The following is a guest post by George Barker for our Student Spotlight series. The series was created to highlight the fascinating and dedicated work being carried out by students in moving image archival studies. If you’re a student who would like to be highlighted or you know someone who should be, contact us at email@example.com.
My name is George Barker and I am from London where I studied my Bachelor’s in Film Studies at King’s College London. After graduating in 2012 I trained as an English Teacher and subsequently moved to Tokyo in pursuit of a life-long fascination with Japanese culture and lifestyle, yet found myself continually fascinated by film and media art theory and history. The found-footage archival works of Peter Delpeut, Bill Morrison and Gustav Deutsch in particular inspired me to apply for the MA in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image at the University of Amsterdam, where I am currently enrolled. Although admittedly, a mild obsession with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the world as seen in black and white probably prompted me along as well.
For me, the draw of audiovisual archiving was and remains in the marriage of academia with the practices of moving image heritage institutions. Having taken short-term positions in the fields of film distribution, production and post-production, I was looking for a career in which studied philosophies (such as those of curation and conservation) could be applied to a vocation within film, and working as an archivist offers such an opportunity. The bonus of studying within the Netherlands and creating contacts at the EYE film museum, Sound and Vision, and the media art institute LIMA has given me a re-instilled sense of the necessity of informed academic perspectives within archival workflows. Although, as perhaps many do, I came into this course with a predisposed and perhaps romantic notion that I wanted to be locked away in a photochemical laboratory working on analogue film restoration techniques, I quickly realised the vast array of other opportunities open in the fields of preserving and presenting the heritage of moving images.
After writing a conference report on the Transforming Digital Symposium organised by LIMA, I was offered a position as a research assistant, where I now work alongside my studies to bring together and write new materials for a revival / review project called Artists Talking Back to the Media that will be held in 2017. My involvement in this project has allowed me to defend curatorial choices, write funding applications, and revisit archival material to reevaluate genealogies in media histories. Further shifting my attention toward media art, I have also taken extra courses in Art and Activism and Doing Modern and Contemporary Art, allowing me to meet, interview and gain knowledge from curators and artists in the many spheres of artistic practices that exist in Amsterdam. In May, I will be co-curating two separate events at the EYE film museum, one from the aforementioned Activism course and another from the Preservation and Presentation Programme.
At the end of April I will speak at the London Silent Film Festival Symposium, delivering a presentation on the subject of my thesis – Lost olfactory knowledge and histories in cinema auditorium spaces. I also hope to return and give guest lectures in the Film Studies department at King’s College London, as I think despite being a subject of great interest to those enrolled in such programmes, archives are rarely mentioned in Film Studies undergraduate courses. For me, it’s vital that this gap is filled to bring more attention and potential employees to a field that is currently considered a relatively niche subject of study and work. I’ve also been recently appointed as the AMIA Student Chapter President for the University of Amsterdam, where in the coming months and summer, we are hoping to build a reflective documentation online of what we have learnt during the course.
Beyond the course, some of my interests include: colour film restoration techniques in the silent era, the construction of multimedia installations within museum spaces, the creation of open-access digital platforms for archival content, conducting oral history research on cinema auditorium spaces and the conservation of time-based media installation art. Luckily, the multivalent and in-depth nature of the course at the University of Amsterdam affords me the liberty of studying all of these fields!