The Media Burn collection was made possible by a technological breakthrough in the 1960s that put the means of creating video and television directly into the hands of everyday people. University of Chicago Professor Tom Gunning has referred to this early era as a “utopian moment” due to the unique convergence of an affordable, low-tech technology for mass communication with 1960s activist culture. Gunning has called the Media Burn collection a “national treasure, vital to our understanding of the evolution of video as a tool of aesthetic and social comment, and the cultural history of the sixties and seventies.”
The artists and collectives who pioneered the use of videotape were motivated by a vision that this new technology would provide a voice to everyday people, who were traditionally excluded from mass media production.
Now, their vision has mostly become reality as digital video truly is in the hands of everyone. At the same time, the entire history of American video art and documentary produced between 1965-2005 is in imminent at risk of being completely lost.
Not only are playback machines becoming harder to find, but the magnetic tape itself is subject to rapid and sudden decay; in a matter of years, these windows into everyday life and culture may be gone forever.
This short documentary created by Columbia College film student Taylor Price provides an entertaining look at the explosion of video culture and the work being done in Chicago to preserve it before it’s too late. It features interviews with the staff of Media Burn, Odd Obsession, and Video Data Bank.
Media Lost is a documentary by Taylor Price, a film student at Columbia College.