The Future Archive

Recent changes in the terms of use and access to physical and digital archives invites questions regarding ownership by exposing the limits of proprietary regimes. What is the involvement of artists in liberating cultural artifacts from market driven concerns by actively participating in nourishing public domain? How much are we committed to imagining the future archive to be an open and common resource?

What is the burden of the archive if not memory itself? Can we move on from thinking of archives as stores of documents, and come closer to an idea of a desiring archive, a reservoir of affective materials and resistant opacities. May we consider the future archive as a source of nourishment and not sediment, an open-ended construction of contributions, interpretations, a collaborative effort based on generosity? 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.

Archives are metaphors for the process of collecting traces of the past, and for the forgetting of them. In a traditional sense the archive marks the institutional passage from the private to the public. To want to go to the archive, whether actual or virtual, is emblematic of a modern way of being in the world, expressive of a more general need to know and to have the past. Navigating through the archive involves a search, ultimately what we are searching for is a lost object, such object, whether it is an event, a happening, a story, has already been altered by the search for it, by its time and duration. What has actually been lost can never be found. Which is not to say that nothing can be found, but that thing is always something else, embedded in the search itself.

The concept of archive contains the desire to impose a limit on the alienating immensity of information that is available to be known.

If we link archival process to memory, we must also consider productive potential of memory failures, its dropouts, omissions, burials, eclipses, denials. (John Hunter)

Art intervenes and compensates for blind spots in accounting of social and personal experiences. It channels those experiences, which have no other place in public debate. And this is where the archive intersects with wider interests in documentary practices. It is not simply a question of what to preserve but how all those marginal moments, marginal from the point of view of dominant discourse, are given voice. But what happens when the discourse that has given rise to we might encounter in the archive is no longer part of our daily experience of those who might search for its residual meaning. This is the fundamental dilemma of how we interpret what we find in the archives of the communist era.

In a recent talk by artist Anri Sala in London, he referred to his early work Intervista 1999, Sala made Intervista after having discovered two fragments of a film that had lost its sound and which features his mother – who was then an activist in the Albanian Youth Communist Union – being interviewed. The work is an intimate document of the artist’s search for his mother’s lost words, combining the lure of a detective tale with the intimacy of a home video.

Unlike earlier social and political movements we are experiencing our time as instantly archival. Continually documented by traditional and new forms of digital and social media, a good example is the # Occupy movement which generates an active daily account and a dialogue with itself.

#searchunderoccupy (an initiative of New School in NYC in response to the Occupy Wallstreet Movement)

The current archival imperative is a continual process of pinning and eluding, fixing and contention.

But where do we locate the difference between the more conventional forms of documentation and self-documentation of the past, based in artifacts and technologies without feedback? Perhaps these new ways of archival imperatives results in not just the desire to say and embody but also more urgently to be heard. How do research, artistic and documentary practices creatively interact with this ongoing, vital and mobile conversation?

This maybe is the point where archives encounter their future, where what is privately owned contributes to what is publicly shared. Ownership engages many spheres: economic, social, ethical, and deeply personal.

If we approach what the many archives contain not in terms of what is owned and transacted as property but rather how their holdings participate in a dynamic model, which places emphasis on transfer, engagement, and treats relationships and networks of circulating ideas as a resource commonly produced, commonly shared, and distributed. This kind of model relies heavily on ethical conduct, seen as a guarantee in a re-productive sense; only those values which are capable of sustaining the connections between people, are made visible in an endless chain of invention and re-invention. In other words it is not just material and immaterial expressions, the outcomes of our creative work but the actual form of social relations, which we must consider in a discussion regarding preservation, protection and attribution of what we do as artists, thinkers and cultural workers. Locating value in the productive relationships rather than in things themselves, privileges the reading of culture as an ongoing process of engagement, fostering a sense of belonging based in social exchanges. In a culture dominated by commercial concerns and capital itself, we assume that granting cultural value often known, as heritage is the granting of property rights over objects. But how do we re-inscribe the imaginary character of property?

Network culture and immaterial production have led us to a crisis of value. Knowledge is being expropriated under the regime of capital. How do we continue insisting on symbolic values in a culture dominated by the market logic?

Collaboration is an essential part of the dynamics of transfer in the knowledge produced individually, as we are witnessing it right now, when I speak you listen, and you reflect on my contribution in a specific moment understood by the context of where we are now. Such conditions of creativity are not based upon the logic of motivation and reward associated with Intellectual Property; instead it is the desire of being part of a wider milieu, where creativity and control over its uses is not tied to ownership regime. It is still difficult to commodity immediacy, sincerity, and the inflection present in the spoken word. It is the insistence on what might be termed intangible economies based in exchange through affect that our future through creative effort might need to be invested. I’m interested in exploring a model of practice in which identity is not assumed through objects attached to the PERSON who produced them, the artist, but is seen and known in how others act and respond to those proposals as artworks. It is through dispersal and agency that creativity results. Such model invites alternative approaches to ownership and authorship, which I often employ in my practice.



