The NRLA archive is a new resource for students of live and performance art, created and housed in the Theatre Collection at the University of Bristol. The archive documents the NRLA Festival, offering over 1900 audio-visual files which cover the festival from 1986 until its final year in 2010. As well as videos of the performances themselves, the archive includes tapes of installations, discussions and interviews with participating artists.
Only authorised users, i.e. those who have had their site registration approved by the administrators, can access the files in the archive. However, after the initial 48-hour registration period, online access is very straightforward. The free text keyword search box finds content by searching file titles, and the artist drop-down list allows users to find material by artist name. One can also search by festival year, or entering the name of contributors.
As part of the digitization projects for the archive, the NRLA team created the Performance Arts Data Structure or PADS, a customised data tool that “unites documentation of a performance artwork produced in different media and any objects that remain: for instance, videos, props/objects used, costume/clothing, material residues, photographic stills, interviews (with artist(s), producer/curator and audience members), transcripts or notes, script, diagrammatic scores, production plans and publicity.”
Through PADS, users can explore the links between the overall concept of the work, the various concrete versions of it, and any other resources associated with, creating a much more comprehensive understanding of any particular piece of live art.
In addition, the NRLA archive is not only a passive tool that allows users to view the resources. It also offers other capabilities, such as the ability to annotate specific clips within a larger video, and to connect different files within the archive. These annotations and connections appear in the user’s own workspace, which is accessible after login. Users can also link external resources, such as youtube videos, to existing files. These capabilities make the NRLA Archive a powerful educational tool, and a resource for artists to manage their own material.
The NRLA archive includes the work of Irish artists who participated in the NRLA festival through the years such as Michelle Browne, Alastair MacLennan, Anne Seagrave, and Aine Philips, and this makes it a particularly relevant resource for NCAD students.