Menno Grootveld

Rabotnik Online Archive

A 'home' for Rabotnik TV on the internet, using Korsakow

It may sound strange to use an engine for online videoproduction called 'Korsakow' for the purpose of archiving (and thus committing to our collective memory) a stack of videomaterial from the legendary TV-pirate Rabotnik TV. But this is what I intend to do with the knowledge that I gained from joining the Mediamatic Any Media documentary workshop @ IDFA 2008.
Rabotnik TV started as a pirate station on the Amsterdam cable network in the early eighties (1982). The basic idea was nothing special, just to use the newly available and relatively cheap videorecording-equipment to produce our own TV-shows. We could broadcast them since the authorities 'forgot' to lock the cable system for illegal entry when it was first deployed in Amsterdam. You just had to hook up the right kind of transmitter to the right type of antenna and direct it towards one of the big receivers that were attached to high buildings or chimneys in or around town.
The first series of programmes from Rabotnik TV consisted of a lot of music (both 'stolen' clips, mainly from the BBC, which was at that time not yet broadcasted in Amsterdam, and concert registrations made by ourselves), 'news' items (called 'N.A.P.', after the famous Dutch shorthand for 'sealevel') and political propaganda for a party that was participating in the municipal elections under the name "De Reagering" (from 'reageren,' to react).
Later on we started to experiment a bit with the possibilities of the medium television itself.
After about one year the channel that we broadcasted on was closed by special order of the mayor of Amsterdam, because of 'seditious tendencies' (the city was a virtual battleground between the police and squatters in the early eighties). However, we had never associated ourselves in any way with the squatter movement, not in the least since they had their own TV-station. Anyway, a week later all channels were officially sealed off, so the TV-pirates were a dying breed.
From then on Rabotnik shifted towards radio production. Born from necessity, we soon began to like the limited possibilities of our new medium. Rabotnik TV became Radio Rabotnik TV, a kind of television without images. The idea became that our listeners had to 'visualize' these images in their own heads while listening. So we started to make soundscapes with fragments of movies and tv-shows, re-edited music and our own recordings. But by 1985 a so-called 'open channel' was launched on Amsterdam cable television and after some hesitation we decided to get back to producing TV-programmes as well.
What I want to do now is initially to select fragments from the first (pirate) year of Rabotnik TV and make them accessible as an archive using Korsakow. The fragments will be 'tagged' and linked by way of keywords, so the viewer will be able to make his or her own journey through the archive. Later on I will try to include soundfragments and parts of the 'second coming' of Rabotnik TV as well. Where necessary subtitles will provide the viewer with some context information.