Festival Reporter Lana Elway talks to Dave Griffths about his Frequency 13 piece ‘Babel Fiche’
Could you tell me more about Babel Fiche and the ideas behind it?
The film came about initially from my interest in dead media, and the way in which there was a sort of transition between the analogue and the digital and I was interested in that and the grey areas between really- and the way in which for instance Micro Fiche has these dreams of the digital about it in that its capable of mass storage so you can compress information down to a very tiny space, and then decompress it and that’s very much like the kind of the idea behind the digital, and also that its resilient and will last into the future.
As I looked into it more I’ve realised that Micro Fiche was a more hardy medium than digital as information gets lost, information needs to be updated every ten years in a new digital format, and there’s a lot of ideas about the potential future dark age in the digital whereby the information we’re creating now can’t necessarily live out forevermore. So with that idea in mind, the idea of a potential future digital dark age, I wanted to explore Micro Fiche more in various ways and I’ve been using the medium since about 2007 but seriously really got into it with this Babel Fiche project. The format I’ve been using is an update from the original Micro Fiche technology that was actually invented in Manchester in the 1860’s and has been used in all sorts of ways. Often used in crisis and war to compress data to send information in very small ways so it was used in the Cold War and in spying, families in both East and West Berlin would smuggle messages to one another by inserting microdots inside postcards. So it has this subversive potential so with the film, I put out a call for video clips to be contributed to an online archive of video, but also that those video clips would be transcribed frame by frame down on to microfilm format. So those resulting micro fiches are what you see in the film, as props in the film, and also they’re present in the installation so visitors to the exhibition can browse through the same material that was contributed. They’ll also in some way… what I want to happen is that as people browse those micro fiches that they’re beginning to create narratives from the material in the same way that the two characters on screen are creating narratives.
How do you feel about how it’s been received in Lincoln by the general public?
I’ve had some great feedback so far from people, there is a lot of noises and it’s been great to be able to continue the dialogue with other artists that have been visiting the show who all have their own interesting take on the ideas of the digital and the analogue and the grey area between the two. It’s been a good healthy exchange of ideas.
Why did you choose Frequency as the platform you would show your work on?
The film was executively produced by Film and Video Umbrella who are an organisation in London who promote artists’ film and video and also it was co-produced by the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. Film and Video Umbrella’s model is to launch an exhibition and then tour it so Babel Fiche was actually launched in Castlefield Gallery in 2012 and then since then it’s subsequently been on tour and its been shown in Phoenix Square in Leicester and also the Sandow Gallery in China, and then invited to be part of Frequency. But each time it’s been interesting to put it into a different site and I’ve found that the Bath House is a very poetic location for this film, in that the film is about unearthing documents and the idea of us having custody over documents, so it ties in nicely with the work going on at Lincoln Castle to do with the Magna Carta.
Please visit Dave’s website for more information about his work and future exhibitions.