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40 years of V2_ and the V2_archive

A short text by Arie Altena about the V2_archive, written for the publication that celebrates 40 years of V2_.

V2_’s archive provides a way of tracking the evolution of the field of art and technology. As of December 2021, the website contained descriptions of more than 1,300 events organized by V2_over the previous forty years, along with about 600 longer accompanying texts (essays, lectures), almost 1,000 works of art and other projects exhibited at V2_, and more than 1,600 biographies of artists, speakers and others. There are also links to hundreds of videos, ranging from full recordings of events to brief interviews with artists; hundreds of scanned program booklets and article PDFs; and thousands of photographs. The archive continues to grow daily, with each addition to the website and every activity V2_ undertakes.

No unequivocal picture can emerge from an archive like this one. Its diversity and size make that all but impossible. Can a single story of the evolution of art, technology and society even be told? There are many stories to tell, and each one has a different emphasis, examines specific aspects, focuses on particular interests. And all these years later, it isn’t always clear which projects were vitally important at the time and which were side projects. An archive invites research, browsing and the discovery of connections. You can use it to construct or underpin a directional narrative, but you’ll also find material that qualifies or contradicts that narrative.

An archive is brought to life through use. The V2_ archive does not yet represent a history; it possesses the potential for history to be written. It simply contains the things that were preserved, for whatever reason. An item might have been considered important, or it could have gotten left in a cupboard or a computer folder that kept getting copied over the years. No archive can ever be complete. More documents, or different ones, could always have been kept; more photographs taken; more social media posts saved. Artworks and events could have been documented differently, perhaps bringing different aspects to the fore. Every researcher needs to have a sense of what is or might be missing. Without interpretation, an archive is nothing more than a loosely ordered database that could have been ordered some other way. Every archive, then, has its bias. The chief bias of this one is that it only contains information about projects organized by and at V2_, including the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (1994–2014). Some events are extremely well documented; others, which may have been more important, less so. The material likely to be most relevant for students, artists and others with an above-average interest in art and technology has been made available on the website. V2_ possesses even more digital material, including video footage, in computer folders organized by year, and the seriously interested can inquire about particular resources that might exist, for example on the hundreds of additional miniDV tapes or in the boxes of flyers and other documents.

Arie Altena, December 2021
Translation: Laura Martz

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