This short video was made for a group exhibition at the EYE by the 2017 MA students at the Netherlands Film Academy and artist in residence, Jyoti Mistry. The accompanying text is below.
At the seashore, between the land of atoms and the sea of bits we are now facing the challenge of reconciling our dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds.
Hiroshi Ishii MIT Media Lab
The starting point for this sketch is a deteriorated section of family footage from the EYE archive. The footage, barely distinguishable, traces the ephemeral outline of a woman and child paddling at the shore.
Film is an inherently fragile substance. As both substance and medium it also exists as a cultural artefact, an archive tightly bound to individual and collective memory. Reel upon reel, archives such as the EYE are now converting it from analogue to binary, in a bid to safeguard it against the fragility and limitations of its own materiality.
Such digitisation is not exclusive to film. For decades, major libraries and institutions have invested heavily in the conversion of analogue materials into digital form – digitisation both as a means of making materials more widely accessible, and as a means of preservation. Bits, binary data, still require a physical resting place, however. The conceptual ephemerality of the cloud disguises the reality of vast datacentres housing myriad hard drives, which themselves operate only under the promise of electricity.
My response to this exhibition is informed by my reading of Abby Smith Rumsey’s book, ‘When We Are No More’. Rumsey, a historian previously associated with the Digital Preservation Programme of the Library of Congress, proposes two major threats facing us in a digital age: the first, an amnesia-like condition brought on by the loss of information embodied in both digital and analogue media, and the second, a forgetting, forged from an inability to form lasting narratives amidst an abundance of information.
Taking both Abbey Smith Rumsey’s book and this fragment of archive footage as starting points this short video is presented as a sketch, questioning what forgetting may mean in a digital age which promises to remember everything.