SAW Video’s Mediatheque

Screening by Mel Hogan (Concordia University)

Using the case study of SAW Video’s Mediatheque, Canada’s first online media arts archive, this presentation looks at creative and curatorial interventions that both document and analyse the circulation of media arts online, with a particular focus on the discursive promise and limitations of the online repository. Launched in 2003, with half a million dollars invested by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Mediatheque was to reconfigure the traditional archive by freely showcasing 500 independent Canadian videos, and paying artists exhibition fees, as part of their preservation strategy.

However, in 2009, the site suffered a server crash and without a recent backup of its database, the collection remained offline for two years. SAW Video recently created a new Mediatheque portal, effectively wiping out the traces of its own historical trajectory as an archive, overwritten by its new content management system. As such, rather than the usual focus on collection and artefact within  archival theory, the proposed presentation focuses instead on the largely invisible archive, as web infrastructure, through which the collection flows, is accessed, and is presumably preserved. As a means of tracking the archive online, Wayward.ca, Groupe intervention video, and SAW Video collaborated on Video Cache, a screening of ten works pulled from the Mediatheque, which were also showcased online for one month at http://wayward.ca/videocache. Wayward.ca also generated a series of ‘video digs’ as media archaeological intervention, documenting the archive’s past iterations through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Together, this multimodal documentation suggests a re-visioning of the archive as networked, iterative, layered, and flowing.

Mél Hogan is a PhD student in the Joint Doctorate in Communication at Concordia University, Montréal (Canada). She uses research-creation to address and analyse defunct and crashed online media arts archives in a Canadian context. Her creative interventions can be found online at wayward.ca. She is also the Art Director of nomorepotlucks.org and a writer for Vague Terrain (vagueterrain.net).

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