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Street Art Museum - Building a Dynamic Archive

The future of SAMA’s collection is digital. With roughly 70% of its physical collection being demolished, painted over or in any other way removed, the digital component is a highly important one. Street art has a temporarily nature, and the SAMA collection was never intended to be preserved in a physical way. Capturing the art works on photo or video, is a way to document the collection, but doesn’t provide the experience of viewing street art in the contexts of its surroundings, the connection with the neighbourhood and its actual size.

SAMA sees a solution in using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to preserve its collection and to keep sharing it with audiences. With the knowledge of more of the collection disappearing due to demolition as a result of development plans in Amsterdam Nieuw-West where most of the collection is located, it is urgent to act now. By documenting works of street art in their 360C surroundings, we are not only preserving the art works itself, but also the view of a residential urban area in development. Nieuw-West is part of Amsterdam that was appointed as a social and economic problematic part of Amsterdam, and little has been documented about life in this part of the city. Especially not from a local point of view. This year SAMA is exploring to document its collection in connection to the story of the development plan (and gentrification) and the stories of the residents of Nieuw-West.

Like street art itself, SAMA has always been championing democracy. We believe art is for everyone to enjoy, and not reserved for the privileged few. Therefore, we are investigating how to open up a digital collection for use and reuse, while protecting the intellectual ownership of the artists.

At the event ‘A Dynamic Archive’, organized by Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam on February the 24th, issues about privacy, ownership, use and reuse where also addressed. Main questions where: Which future scenarios are possible for the creative reuse of digital heritage collections? What challenges do creators face when working with digital heritage? And what are the future possibilities of making digital heritage accessible?

The event concludes that building digital archives is for a large part still a new territory to explore and experience. Therefore, every case study should be seen as a learning opportunity. This is exactly how SAMA approaches the build of its digital collection: developing a new approach in an unexplored territory, for SAMA and others to learn from.

Donna Verheijden is a Dutch video artist and a self-proclaimed re-user of images. In her exhibition ‘Building the Visual Mind’ (11 December – 6 March 2022, Gallery 3 By You) at Het Nieuwe Insitituut, she mixed archive materials with visual art. She also moderated the event and interviewed three panels. During the conversations, it was stated that heritage institutions and collections play a significant role in providing reliable information to the public. It was argued that opening up the archives online would enlarge the possibilities for creative re-use and therefore for cultural development from a broad social perspective. Re-use is about showing different perspectives, raising awareness, and providing context, resulting in new stories reflecting the current society. It was also argued that media images and heritage are of critical importance to form our stories and truths. Therefore, media archives that are not accessible and can’t be re-used, make a critical approach to the kept information impossible. Moving to the idea of open source archives, the question that’s raised is if ‘open’ needs to be regulated. To be able to answer this question we first will have to define what we mean by ‘regulated’. Otherwise how do we regulate? From a more positive perspective, ‘open source’ should be seen as an ecosystem developing by contributions of all sorts of different stakeholders. In this way, re-users can be seen as contributors to that provide their creativity.

Focusing on privacy issues and rights in ownership, it explains why a large number of archives are (still) not publicly accessible. With new guidelines in European Law this might change on a non-commercial level. To visual creators, it was explained that artists are free to express their artistic opinion as part of their freedom of speech, as long as they don’t damage the other work. In fact, when provided an artistic critical perspective to an existing work, you don’t even need the permission of the original artist. Using the work of others without critical perspective, the re-user can will have to meet certain conditions. One of these conditions is that the re-user has to create a new work with his or her own artistic meaning. The re-user should also credit the creator of the other work. But what if the re-user generates serious money with this work? This also creates tension between the public task of a heritage institution and the use of the accessible content for market purposes.

Speakers on the panels:

  • Kristina Petrasova, specialized in digital heritage and public media at the Dutch Institute for media culture, Het Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid. She is also a documentary filmmaker and develops (educational) cross media projects.

  • Arlette Bekink, Manager of collective rights at Pictoright, an author’s right organisation for visual creators in the Netherlands.

  • Ania Molenda, architect, researcher, and curator with a strong interest in the socio-cultural dimension of spatial practices. She also co-founded the online publishing platform and yearly printed magazine Amateur Cities.

  • Dirk van den Heuvel, Associate Professor with chair of Architecture and Dwelling at TU Delft, and head of Jaap Bakema Study Centre of Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam.

  • Maarten Brinkering, Advisor on information technology at the Dutch Institute for media culture, Het Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, and freelance visual creator.

  • Jaap Kronenberg, Legal and strategic advisor specialised in intellectual property and privacy rights.

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