Transform your television into a work of art with Souvenirs from Earth TV: Interview with Marcus Kreiss

   |  12 September 2013  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

Cologne, 12 September 2013 Art Media Agency (AMA).

Since 2006, the channel Souvenirs from Earth has continually presented video art works in France, Germany and across the world, diffusing pieces via live streaming. Art Media Agency met with founder of SFE TV, Marcus Kreiss.

What’s the concept behind Souvenirs from Earth TV?

The inspiration behind our work is quite simple: for one, there are millions of flat screens attached to walls which remain black when people aren’t watching television; there’s also a lot of material produced by artists, photographers and choreographers which isn’t display – or which is only available in galleries – either way, it has a limited audience. So our idea consists of bringing all of these resources together. We wanted to created a programme which really increased the visibility of these art works, and which could also light up television screens which, most of the time, are simply not used.

As with paintings, we appreciate their presence without necessarily looking at them in an active way. Yet they have a presence in people’s lives. Everyone has their preferred films, and every 5 minutes our channel offers something different.

How was the project born?

I studied Cinema and Fine Art, and consequently found my interests torn between the two – I explored the problem of treating a film like a painting, looking a the entirety of the composition whilst considering its every pixel.

The market for art videos is also more complex. It’s not the same as it is for paintings or sculptures. Art videos aren’t a unique object, so they’re not ideal for the market. Today, to create value from works, people present videos which have been cut into 5 or 10 pieces, but this goes against the nature of the works. For me, it’s more natural not to sell video art in galleries, or in places where it will disappear into the archives of art collectors, but to offer works through television. On German television channels, there was an programme which went out late each evening where, for two hours a day, we would present video clips accompanied by very avant-gard electo music.

This channel subsequently disappeared, which made me want to set up a station which ran for 24hours a day. I got a licence, and, along with the first operators, organised the creation of our channel.

Who do you work with?

We mostly work directly with artist, but we also work with galleries and institutions. For our most recent project, which is to take place in October, we are collaborating with the l’École d’Art de Marseille.

We also held a workshop, which took place in March. During this event, students directed films during the day, which we later showed on our channel in the evening. The students were very motivated by the idea that their work would be broadcast. The project worked very well, and the director decided that it would be interesting to release this sort of thing more regularly. The visibility this offers to the participating students is a real opportunity for them. The school also has a large collection of videos in its archives, which have never previously been released.

So your channel brings visibility to artists who aren’t otherwise very visible?

Yes. In the case of these students, when they start it is not easy to show their works and gain an audience. So we set the artists up with real production positions.

But you also distribute works of established artists such as Bill Viola, Nam June Paik and Bruce Noman?

We mix all artists together, those who are already established and those who are emerging.

Do you offer thematic broadcasts?

That happens, but not all the time. Generally, we present a rotation of clips, in the same way as MTV. But there is a slight difference depending on the time of broadcast. Whilst our morning works are more “calm”, the afternoon is based around avant-garde works, and, at evenings and weekends, we offer more colourful, poppy pieces which lend themselves to a more festive atmosphere.

We have been broadcasting in the Palais de Tokyo restaurant since 2009.

Unlike others, who offer films based on pictorial works, are you only interested in videos, performances, and choreographed pieces?

Our starting point is really film, and optimising artistic expression within the format of a television screen. This is neither cinema nor classic television. The presentation of paintings and sculptures doesn’t really fit into this framework. There are, however, short news programs lasting one or two minutes, which we have set up with our partners, and which display what has been happening in the cultural institutions.

How many people work with you?

Our team is composed of around ten people, based in Vienna, Cologne, Paris and New York.

How have you financed the channel?

Through commercials. For example, we will broadcast a film for a cosmetics brand, but which has been produced in the same way as a art film. There is no difference between the films and these commercials. The Louis Vuitton art space, found above a store on the Champs-Elysées, produced a film for each exhibition, and we collaborate with them.

These advertisements are integrated into the programs, so there are no breaks in the same way as there are on classic television channels. In addition, we produce some promotional films ourselves.

Was it not a challenge to gather enough material to begin broadcasting?

Yes, of course! But I had collected a number of films, as the company was established in 2001, and we had always aimed for a television channel. We have therefore had five years to create enough material. And even before 2001, I was working on this project, so I have had nearly ten years of preparation time.

Where did the name Souvenirs from Earth come from?

Its a bit of an artistic concept. One of the roles of art is to convey an off-beat view of the world – to present a view that the media and press do not offer. The objective is to have an outside view, an alien perspective. We look at the world through the eyes of an alien, and for me an artist should get into the skin of an alien to convey truths that we do not always see. If we look at the world from a martian’s perspective, it will not see the same things as us, he will take into consideration the little details that we do not consider.

Many people see us as an alien channel, as we are so different from others.

Is the aim to show the same program across the world?

Yes, we want to see television become the “global chimney”, which travels along the same wavelength across the world. We are currently in discussions with a school in China. So if a school in Marseille, one in Shanghai and another in São Paulo see the same videos at the same time, it creates a dialogue, a community. In this way we can create a very loyal community, which is beginning to be the case on Facebook.

How is this exchange between viewers organised?

We are in the process of developing applications to give people more opportunities to interact. This is likely to be available by the end of the year, with a system for  commenting on programmes, and the establishment of a crowd funding project, so that the public can, if they wish, become producers.

What is your current audience?

In France, a study by Médiamétrie attributed 10,000 viewers to our channel. On the internet, around 1,000 people a day are following us, and on the German channel we have 3,000 viewers. The French broadcasting system promotes our presence, because is it unique and allows us to reach a larger public. In addition, in a sociological respect, the cable system in Germany means we do not reach the same audience as we do in France. This is helped by the fact that the French join television with the Internet, which is not the case in Germany,

What are your prospects for development?

International! We have opened an office in New York, and I spend a lot of time on planes! The channel is broadcast via streaming on the screen of a large office on 5th avenue. This development was hard work. The next steps are to broadcast the program in the USA, Brazil, China and the United Kingdom, although it will be quite complicated to launch the channel in the latter.

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