The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Digitally Preserves Rare Artist Talks

Monday, September 30, 2019

The John M. Flaxman Library, in partnership with the Visiting Artists Program, successfully led an initiative to preserve more than 500 hours of original recordings of rare artists’ lectures and, for the first time, the files are available unrestricted to the public for educational and research purposes. The recordings include 83 classroom lectures from artist and SAIC faculty member Stan Brakhage between 1970–76 and 284 lectures from the School’s Visiting Artists Program between 1977–96. Included among the 731 master audio files digitally preserved are talks by renowned contemporary artists and scholars Susan Sontag, Barbara Kruger, Guerrilla Girls, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and many others.

About the Recordings
These rare audio artifacts reveal a deep cross section of artistic thought and practice, documenting the voice and thought of major and lesser known artists of the late 20th century.

stan brakhage lecture cassette

Brakhage lectures : Carl Dreyer, Vampyr, Day of wrath, Gertrud (side two), November 30, 1970

Brakhage, one of the world’s most prolific and influential avant-garde filmmakers, taught film history at SAIC from 1970–76. The Brakhage lectures are a primary source for understanding the history of film pedagogy in the United States. Open to the public, his lectures were famous for his passionate and personal interpretations of classic, contemporary and avant-garde cinema.

guerrilla girls saic lecture cassette tape

The Guerrilla Girls, October 24, 1988

The Visiting Artists Program at SAIC was founded in 1868 and continues today as one of Chicago’s leading public forums for the presentation and contemplation of contemporary art, design and scholarship. The 565 master audio files created from the Visiting Artists Program lectures include talks by Susan Sontag, Barbara Kruger, Kathy Acker, Issey Miyake, Christian Boltanski, Vito Acconci (HON 1990), Guerrilla Girls, Andres Serrano, Chuck D, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Edgar Heap of Birds. The recordings serve as primary source materials for the study of artistic theory, practice and pedagogy for those interested in filmmaking, art history, writing, fashion, painting, photography, music, poetry, sculpture, video art and performance, as well as those researching feminist, activist, LGBTQ+, ethnic and radical histories.

Accessing the Digital Files
SAIC created 731 digitally preserved master audio files: 565 Visiting Artists Program files and 166 Brakhage lecture files. Access to the recordings is available to the public and unrestricted at digitalcollections.saic.edu.

Recordings at Risk
SAIC preserved the recordings through support from Recordings at Risk, a national regranting program administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to support the preservation of rare and unique audio, audiovisual and other time-based media of high scholarly value through digital reformatting.