that displayed the early development of the print library—our own Exchange Directories and later Video Guides, The Accessible Portapak Manual, catalogues, books and magazines on media like Radical Software and Guerrilla Television—where people could sit and read. There was a welcoming desk up front where the staff person would answer questions and help visitors watch videotapes. It’s important to say we were open seven days a week. The door was always open and anyone could come in. We tried to get the local community to come in and look at tapes and some would. The community around us was very quiet during the week because it was mostly made up of Chinese families, First Nations and retired people living on low incomes. The weekends were loud from affluent young people partying at the Number Five Orange. There was a regular contingent of people in the space who may not have connected to video directly, but connected to the space. I can remember a First Nations guy that would come in. He was very polite. He would say hi and we’d say hi. There was a special couch out of the way that he would sleep on. We figured that he spent the nights outside and he may as well have someplace to sleep during the day. It was a very comfortable space with nice stuffed furniture that didn’t match. First Nations kids from the neighborhood would come in now and then just to talk while tapes were on. Because we liked talking to people we put benches out on the sidewalk when the weather was good. Through talking to different people we realized that the neighbourhood was filled with retired labourers. The York Hotel above us was filled with them. They had been loggers, longshoremen, miners and cattle-people. Many of them had never married or had little contact with family or friends. They were a forgotten group of people. They didn’t come in and watch tapes much, but they sure liked to talk one to one. I am sorry that we didn’t videotape a lot of their stories. Our first real community of users was the post Intermedia crowd. Then through word of mouth, local artists, activists, and international visitors featured in the directories frequented us more and more. There were very few Portapaks that were accessible, so we were a central part of activities surrounding reel to reel tape production made with hand-held cameras. If you had a tape you could watch it at Video Inn and very few other places. We were also supportive of anyone who had a tape and could not find a space to promote it or take care of it. The Birth Centre people were there. The belly dance people held classes and watched tapes. The punk people were there screaming at the top of their lungs (you have no idea). They literally taped themselves screaming as loud as they could. And we made a great effort to present Video Inn outside of the centre and outreach to other communities. We presented at the Vancouver Public Library, the Powell Street Festival in Oppenheimer Park, the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Washington, the Women’s Art Festival at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. We did workshops in schools and youth centres. We had a small budget for advertising but we did as much as we could with it. We printed a lot of our materials on the photocopier that I bought for Video Inn with my own money; and we did our own distribution and mail-outs.
Alex: After Matrix, how did Video Inn continue to collect tapes? How did you keep in touch with artists and producers?
Crista: One of my first tasks was reorganizing the world into what I called “Life Rhythm Spaces”. I asked each member of the collective to choose an area of the globe and connect with people who were using small format equipment there. This expanded the original efforts of the International Video Exchange Directory. You have to understand this was 40 years ago—think pre-computer and cell phone! We just had fancy typewriters. Lots of letters were sent out. I remember Ross Gentleman making contact with someone Reunion Island, and people in Pondicherry, India. We also travelled a fair bit. Michael Goldberg traveled around the USA, Europe and Japan; and Byron Black was in Southeast Asia. Shawn Preus and Andy Harvey went to Yugoslavia and stayed with artists Sanja Ivekovié and Dalibor Martinis. Then they came to SVES as artists in residence and lived in our communal home up Main Street for some time. Lotty Rosenfeld and CADA also came to SVES from Chile. We also had visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Europe and South America, and they always left copies of their work with us. Daryl Lacey developed the Video Guide. He had experience in design and printing from running a tabloid in university. We all contributed to it. Daryl,
Sharon: Lovett, Janet Miller, Paul Wong and Shawn Preus all worked very hard on keeping the Exchange Directories, Tape Catalogues, and Video Guides going. These publications were very important in tracking the flow of tape exchanges, visitors, member productions and international presentations. We sent the Video Guide out to every major art school and university in the world, with some exceptions for political reasons. We connected with BC and the rest of Canada through exchange exhibitions at fellow ANNPAC (Association of National Non-Profit Artists Centres) galleries. At that time, the Canada Council funded an annual artist run centre conference and the ANNPAC publication Parallelogramme. Somewhere around this time we got a grant to travel across Canada seeking out independent video pioneers. A lot of work was done by Charlie Keast and others to remodel a very old school bus for us to travel in. Innsiders called it, “Wild Blue Yonder”. It had cooking facilities, beds, video equipment, a small library of tapes, and the magic day book. After the tour, Janet Miller, who was on both trips, put together the first tape catalogue. And of course we had a very active membership whose productions would always be accepted into the library.
Amy: Can you tell us more about the members of SVES that were politically engaged?
Crista: Social and political participation was important to almost, if not everyone at SVES. I can give you a few examples of what Video Inners were involved with: Paul Wong’s work always challenged queer and race politics; Andy Harvey worked in the anti-nuclear movement; Janet Miller was engaged in politics and dance; Shawn Preus addressed anti-pesticides, pro-recycling, credit unions and women learning to fix cars; Charlie Keast was invested in local and federal politics; Michael Goldberg raised the Co-op Radio tower, Barbara Steinman worked in the women’s movement with ReelFeelings; Ross Gentleman developed alternative banking in the Downtown Eastside, Kazumi Tanaka worked with Greenpeace, I was committed to art education; and Peg Campbell brought attention to violence against women. But really, I mean, that’s just a few examples! The list of individual interests in our membership is very long. The other aspect of our activism that is important to talk about is our communal efforts. In big and small groups we intervened at the CRTC; supported people involved with the Squamish Five; participated in stopping a nuclear mine in Clearbrook, BC; and backed Andy Harvey in pushing the Habitat Forum in 1976, which led to the establishment of the Knowledge Network. Some members played a very active role in trying to stop Leonard Peltier’s extradition to the USA. Collectively we helped a lot of Feminist, Indigenous and Queer artists, collectives, and organizations, by sharing our space, our equipment, and later on our administrative infrastructure. This list is also extensive. We also accepted some hot political tapes into our collection so they would be more accessible in Canada, including, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (1979), Mae Brussell Conspiracy (1972), Why Wounded Knee (1974), Somos + (1985) from Chile, and Ethnocide (1976) from Mexico.
Cecily: I think Alex, Donato and I really feel the significance of these activities and video productions, and we’ve reflected that in our programs.
Crista: But I must add, and this is what I think was, and is, very exciting about SVES—is that at the same time this very intense political work was being made, many of us were also making art tapes, installations and performance art. We were the best example of what artists and activists could do together. What’s most important is that Video Inn, later Video In and now VIVO was (and is) always open to anyone, regardless of whether they had any money, were trained, or were making dance videos or documents of pro-choice rallies. My sense has always been that SVES should be a place to facilitate creativity, imagination and dreaming—anything that can emerge within these freedoms. It should facilitate, not make demands. Does that make sense? Do you understand what I’m saying? This is why I feel our archive is so important. It documents the energy of what was happening in the space. It is not a curated collection determined by a collector. It is and should be itself.
Alex: We’ve focused a lot on the first two decades of SVES, primarily because it was the era that the videotapes that Cecily, Donato and I have curated were produced and circulated in, and we want to understand the culture and environment of the society and library at the time. However, we are revisiting the work twenty years later. The society has come a long way, as has the library—which is now named after you, in honour of the attention and care you have put into it over the past ten years. Can you tell us about your return to the Tape Library?
Crista: Well, I left SVES twice, first because of bad dental work that resulted in chronic migraines. I went to UBC for two years and spent time thinking and working on my own conceptual Life Rhythm project. I recovered and returned to Video In, but left again after the move to 1965 Main Street. I was offered a job working with very young boys and girls in trouble—many of them in prostitution. I also travelled to Central America, China, Vietnam and India. When the government at that time axed the budget for Intensive Child Care Resource (ICCR), I lost my job. The timing was right for me to retire in 1999 at age 65. I began taking care of my mother at our home for the next five years. Caring for family in a variety of ways has been a big part of my life. In 2003 Shawn Preus and I ran into Paul Wong at an opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery and he asked us to be on the SVES Board of Directors. We thought it would be fun! It was not. But I was retired and stayed because they needed help. I also stayed because I had joined a performance art group called the Disasteroids and I was having a great time. I did not put any time into the library in my first year as a board member. I attended to human resource issues and took a stint at being the Director. This is when I also started to work on the “Blue Book”, which is a chronological collection of legal documents and reports of studies paid for by grants to guide SVES’ direction. I developed the “Blue Book” because I saw that people who worked at Video In/ Video Out at the time had no knowledge of the history of the society. Then a crisis happened in the storage facility downstairs. The fire department wanted the hallways cleared of approximately 170 boxes. They were all SVES property, but no staff had time. I took on the job with the help of old Inners, Frans Van de Ven and student volunteers. In the process I discovered that we also had 60 boxes in Butler Box and Storage with a date scheduled for them to be destroyed. Including boxes in Video Out Distribution, there were close to 300 boxes with various labels. You know, it was just overwhelming!
