Castlefield Gallery shows off microfilm archive designed for anthropologists of the future

By Ruth Hazard | 23 August 2012
Stills from Babel Fiche, a microfilm archive that will survive for 500 years© Courtesy Dave Griffiths
Exhibition: Dave Griffiths: Babel Fiche, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, until September 16 2012

Artist Dave Griffiths hasn't used elaborate technological design or innovative new digital mediums to mastermind the Babel Fiche project, which has enabled images of contemporary life to be archived for future generations.

Instead, he called upon microfiche – a largely redundant technology invented during the 1850s and used to archive data until it was ousted by the invention of the digital PDF.

But following the devastation of public and corporate digital archives in disasters such as hurricane Katrina, microfiche has remerged as a favourable alternative to contemporary electronic storage. It has a 500-year lifespan and only requires light and a lens to reveal its contents.

Online contributors provided images for the project© Courtesy Dave Griffiths
Intrigued by the capabilities of this ageing technology, Griffiths has created his own microfiche archive in the form of a crowd-sourced film which collects and remixes video footage from online contributors.

Designed as an imaginary media for prospective anthropologists, the project led the artist to question which behaviours, objects, traditions and conflicts to communicate to a future world as he attempted to represent everyday life around the Earth.

The final selection of about 15,000 images in total was converted into still frames and printed on colour microfiche before being stripped into grid layouts.

This microfiche archive will last up to 500 years and be stored with a set of "user instructions" for a future citizen to think about when decoding the visual information.

To broaden the scope of response to the archive content, the artist worked with a number of collaborators, including Applied Ethics writer Stefan Skrimshire and poet Gaia Holmes as scriptwriters, musician Graham Massey as the soundtrack producer and artist and filmmaker Joe Duffy as editor.

Also at the space, Griffiths presents Deep Field [The Photographic Universe], which samples a 10-degree field of view in the southerly sky surrounding the gallery to map out other galaxies.

The data has been printed as microdots and displayed inside the gallery’s unique double height space for visitors to view through a telescope.

  • Open Wednesday-Sunday 1pm-6pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

© Courtesy Dave Griffiths

© Courtesy Dave Griffiths
© Courtesy of the artist

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