Mozartmateriaal: from helpdesk request to opera

16 Jun 2022

In the summer of 2016, we – still operating as PACKED at the time – received a helpdesk request from visual artist Ana Torfs. How could two of her early commissioned works, which she created together with Jurgen Persijn, be digitised and digitally archived just like her first and only feature film? We went in search of a solution together. Want to see?

Future-proofing early works by Ana Torfs and Jurgen Persijn

Anyone working with digital heritage processes is more than welcome to contact us with their questions. And whenever we receive one of these so-called helpdesk requests, we go in search of a solution together. In 2016, for example, we helped visual artist Ana Torfs as she was concerned about preserving several works that she created in the 1990s, two of which in collaboration with Jurgen Persijn. We wanted a solution for:

  • Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten - feature film, 35 mm celluloid film, Ana Torfs, 1998

  • Mozartmateriaal - video essay, Betacam SP, Jurgen Persijn and Ana Torfs, 1993

  • Akarova / Baugniet, l’entre-deux-guerres - video essay, Betacam SP, Jurgen Persijn and Ana Torfs, 1991

We advised contacting CINEMATEK to digitise Zyklus von Kleinigkeiten, which Ana and her producer Cobra Films duly did. We also recommended she should contact Rosas, the client and producer of Mozartmateriaal, and argos, a meemoo content partner, to digitise Mozartmateriaal and Akarova / Baugniet, l’entre-deux-guerres works respectively. As arts organisations, it was easy for them to have Persijn and Torfs’ master tapes digitised by us – still operating as VIAA at the time.

The Mozartmateriaal case explained

The approach adopted by Jurgen Persijn and Ana Torfs alternates between subjective and objective, voyeuristic and “encyclopaedic”, as the creators themselves call it.

De Morgen, 1994

Mozartmateriaal aims to provide a glimpse into the working process and aesthetic vocabulary of the Rosas dance company. In a look behind the scenes, we see dancers rehearsing, talking, laughing and dancing the acclaimed choreography to Mozart / Concert Arias, un moto di gioia (1992).

The master tapes of this unique and valuable audiovisual content were soon digitised and the digital files found their way into the meemoo archive system, where they’ve been sustainably stored since. Ana and meemoo viewed and compared in detail ten Betacam SP tapes stored by Jurgen Persijn and Ana Torfs, and Rosas, respectively.

Afbeelding: still uit Mozartmateriaal, Jurgen Persijn en Ana Torfs, 1993

When carrying out quality checks on the content, however, it soon became clear that the video essay needed to be restored. The dance company gave the green light for this in 2021, with a view to Opera Ballet Vlaanderen recreating the choreography by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s and Rosas. Avila Film then took care of the restoration before meemoo sent the restored version to its archive for sustainable archiving.

Rediscover this gem

Exactly forty years after Mozart / Concert Arias premièred at the Festival d’Avignon, the dancers from Opera Ballet Vlaanderen breathed new life into the work. To celebrate the occasion, Avila and Opera Ballet Vlaanderen made Mozartmateriaal temporarily free for ticket holders of the performances in June (Ghent) and October (Antwerp)

The film can also be viewed online worldwide from 15 June via Avila Film, including with English, Dutch and French subtitles.

Afbeelding: still uit Mozartmateriaal, Jurgen Persijn en Ana Torfs, 1993

Six years after receiving this unusual helpdesk request, we’re delighted to say that the general public can now see this restored work by Jurgen Persijn and Ana Torfs again – which we have digitised and archived, with special thanks to Ana Torfs and VRT (for making the Dutch subtitles available).

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