The VDB operates a number of programs that support its mission:
The VDB Collection represents contemporary culture and artistic excellence in the use of the video medium. It is made available to museums and galleries, educators, cultural institutions and their audiences through an extensive distribution program. VDB works to develop audiences for artists' video and media art, and to make titles from the collections available and accessible through a far-reaching promotional strategy.
A variety of licenses are extended to those wishing to exhibit video art titles from the Collection, including rental and purchase licenses for classroom, library, cultural center and cinema screenings. We provide archival quality formats for institutions such as museums, galleries and private collectors.
In contrast to the gallery model of the "limited edition", titles from the VDB Collection are made available in unlimited editions; there is no limit to the number of copies that VDB can distribute from a title held in the archives. VDB operates this model in order that access to the artwork can be increased, and that the artists' work can be viewed and studied widely. It is relatively inexpensive to rent or purchase work from the VDB Collection, and more than half of all income generated is passed directly to the artists' in the form of artist royalty payments. Artists also receive detailed screening records, and the exposure from screenings and exhibitions of their work can result in significant opportunities for career enhancement.
The VDB Collection is housed in an extensive archive; the artist provides and original master at the time of acquisition which is stored in the archive. Original masters are on many different formats, including one-inch open reel, half-inch open reel, ¾-inch U-matic tape, Betacam SP, Mini DV, Digital Betacam, DV, HDCam and others. Artists' masters and sub-masters are cataloged and stored in a temperature-controlled, low-humidity environment.
Digitizing the Collections
VDB is committed to ensuring that access to the Collection remains viable, and is assured for future generations. VDB is engaged in a project that will eventually see all analogue titles from the Collection transferred to uncompressed or "lossless" digital video files, thus ensuring that the digital archive can be made available for online distribution. Ongoing improvements are allowing us to work with newer digital formats such as High-Definition Video (HD).
Videotape is a fragile medium, subject to picture and sound quality loss and degradation; many of the titles in the VDB archive are unique and irreplaceable. VDB is committed to safeguarding the history of the video art form, and since the mid-1980s has worked to preserve important video art works to more durable archival quality formats, either in house, or in collaboration with experts in the field. As titles from the Collection are restored, higher quality versions are made available through VDB's distribution program, ensuring that audiences will continue to have access to the Collection well into the future.
The VDB is currently engaged in a long-term project to preserve and digitize the Videofreex Archive; gathered from the various attics and cellars of former members of the collective in the early 2000s, the Archive is now housed at the VDB. Consisting of 1,500+ tapes on various early formats, this unique collection from the first U.S. video collective to operate a pirate TV station, documents numerous historically important events and counter cultural movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While the original tapes have been catalogued and entered into the VDB preservation database, the majority cannot be viewed or preserved in house because we do not have the machines that will play the various obsolete tape formats they are on. Rather, the tapes have to be sent out to a specialized video facility such as BAVC in San Francisco to be restored before a new preserved version can be made. Once restored, titles are made available through the VDB distribution program.
In addition to single titles, the VDB has been a leader in producing Box Sets and Compilations, featuring single and multiple artists, as well as themed and curated programs. The Box Sets and Compilations enable VDB to provide audiences with a comprehensive overview of an artist's video work, or a succinct study of a particular theme or cultural movement.
The VDB commissions essays to accompany these programs, written by a wide range of scholars and media arts commentators, which serve to contextualize the work within a wider artistic framework, making them essential pedagogical tools for those working in media arts education. To date essays have been published by:
- Peggy Ahwesh - Film, Baby
- Sally Banes - Yvonne Rainer: The Aesthetics of Denial
- Carol Becker - Guillermo Gómez-Peña: Sophisticated Seduction
- Deirdre Boyle - Sleeping with the Enemy: Paul Chan's Flirtatious Tin Drum Trilogy
- Emmanuel Burdeau - Undefeated--Notes on KJE's films
- Scott Durham - The Persistance of the Archive: The Documentary Fictions of Daniel Eisenberg
- Michael B. Gillespie - 'To Do Better': Notes on the Work of Kevin Jerome Everson
- Guillermo Gómez-Peña - Notes on the fluid borders between performance and video
- Lucas Hilderbrand - Reflections on The Blindness Series
- Bill Horrigan - After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid
- Amelia Jones - Guillermo Gómez-Peña and the 'Reversal of the Anthropological Gaze'
- Chris Kraus - Boredom, The Triumph of Power: The Extrapolationist Video of Laura Parnes
- Chris Kraus - Letting the Story Play Out
- Carrie Lambert - Rainer Variations
- Scott MacDonald - Interview with Peggy Ahwesh
- Laura U. Marks - Eyes to See With
- Yates Mckee - The Prayers and Tears of Paul Chan: Profane Illumination and the Post-Secular in BAGHDAD IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER and Now promise now threat
- Monica McTighe - A Work Aesthetic: The Films of Kevin Jermoe Everson
- Eduardo Mendieta - Theatricalizations of Postcolonial Theory
- Katrin Mundt - Who Killed Evidence?