Donato: How did you begin to tackle this overwhelming collection of materials?
Crista: There was no system at the start. I just did what had to be done, following practical steps, and learned as I went. First we had to share the work of getting the boxes out of the hallways downstairs. I simply asked people at the centre to bring up five or ten each. South Korean student volunteers arrived and made many lists of what was in the boxes. Visually I had a problem with all of the boxes being brown. To solve this problem, I put the tapes into white boxes and kept the print materials in the brown. This made things much easier. We had also accumulated collections of tapes and print materials from collectives and organizations that had dissolved. We have special collections from PUMPS, Metro Media, Women in Focus, Operation Solidarity, Women’s Labour History Project, Amelia Productions, Vancouver Status of Women, ReelFeelings, First Nations Video Collective and Gayblevision, among others. The tapes’ corresponding print materials—contracts, press clippings, exhibition catalogues, distribution history, photos and artist biographies—were all there, but not accessible. People had done so many different things to try and organize it. There were the rubber band people who bound documents with rubber bands. Then there were the string people. The rotten string and breaking rubber band people is how I experienced them! There were lists of tapes poorly organized on paper only. And there was tons of information stored on close to 1,000 floppy discs of various formats that we can no longer access!
Amy: Had no one cared for the videotapes and print materials over the previous twenty years?
Crista: No, no, a lot of work has been done in the Tape Library and Video Out Distribution. I should give you some background information. In the early 1980s video had finally established itself as an art form and artists wanted to make money and a living off of their work. It had taken a long time! The only way you could let renters and buyers know about the video titles was through licensed distribution. We still accepted tapes by activists, community producers and members into our library, but the Video Out Coordinator accessioned tapes into active distribution at their own discretion. Jeanette Reinhardt did a lot of the work to get licensed distribution established in 1980. What Video Out is doing today is an extension of those changes. During the 1980s and 1990s I believe SVES had a Library Manager and a Video Out Coordinator, so both departments and their unique services were taken care of. Through the 1990s a lot of ground was covered to legitimize the Tape Library. By 1992 applications started going out to library associations for memberships and funding, and by 1997 they had success with garnering support for restoration, installing new shelving, acquiring archive boxes, and cataloguing. Between Video Out and the Library there were many people that worked on these endeavours including: Library Managers: Karen Knights (1990–1996), Thea Miller (1996–1998), Caitlin Jones (1999), Barb Towell (1999), Stuart Folland (2000); and Video Out Coordinators: Jeanette Reinhardt (1979-1990), Carla Wolf (1991-1996), Marusya Bociurkiw (1996), Karen Knights (1996–1998), Maija Martin (1998–2000); with the support many other members and volunteers. Then things changed around 2000. I vaguely know about some conditions that precipitated the changes. During strategic planning from 1997 to 1999 there was a decision made to change the name from the “Video In Tape Library” to the “Resource Centre”. Then around 2000, SVES elected to no longer have a Library Manager. I’m not sure why this was, but the consequences were that the library fell under the responsibility of the Video Out Coordinator, who likely had no budget or time to care for it adequately. The library kind of became a depository for tapes that were no longer in active distribution. This likely also impacted the follow through of research and consulting that was conducted around that time. Aaron Vidaver from Inspeximus Archival Services prepared “Guide to The Archives”. Maija Martin wrote a preservation plan. And Stuart Folland, an Archives Restoration Project Manager was hired and worked with three volunteers. But you’d have to interview those people to get the real story!
