A Video Archive Gone Digital: Muntadas’ Between the Frames

Between 1983 and 1993, Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona, 1942) interviewed 156 professionals from the art world, and then edited the more than 200 ensuing hours of video footage, cutting them into eight chapters that, in total, amount to around 40 min of video recordings. These went on to form part of the installation “Between the Frames: The Forum (Barcelona), 1983-1993” (2011), which is now owned by the MACBA Collection. The original videotapes with the complete interview recordings were put inside cardboard boxes and stored in Muntadas’ archive in New York City.

And, as time went by, the documentary value of those interviews increased gradually. Indeed, the many interviewees include important figures from the art world in the eighties, such as Achille Bonito-Oliva, Maria Lluïsa Borràs, Benjamin Buchloh, Leo Castelli, María Corral, Marian Goodman, Román Gubern, Kasper König, Lucy Lippard, Catherine Millet, Pierre Restany, Harald Szeemann, as well as some artists – John Baldessari, Joseph Beuys, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, Krzystof Wodiczko and Jaume Xifra, amongst others.

Those tapes came to light again when, in 2009, we reached an agreement with Muntadas to digitize the 200 hours of original interviews, and transfer a copy to the museum’s Study Center, where they would become available for public consultation, either individually or as a whole. With the collaboration of The Standby Program, the original recordings were transferred from VHS NTSC to DigiBeta (PAL) at the MercerMedia laboratory in New York, and then sent to Barcelona in several hard disks.

Generally speaking, this project meant that our institution contributed to the digital preservation of an artist archive, thereby obtaining permission to own and make available for research purposes a digital copy of it. It was the first in a series of digital preservation actions, that confronted us with new sorts of “transactions” between private archives and our institution, based on a technology that was state-of-the-art  but still ill-defined in legal terms, forcing us to devise new formulae to deal with them.

Recently, Muntadas’ interviews acquired a new life again, when the original installation “Between the Frames: The Forum” was shown in the museum’s exhibition spaces. Coinciding with that show, Muntadas devised a consultation table where all of the original interviews could be accessed in the exhibition space of the Study Center, stored in eight computers, one for each one of the original chapters in which they were first structured.

More info about “Between the Frames” here.