Tender museum, muzeum sztuki, Lodz, 2009

Themes explored by the project take as its source the foundation of the museum through a gift of artists,

Generosity is present both in the act of collecting and donating the collection to the city. A sense of public responsibility, a gesture of transferring from a private passion, and exchange with other artists, to a foundational gesture of making the effects of that exchange available as part of a museum discourse. Like all collections, which are an extension of private taste, intellectual awareness and cultural circumstances, they are inevitably full of gaps. The moment of establishing is a moment of affirmation at the expense of what is not included, not visible, not traceable.

Art always has its consequences and it seems that entering the archive, any archive makes those consequences more palpable, problematically present.

It evokes both the history and an opportunity of breaking away from convention. What you find in the archive are the traces of activities and of people. Affect reappears again and again.

It is the connections that a project like this allows to explore, situating the decisions, which have shaped the current identity of the museum by interrogating its mission and public outcomes we can perhaps find its proper place in the collective unconscious.

The object of my interest was the incompatibility between museum as medium of social and political processes, a space of public discourse and television as medium of public coercion most strongly ennanunciated by the news bulletins, and the figure of the broadcaster.

The process based experience inside the museum articulated by setting up a semblance of a recording studio where a pre-recorded voice, an exchange between the artist and curator dominates turning the viewer into listener.

The exchange is of two women and it centres on establishing a possible relationship between practices of an art critic and an artist.

There is an audible difference registered by the recording technologies reveal generational divide between the two voices, their desire to connect and carry over, to pose questions to already existing answers, reverses the process of dialogue,

The post-event of writing myself into the conversation undermines the certainties of the relationship. Employing a model of feedback acts as a conceptual guide. Feedback loop presents the information about the initial event as the basis for the subsequent modification of the event.

Resonance, reverberation, centrality of voice, a female voice, hearing, as opposed to sight resists being caught up in the simulacra. … the sounds themselves are re-produced not copied. Voice does not lend itself to games of illusion, it cannot be represented figuratively. It might be then more difficult to commodity.

Synthetic voice – a recording of a voice of a dead person represents a living voice, it’s the resemblance that assures us of existence of someone who is no longer a living person and whose living and legacy are at the mercy of the archive.

The apparatus, tape recorder, image of time passing, a site of inscription, disconnected from the voice itself, a separation between the document and the machine that produces it. As Brecht already said it’s not important to know what are the real things but rather how things are real.

It is the moment of transition from leaving the recording studio and the voice behind, one is reminded of the circumstances that generated first its production and then distribution, the immaterial presence, time counted and re-counted. A brutal repetition of the loop.

Archive and exhibition do not belong to the same systems of organistaion. Perhaps the question is not one of exhibition but of participation in the event of listening and by generating a response.

What is unspoken is not merely something that lacks voice; it is what remains unsaid (in Martin Heidegger’s “On the way to language”)

To speak is to question the will to possess, the very immateriality of speech once recorded may also be rendered obscured, un-fixed in social space, and part of the project is to create a brief moment of interruption in a power relation.

The seduction of the archive is its ultimate potential; it provides what we were not prepared for, the unaccounted, the hostile, something that doesn’t submit itself to the original reason of entering its space.

An archive must remain forever open; perhaps one could risk saying that it represents the highest form of open-ness. Its content is defined by not what is there but by what is yet to come in form of research, future artwork. It must remain open to transformation, modification, give birth to new artifacts, or more importantly new consciousness. Archive is a reservoir of affects, all of its content once involved in complex web of relationships, friendships, and professional exchanges. There are as much to be recovered as re-activated through new set of relationships.

Every visit to the archive whether online or offline disentangles local knowledge from the global. It focuses our attention in detail, which reassures of its singularity and existence.

Many contemporary institutions and organizations are working against the further enclosure of the information commons, to name a few Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF, Creative Commons Movement, The Public Library of Science, the Public Knowledge Project, Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, a non-profit organization making public domain material available since 1971, currently offering 17.000 titles for download. Similar function is performed by archive .org and ubu web.

To activate a future archive is put it in circulation; to remove the enclosures, which always hold it, back, by holding it in, as though it is complete. Fear of loss and liquidity resonates strongly within archival procedures, and its discourses of protection and preservation. And yet its true value can only be realised through unwelcomed interpretation, a spillage without legislation.

I would like to propose the hash tag as a contemporary means of registering a concern and sharing it with others. It is our future archive.