Alex: So you weren’t starting from scratch. But how did you take those various work flow trajectories and streamline them?
Crista: My first job was to streamline the organization of the tapes. I was really pissed off because someone wanted a reel to reel tape of Nam June Paik’s. No one could find it, nor the several boxes related to his work. They eventually showed up in carefully shelved boxes with labels that did not relate to the contents. The right labels were on the back. Then in 2006, Rafael Tsuchida, a long time Technical Coordinator at the centre, told me he didn’t know about the Japanese tapes we had. In a gut response I researched the catalogues and found about seventy titles, then curated a show dedicated to him. I printed a catalogue titled “30 Years of Japanese Video Art” with Issio Ehrich a volunteer from Germany. Daryl Lacey, Mark Curry, Terry Haines and Donna Szoke all supported that presentation. In 2009 when the front of the building was renovated, I supervised rearranging the metal shelves in the library. Through this process the tape problems became clear. Though they were organized by accession numbers, the originals and the distribution copies were separated on either side of the room. Some of the originals were in bad shape but the copies were better; however it was difficult to know how many copies or formats we had. Labels had also fallen off, or tapes were in the wrong cases. I decided that all of the formats and copies of a single title had to be shelved together. We have many different formats: ½-inch open reel, 1-inch open reel, U-Matic ¾-inch cassettes, VHS, Betamax and Betacam, MiniDV and DVCAM (SD and HDV). Now of course most artists’ work is on hard drives, as digital files! This structure made it much easier for me to file the tapes from the storage boxes onto the shelves. I also realized that we really needed to get all of the titles onto DVD so that they were accessible and people weren’t watching the older, fragile formats. I arranged for staff to go to Toronto and learn restoration and digitization processes from Kim Tomczak and Lisa Steele at Vtape, but no one could go. I then initiated the “Adopt A Tape” program. It was a program through which patrons could sponsor a tape to be sent to Vtape to be cleaned and digitized for $100. In 2010, Gerry Lawson, who works at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, taught us how to clean and repair our reel to reel decks and transfer tapes. We also established efficient digitization and DVD production workflow. We can now maintain most of our library ourselves. Now that this work is possible, I’ve secured a monthly sponsorship of $300 for restoring and digitizing tapes. This past year we had also close to 100, 3/4 inch cassette tapes cleaned at CBC in Vancouver.
Amy: What happened to the print materials? How are they organized?
Crista: The print materials are organized into ten areas. One: SVES society documents that are referenced regularly. Two: historical SVES documents. Three: media artist and activist documentation (MAAD) A–Z. Four: miscellaneous print. (This collection is the hardest to work with. None of the standard library rules seem to work on it, so I’ve used my Gordian Knot Theory: be radical, cut the crap. With the help of volunteers we organized the miscellaneous material chronologically and geographically). Five: photographs. Six: SVES publications. Seven: posters. Eight: numbered boxes of unorganized material (each box has a clear set of content notes). Nine: a series of black notebooks cataloguing the Media Library & Archive. Ten: books and magazines in the viewing room.
Cecily: What does this work mean to you? What does the Media Library & Archive mean to you?
Crista: Right from the start my gut feeling has been that the archive SVES has is an important Canadian collection—if not an international one. It has been said that video art is the only art form that Canadians have pioneered. That’s very significant, and SVES is a part of that history. What’s important to me is that the collection is cared for and continues to be accessible to everyone.
Donato: Is your own work in the archive?
Crista: Yes, one tape is a documentation of a performance called The Bath (1980), which was to be the first of fifteen. It was about the creation of life, relating to my first division of time and space, called CREATE. The others tapes are part of my art in the schools program called Life Rhythm Workshops that were developed in tandem with archiving. I did a summer program at the Vancouver Art Gallery with 37 different workshops that explored time, with an emphasis on pre- and early history. There’s documentation of that in there too. You know, as I look towards my 80th birthday, art has reared its head again. I ask myself if what I do is making art—and if so, to get on with it! So I am working towards three performances and a retrospective that will cover 65 years of my art practice, including photography and collage media. I also want to continue making work on the creation of life, in line with The Bath video. How lucky can I be?