- Eileen Myles - Pistolary! Films and Videos by Peggy Ahwesh
- Deborah Root - The Truth-Telling of Ximena Cuevas
- Antonio Prieto-Stambaugh - Chicalango Border Crossings: How I Met Gómez-Peña and Became Involved with His Border-Crossing Cartography
- Steve Reinke - Excrements of Time: A Brief Introduction to The World of George Kuchar
- Steve Reinke - Ximena Cuevas, That Sly, Gentle Brute
- Henry Sayre - Border Teachings
- Richard Schechner - Guillermo Gómez-Peña, INTERCULTURAL WARRIOR
- Steve Seid - Consuming Passions: The Video Art of Ximena Cuevas
- Domietta Torlasco - Daniel Eisenberg: An Interview
- Holly Willis - The Line and the Letter: Tran, T. Kim-Trang's Video Essays
- Gene Youngblood - Underground Man
- Akram Zaatari - Radical Closure
Video Data Bank is deeply involved in the media arts community locally, nationally and internationally, and we seek out collaborations with individuals and organizations that will support our mission to increase appreciation for video art and artists.
The VDB has a long history of exhibiting video and media art, and regularly collaborates with festivals, cultural centers, media arts conferences and screening venues worldwide. VDB regularly participates in activities and events nationally and internationally to further knowledge of video art and the VDB collections, including:
Panels and discussions
Juries and Critique panels
Talks and presentations
Field wide symposia and conferences
Art fair booths
More on VDB events can be found in the News section.
Since 2001, VDB has participated in an ongoing collaboration with Conversations at the Edge, a program of the Film, Video, New Media and Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which takes place at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Through this program, the VDB has bought a number of important video and media artists to the attention of local audiences, including:
- Peggy Ahwesh (April 26th, 2007)
- Basma Alsharif (April 24th, 2014)
- Rosa Barba (April 11th, 2013)
- Rebecca Baron (February 26th, 2015)
- Dara Birnbaum (February 11th, 2010)
- Paul Bush (September 29th, 2005)
- Cecelia Condit (February 12th, 2009)
- Ximena Cuevas (September 19th, 2013)
- Donigan Cumming (April 10th, 2003)
- Cecilia Dougherty (April 4th, 2002)
- Barry Doupé (October 25th, 2007)
- eteam (February 7th, 2008)
- Kevin Jerome Everson (November 11th, 2010)
- Jeanne C. Finley (October 18th, 2001)
- Richard Fung (September 22nd, 2005)
- Joe Gibbons (February 23rd, 2006)
- Louis Henderson (October 18th, 2015)
- Kathy High (December 11th, 2003)
- Christine Hill (April 9th, 2009)
- Mike Hoolboom (October 22nd, 2009)
- Tran T. Kim-Trang (March 11th, 2010)
- George Kuchar (February 13th, 2012)
- Dani Leventhal (September 25th, 2008)
- Rachel Mayeri (February 2nd, 2006)
- Anne McGuire (November 2nd, 2006)
- Julia Meltzer & David Thorne (November 1st, 2007)
- Laura Parnes (September 29th, 2011)
- Nicolas Provost (November 10th, 2011)
- Marshall Reese (October 21st, 2004)
- Steve Reinke (February 24th, 2005)
- Sterling Ruby (February 15th, 2010)
- Shelly Silver (September 15th, 2005)
- John Smith (September 13th, 2001, October 16th, 2014)
- Brian Springer (March 17th, 2011)
- Elisabeth Subrin (October 10th, 2002)
- Jennet Thomas (March 20th, 2003)
- TVTV, co-founder Allen Rucker and member Tom Weinberg (October 25th, 2012)
- Videofreex, Skip Blumberg & Nancy Cain (September 20th, 2007)
The Video Data Bank is located at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Our media center includes a production and non-linear editing facility, an archival storage room that houses the VDB Collection, and a screening room that is free and open to the public by appointment.
The VDB Screening Room is a comfortable facility where curators, researchers, scholars, students and the general public can view works from the Collection for free by appointment.