When Laboratory Mistakes Become Art

This presentation was submitted to “Counter-Archives” (= “Orphan Film Symposium”) at Concordia University in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, Canada, from 15 to 18 June 2022, but was rejected.


This short presentation is an instructive and funny look behind the scenes. It consists of several examples of both analogue and digital errors made at the laboratory. It illustrates what happens when a mistake becomes just magnificent. Sometimes we don’t know the origin of the material, and we almost never know the author of the error that led to an unintentional piece of art.


Having graduated in both mathematics and computer science, Reto Kromer became involved in audio-visual conservation and restoration thirty-six years ago. He has been running his own preservation company, AV Preservation by reto.ch, and also lecturing at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola in Donostia (San Sebastián). His current research includes colour spaces, look-up tables and codec programming and emulation. Previously he was head of preservation at the Cinémathèque suisse (the Swiss National Film Archive) as well as a lecturer at the University of Lausanne. He served as an AMIA board member for four years. His work has seen him honoured with an inaugural Joint Technical Symposium Award.