The Legacies of Stephen Dwoskin

A key project within the Information Retrieval research group.

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Stephen Dwoskin left behind a large and varied archive, physical and digital, which was deposited in the Special Collections of the University of Reading soon after his death in 2012.

The archive includes, as well as paper documents of all kinds, computer hard drives, audio tapes, video cassettes, and thousands of photographs, slides, and negatives – plus many posters, paintings, and designs. Part of the task of the Dwoskin Project is to assist in the cataloguing of this material for the benefit of researchers.

One branch of the Dwoskin Project aims to map the world around Dwoskin, using the archive and interviews to come to a new understanding of the film cultures he inhabited and helped create between the 1950s and 2010s. Dwoskin’s diaries and letters, and the substantial number of documents relating to his film work – and other activities – provide a unique insight into the transatlantic underground cinema of the 1960s, and the new space created for experiment by television stations like ZDF and Channel 4 in the 1970s and ’80s.

Digital forensics and data exploration

The digital forensics and data exploration branch of Dwoskin Project is concerned with the preservation and examination of the twenty hard drives that encompass Dwoskin’s digital legacy. Dwoskin’s work straddles the transition of moving images from analogue to digital. He was an early adopter of and experimenter with digital cameras and editing software, and left behind a digital footprint that is both rich and diverse.

Analysis of the hard drives, which contain a wealth of material including films, film edits, email correspondence, and an unpublished autobiography, will enable a deeper forensic examination of Dwoskin’s unique approach to filmmaking, the networks he inhabited, and his particular struggles to support himself to make films as a survivor of polio. In other words, it will uncover the histories hidden within the digital artefacts.

Sharing our findings

Findings from the project are posted on a monthly blog on the LUX’s website, and feed into conference papers, articles, and events, such as ‘Acts of Love (Reconstructed)’, mounted at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image in February 2020. Another major aspect of the project is to make available new high definition scans of Dwoskin’s films, the master materials for most of which he deposited at the British Film Institute before his death. These will begin to be presented to the public during the span of the project.

Eliciting a different kind of response to the archive the Dwoskin Project is commissioning work inspired by Dwoskin from contemporary artists. One aim of the project is to exhibit this work – as well as Dwoskin’s films, and other creative works – internationally.

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