Rick Prelinger Presents Visual Archive at FNC Lab


[Montréal, Québec, Canada 4°C] What to do with archive footage. What is its value and who does it belong to? These questions and others were addressed at the 38th edition of Montréal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC) by Rick Prelinger. His name and more importantly his archive collection was introduced to me a couple of years ago by the Montréal-based film and media arts collective, Volatile Works.


As part of the festival’s daily FNC Lab, Rick Prelinger presented his San Francisco “appropriation friendly’ Prelinger Library. he shared his approach to keeping archival footage alive by providing access and allowing sampling rather than preserving them in closed archives for consultation. He says:

Most of us think we know what the archive is, what its functions are, and what value it contributes to society. In truth, we barely understand archives and their potential. Archives aren’t simply the endpoint of production or a repository of last resort for documents and ideas, and they don’t inhabit a quaint historical ghetto; they are a fundamental part of media production in the digital age. If we see archives differently — as a point of origin for production and creation — we can begin to model new working practices that not only change the way we regard history but also the way we address the present and future. We can do this by transforming the archive from a quiet repository into a noisy workshop, and by orienting ourselves towards a new, maker- and community-based practice that aims to preserve and push out both broadly-held and narrow (avant-garde) realms of memory.

At Dazibao a few days later, Prelinger gave a workshop to elaborate on an updated version of his  On the Virtues of Preexisting Material: A Manifesto, which he originally published in 2007.

Below is the first in a series of one-minute videos that combine my own footage with audio taken from an instructional video at the Prelinger Archive. Thanks Rick!

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