Startseite  | Projektbeschreibung  | Symposium 2005 | Restaurierung  | Ausstellung  | Publikationen
Restaurierung  | Dokumentation
Restoration in the project

The objective of the restoration component of the project was to test different approaches to the digital restoration of video artworks. The diversity in problems, source materials and image content gave us the ideal starting point to study the different aspects of trying to return video artworks to their appearance at time of production.

The first step was to collect the video materials. In most cases the artists were contacted directly, and the source materials stem from them. In other cases we were able to borrow or buy video material from German museums, television archives or video art distributors. The materials received represent a good overview of the formats that artists have used over the last 40 years. We dealt with almost all the main video formats, from 1/2 inch material, to the ubiquitous U-matic over to 1 inch Broadcast standards, Betamax and even DV (Digital Video). Most materials were in a good to fair condition and did not need any physical restoration, apart from cleaning. All the physical treatments were performed at the "ZKM | Labor für antiquierte Videosysteme" as well as most of the digitisations.

Besides collecting tapes we also collected information, the artists were interviewed and asked about their works methods and technical specificities of their work. The information gathered this way, together with the analysis of the videos, allowed us to make decisions about the restoration.

A conservator has the obligation to maintain the authenticity of an artwork, and his/her interventions have to be identifiable and reversible; but what does this mean in the digital realm? Unlike classical restoration, where guidelines have been written down in the form of charters or standards for some time now, the field of digital restoration still lacks this very important tool. Much has been argued about what the authenticity of an artwork is, especially when dealing with easily reproducible media. And as for making interventions reversible, this is something that has not yet been considered by the creators of the available software.

We set out to preserve the artwork's authenticity by trying to leave the original image content unchanged, by not altering any sequences or edits and by not enhancing any of the image characteristics, such as colour or contrast. Another of the guidelines was to remove image errors caused by ageing, but keeping the defects caused by the technical limitations at the time of production. The last point was the documentation of the restoration process, which had to be as accurate as possible to allow for the identification of the restoration performed. With this aim a thorough documentation of each restored artwork was produced. The reversibility of the intervention was safeguarded by keeping an unrestored copy of all digitized files.

Another important aspect was the use of the Diamant software. This restoration software was the central point of the restoration process and we had to learn how to use it and find what it could and could not do. Yvonne Mohr worked closely with HS-Art to adjust the software to our specific needs and this means that now most of the problems are solved or the solutions will be included in the next version of the software.

A total of 13 artworks were digitally restored, in the classical meaning of the word, according to two main strategies. On a 14th work, "Projection X", a bolder preservation strategy was used, namely reinterpretation, in addition to the preservation of an old submaster on U-matic We had "simple" restoration cases, where we received digital files corresponding to an edited version, with more or less a clear beginning and end, and could directly proceed with the restoration.

The first example was Dieter Kiessling's "Vorhänge", and in this case the existing drop-outs were retouched one by one using Final Cut Pro. Another work restored with Final Cut Pro and Photoshop was Marcel Odenbach's "As if memories could deceive me". This was only possible because the number of errors was very small, and so it was feasible to spend 20 or more minutes treating a single frame.

The other works in this category were restored using Diamant software (HS-Art), and they include Bettina Gruber and Maria Vedder's "Der Herzschlag des Anubis", Franziska Megert's "Sweet Dressing" and Wolf Vostell's "Sun in your head" in its video version. The treatment was limited to the retouching of drop-outs and other image errors, which could be done manually with Diamant. The errors were marked one by one, the correct settings tested, and once this process was cleared the software would then render the necessary areas.

In the case of Ulrike Rosenbach's "Tanz für eine Frau" the treatment for image errors was also done in Diamant, but given that this was a camera original the length of the digitized file had to be changed, as the edited version had a much shorter beginning.

For "Holzstücke", by Jean-Francois Guiton, because of the different characteristics and problems in each of the 6 pieces, it was easier to do the treatment separately for each piece. In this case there were 2 image defects that were kept. Both defects were connected to the editing process, and were not the result of deterioration. In such cases the defects are part of the work's authenticity and, from a restoration point of view, should not be corrected. A similar process was used for Friederike Pezold's "Die neue leibhaftige Zeichensprache", which was also composed of different short pieces.

A different strategy was used for Dieter Froese's "The piece in the country" and Valie Export's "Raumsehen und Raumhören". For both artworks we had a camera original and an edited master. In Export's work the edited Master represented the artwork in its final form (or at least one of its final forms) but the image quality was much worse and the deterioration much stronger than in the camera original. In Froese's case, although the edited version was in an earlier generation, the errors were much stronger and we therefore decided to use unedited material, existent in U-matic, which was in a better condition. In these cases we opted to re-edit the artworks from the best material available according to an edited version. These digitally edited files were, again, retouched using Diamant.

With Telewissen's "Documenta der Leute" we had to deal with a couple of different questions. Again, the different pieces were imported in Diamant and restored. Some of the errors could not be completely removed and so we opted to reduce them, so as to make them less visible. The results are not completely satisfying, but much better than the original condition. Another problem in the piece "Bibelgespräch" was a total loss of image that could not be corrected. Our solution was to use a grey frame to cover the problem. In this way it is clear that a problem occurred, and that there are images missing, but the grey frame is much less disturbing than the disquieting image error.

Re-interpretation, the last strategy, which is not restoration, was used for Imi Knoebel's "Projection X". The work served as a perfect example for this very bold approach to preservation. Through re-interpretation an artwork is produced again, with the conditions and materials available at the present moment but maintaining the original concept. Although the strategy was initially considered for performance or installation art, "Projection X" was a perfect opportunity of applying this strategy in the video area. "Projection X" relies on a relatively simple concept, an X of light being projected on the walls of Darmstadt during a night ride on a bus. This was relatively simple to film, with the cooperation of Imi Knoebel, and using the techniques currently available. Unlike the original work, which was shot in black and white and on U-matic, the new work was shot in colour using mini DV. The remake looks completely different, and it has to be seen as a new work or as a new version. If an artwork is completely lost this may be the only option to bring it, or its concept, back to life.

During the project we came to some points that could not be dealt with in detail but are very important for restoration work in the video field. The first one, which is currently being developed at the Aktive Archive project in the Berne University of the Arts, is a compendium of image errors. Identifying the origin of the defects one sees on screen is a difficult task, and a very important one for many of the ethical decisions to be taken.

What is still missing are ethical guidelines to digitally restore video, or at least a decision-making model. Although one can not speak of right and wrong answers in restoration, there are questions that always have to be asked and that put together in a document would be a good start for any further digital restoration projects. This would be the next step to take.

Patrícia Falcão
Project Conservator

Impressum  | Kontakt