Digitising a Duo's Legacy

Preserving the product of an artistic partnership: Stansfield/Hooykaas.

Through the Digitising Contemporary Art project, LI-MA, together with Dutch artist Madelon Hooykaas, worked to ensure the long-term accessibility of her works, created as part of the artistic duo Stansfield/Hooykaas, by digitising their entire video archive.

Elsa Stansfield (1945-2004) and Madelon Hooykaas (1942) began their collaboration in 1972, producing their first video installations beginning in 1975. Throughout their 32 year partnership they produced around 150 works, acquiring fame as renowned European video pioneers. In their works they investigated the relationship between nature and spirituality, as well as scientific principles and natural forces, and juxtaposed technology – through the use of film and video – with organic materials such as sand, glass and copper. 

Their works have been included in various international museum collections, and their installations and films have been exhibited in many venues worldwide, including at Documenta, Kassel and several biennales. At the Film Festival in Split, Croatia in 1999 the artists were awarded the Grand Prix for New Media for Person to Person, a CD-ROM based artwork.

How to Make a Representative Digital Copy? 

The exstensive collection of the artist duo contains more than ninety artworks and pieces of documentation, including 8mm and 16mm film and audio and video tapes of various carriers and formats. Furthermore, paper documentation – including scripts, project proposals, contracts, notes and correspondence with museums and galleries – constitutes a large part of the collection.

In the digitisation process, two main challenges were therefore` faced:

  • How to make sustainable digital reproductions of the artists’ videos while maintaining their significant properties?
  • How to provide online accessibility to these reproductions while creating an experience representative of how the original tapes were meant to be experienced?

How Does LI-MA Digitise U-Matic Tapes?

To digitise the works, the tapes were first cleaned. This process ensures that the result is of the highest quality, while protecting the U-matic player from potential damage caused by the transfer of dirt from the tape to the player heads. After cleaning, they are ready for playback on LI-MA’s U-matic decks. These have the capability to play all U-matic formats including Low-Band, High-Band and SP, in both PAL and NTSC standards. 

After recalibrating the video signal, the tapes are then digitised using the process described in more detail in the DCA Case Study below. At LI-MA, video is first captured as uncompressed digital files, from which uncompressed archival master files are made. From these archival master files, MPEG-2 video files can then be created for exhibition and viewing purposes, together with MPEG-4 files for online use. 
All the works digitised as part of the Digitising Contemporary Art project can now be accessed through LI-MA’s online catalogue, while the master tapes are stored in our climate-controlled vault.