From 1989 to 1998, the artist Sadie Benning created nine video artworks using a Fisher-Price PXL-2000 camera, which records to audiocassette. The resulting video format is known as Pixelvision. This essay, written by video archivists, reviews the history of these works through the lens of audiovisual media preservation, and emerges from research and a series of interviews with the artist and other stakeholders. It aims to create a foundation for a collection assessment of Benning’s early video works, and explores the feasibility of preserving them. With this in mind, the essay traces the creative and technical processes involved in the production, exhibition, conservation, and distribution of such precarious media works, and discusses the innovative, ephemeral, and ultimately vulnerable media created by the PXL-2000 camcorder. This is a study of the fleeting nature of media technology, personal and social histories, and the meaning contained in audiovisual works of art.
Preserving Pixelvision: Image Vulnerability and the Early Video Works of Sadie Benning
Claire Fox is a postgraduate fellow on the Regional Media Legacies (RML) project, where she provides support for hidden audiovisual collections in Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program at New York University, and she completed graduate internships at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Emulation-as-a-Service Infrastructure (EaaSI) project at Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut; IndieCollect, New York; and the New Museum, New York.
Nicole Martin is the associate director of media archives at Human Rights Watch, New York, and established the organization’s first digital archive. They are an adjunct professor at New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) graduate program and teach courses in digital preservation and handling complex media. They are the creator of the digital preservation resource website twobitpreservation.com, and serve on the board of the human rights tech developer OpenArchive. Martin formerly worked as the Democracy Now! archivist, coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, interim director of the Standby Program, and consultant for iWitness Video and Deep Dish Television.
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Claire Fox, Nicole Martin; Preserving Pixelvision: Image Vulnerability and the Early Video Works of Sadie Benning. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2021; 7 (1): 40–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2021.7.1.40
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