The exploration of Nil's digital archives has begun in earnest, and as I shared in my last blog post, we have a considerable amount of work ahead of us. Nil often insists - always with a humorous tone - that she is not a “studio“ artist, and so much of her work is in digital form. Her corpus does indeed include a few paintings and drawings dating mainly from her early years in Paris in the 1960’s and 1970s – and some in the early 2000’s - (Image 1), but the vast majority of her works are monumental installations (Image 2) currently preserved in the form of videos and images scattered across six hard drives.
Of these six hard drives, two have not yet been explored due to technical issues. One of them, defective for some time, is currently in the hands of a professional, undergoing a meticulous repair “surgery“; in the hope of recovering the data. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a positive outcome. As for the second one, its advanced age is causing electrical instability, causing it to shut down after just a few minutes of use. Despite her (astonishing!) photographic memory, Nil no longer remembers the precise contents of these two defective disks, which makes the discovery all the more interesting for us for the near future.
Image 1 - Red Tention by Nil Yalter, 1967
The sum total of the data on the four hard disks currently stands at 21To. It's important to note that much of this data is duplicated, kept by Nil as a precautionary measure, while other data is administrative archive material which, for the moment, is of little interest to the project. Our main focus is on videos and photos, with particular emphasis on those that have been published and exhibited in institutional settings - in any case, Nil has shown very little in galleries. This sorting and selection stage is a crucial aspect of the inventory process. Duplicates, though essential for conservation reasons, will require careful management to optimize storage space and facilitate subsequent research. The identification of works and the documentation of metadata are also of particular importance, as they contribute to Nil's artistic heritage and are likely to be of interest to a
wider audience in the near and distant future.
A comprehensive inventory of Nil's digital archives will obviously require more than a single session. To keep track of my progress in an organized way, I've opted for a good old Excel file, an essential tool for any archivist, amateur or professional. Each hard disk has its own sheet, where I compile the number of each type of file (.AIFF, .MP3, .JPEG, .TIFF, .AVI, .DV, .MPEG, etc.) as well as the size of each folder (Image 3). The screenshots I took serve as reference points in Nil's computer and preserve the “list“; view offered by the Finder application (Image 4).
At present, I have enough material to work from home for another week. Once the
inventory is more complete, I'll share my results with the Archivorum team to determine the best storage solution, not only for the current project but also for Nil's own personal archive. We are quite fortunate to work with an (amazing!) artist who has taken the initiative to carefully preserve her archives over time, in the highest possible quality. However the technologies she used over the years are beginning to show signs of age. Her hard drives are, for example, based on an old rotating disk technology that is fragile and not very resistant to the passage of time.
The ideal solution would be to transfer everything to a cloud network or to SSD disks, although the latter are not the optimal solution for a long-term archive. This choice should be made with care, taking into account long-term durability and ease of access to data. Stay tuned!