Out Of The Dumpster, Into The Gallery: Obsolete Media Miami

Sep 10, 2015

  Five-year-old Brian Eberhardt sits watching cartoons at gate D7 at Miami International Airport.

But he’s not watching them on a phone, a tablet or even the television hanging from the ceiling. The cartoons are being projected from an old-school, 16mm reel-to-reel projector.

“It looks like a camera off a TV,” says Brian, who has never seen anything like the projector in real life.

Obsolete Media Miami screens cartoons at Miami International Airport.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

The machine lights up a portable projection screen with Goofy and Donald Duck episodes from the 1950s.

The guys feeding the tape into the projector are Barron Scherer and Kevin Arrow. Together they make up Obsolete Media Miami, or OMM, a shared studio space and repository for all kinds of old media, primarily slides and film.

“I've been trying to figure out [what to do with this stuff] now for 30 years,” says Arrow, who, in addition to starting OMM is art and collections manager for the Miami Science Museum.

Arrow and Sherer cart their 16mm projector through Miami International Airport.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

In the 1980s,  Arrow did interior projections for South Beach nightclubs and has since moved his work into art galleries.

At the OMM studio in Miami’s Design District, there are stacks and stacks of slides that people have given him: of Miami in the 80s, old family photos, NASA images from the 1969 moon landing and thousands of others.

Sherer is the other half of Obsolete Media Miami and focuses more on film. 

The Obsolete Media Miami studios in the Design District.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

“Back in the ‘90s every tape that I watched, I made a copy of. I dubbed from VHS to VHS,” says Sherer. “Every once in awhile, I’ll look around [the studio] and some of this stuff is still not available on modern formats.”

And while preservation of media in these “obsolete” forms is part of the mission of OMM, using it for art projects, like screenings at the airport, is the primary goal.

For them, the still and moving images are like paint in a tube, raw material to make something new. And they invite other artists to come and do the same.

Other projects include a screening of home films without the sound and inviting a local noise musician to score them live. Another, for the upcoming DWNTWN Art Days will showcase a collection of slides and film of art and artists from Miami’s history.

Kevin Arrow, left, and Barron Sherer, right, in the OMM studio.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Arrow says we are in an era when so much of the media we create now “is fleeting and ephemeral.”

“People lose hard drives with gigabytes of family photos,” he adds.  “This is material that has a little more longevity.”

OMM is gearing up to hold workshops for people who want to learn about super 8 mm film and  film-less filmmaking.

Obsolete Media Miami’s DWNTWN Art Days show will be at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design Sept.  11-13.