Silence is the Commons

The future of archives depends on our commitment to generate arenas where we can perform divergent futures. Will we be remembered by acts of sharing and generosity or greed and enclosure?

Archives, like collections are built with the property of multiple authors and previous owners. But unlike the collection, an archive designates a territory – and not a particular narrative. There is no imperative, within the logic of the archive, to display or interpret its holdings. In the archive interpretations are invited and not already determined, which is maybe why there is a creative space that many artists are responding to.

But at the same time we are witnessing a conflict blossoming at the heart of culture, a conflict convened around the property rights that subsist in materials stored in public archives. After all creativity is never solely the product of a single author. It always owes debts to the inspiration and previous work of others, whether these are thinkers, artists, scientists, teachers or friends. Creativity, as a fusion point of these singularities, cannot survive in a social nothingness. Afterall it is the social life that ensures longevity, relevance or extinction of ideas. The knowledge commons need to be continously nourished as well as protected from agressive proprietory and corporate behavior. How to insist on sustainable use of resources that are easily accessible, and how to disseminate them fairly is one of the most contentious issues we must ask ourselves today.

Read the lecture here.