5 questions with… AV-arkki
AV-arkki, the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art has distributed and promoted Finnish media art for over two decades. We talk with Hanna Maria Anttila, director of AV-arkki.
1: AV-arkki has been distributing Finnish Video for many years. During this time the Internet has been growing, the use of video increasing and more platforms like AV-arkki have appeared. What to do to keep the structure alive.
Hanna Maria Anttila: AV-arkki’s purpose has remained the same for 25 years. Our mission is to help Finnish media artists in the promotion and distribution of their work. Tools to accomplish this have of course changed during the years.
There was no cheap international flights or Internet available to the majority of people when AV-arkki started to operate in 1989. In those days it was pretty difficult for an individual Finnish artist to get information about international festivals, museums etc. Also media art was not such a popular medium as it is today. 25 years ago AV-arkki’s mission was to spread information about Finnish media art as widely as possible -using fax machines, sending VHS tapes and letters in the mail. AV-arkki also worked as a portal, bringing information about the international media art scene into Finland.
Today our society has an information overload. Communication has become fast and technically easy. Traveling is quite cheap. Media art is at the core of the contemporary art scene. Nowadays AV-arkki’s operation is more about focusing on digital information, targeting actions and networking with the best possible partners in order to get our mission accomplished.
The only way to survive is never to consider that your organization is somehow ready. You have to follow your time and also attempt to see the future. It is important to keep your organization especially appealing to young artists. I also recommend collaborating with a wide spectrum of partners
2: The archive at AV-arkki is really important. How it has affected the identity of Finnish contemporary art?
HMA: AV-arkki’s archive and distribution program is pretty unique – there is not one alike in all of the Nordic area. It is not easy to point out AV-arkki’s exact value in the internationalization of Finnish media art. But I would say that AV-arkki has had a big influence on the status Finnish art and artists enjoy today within the contemporary art scene. If one would imagine that AV-arkki never existed, I would say that there would be many pieces missing from the puzzle.
There are also a few other unique support systems in Finland that have helped artists during the past decades. Funding directed specifically to media art has been available from AVEK since 1987. Media art education began at the Academy of Fine Arts, Department of Time and Space Based Art in 1989 under professor Lauri Anttila. International promotion, support and networking have been available for visual artists through Frame since 1993.
3: How do you select works and artists for AV-arkki?
HMA: Professional media artists who are Finnish or live permanently in Finland can apply for membership. The board of AV-arkki reviews applications twice a year. The board consists of member artists. Therefore the application process is a peer review. AV-arkki currently has ca. 180 members. 10-20 artists get accepted as new members annually.
4: Some of the pieces in your archive can be seen on-line. How does it help on the distribution of video for festivals and museums?
HMA: We prefer to work on-line instead of sending physical copies in snail mail. Our whole archive of over 1600 titles is digitized on our server. Metadata on the titles is indexed into our database. Ca. 100-200 new titles are added to the archive annually.
Working on-line makes communication faster. Most of the titles are available for online preview either in our own online archive or behind passwords in Vimeo. Also over 80% of screening copies are delivered as digital file transfers to our customers.
Well-organized and easily accessible information is the core of our whole operation. Curators can preview the artworks quickly from our website even with their smart phones. We want to make curating fast and easy.
5: AV-arkki is offering curated DVD’s and a very well organized archive. It works on several layers, for institutions and individuals. What is the profile of your users?
HMA: Av-arkki’s main customer groups are international and domestic festivals and museums, individual researchers and curators and universities. Also a growing number of commercial partners, like department stores and the Helsinki airport, collaborate with us in order to show media art on their premises.
We also have an online service (in Finnish) for media and art education www.av-arkki.fi/edu. The use of the educational materials is free of cost for Finnish elementary teachers and elementary schools.
Our main interest is our member artists. AV-arkki’s purpose is to help artists in the distribution and promotion of their artworks. Our partners in this mission are organizations like Frame and the The Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes.