When I received the brief in Opening the Archives that we were to creatively engage with an archive, I believed I would continue my work from my case study in the archives of The Charlotte Trust, a Museum which collects and preserves Lesbian History. However, the genesis and development of this assignment stem from week 7 in April, when the Art Historian Lynda Tyler took us on a ‘virtual field trip’ to the NZ Fashion Museum.
On the 24th April, we took to the streets to check out some autumnal UoA streetwear and found these wonderful humans:
I was inspired by fashion as a conversation. Rather than continue with my case study, now I wanted to look at the digital archive – one that is curated by myself and that considers soft text, or what is frequently left out of dialogue. (See Lisa Samuels for more on soft text.)
The lacunas and peripheries of my own curated items are staggering: I moved from wanting to address:
- Kathy Acker’s curated punk clothes
- The Met’s PUNK: Chaos to Couture exhibition
- My interview with Sam Oiwoh lead to Prabal Gurung. At 0.45s Gurung describes a garment with printed feminist speeches from Harriet Tubman to Gloria Steinem.
- In Dior’s collection, I peripherally left out Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s new creative director – “The first female in its 70-year history to hold the post.”
These are only small examples of lacuna and peripheries in the research of my personal curation. Throughout the course and project, I have been influenced by a Historicist methodology in the sense that ‘objects’ are tied to their stories or provenance (where they originate and how they change through time), so, I largely interpreted these ‘objects’ as reflections of their historical backgrounds and products of their historical development. Jacques Derrida’s influence from Archive Fever: A Freudian Interpretation focused on the archive existing in a perpetual state of becoming, and I thought – if something is constantly ‘becoming’, how can we trust where it came from, or where it is going? Is the archive an artifice and mass deception? I became interested in omission and erasure in the archives – in what archives do not explicitly tell us – what is beyond that? As you see in my Portfolio, in the age of the Digitas, one piece of information branches out and connects in a symbiotic matrix to millions of other pieces of information – which pieces are granted our attention?
Why did I connect these five objects? Week 8’s Archillect bot influenced my desire to use digital literature for Evolution; Hysterical Literature is another form of sonic digital literature; Weems’ exhibition elicits a different digital response versus physically experiencing the exhibition at the Tate – there are gaps between viewing styles; Sam’s interview was an opportunity to partially connect specific objects and themes to the conversation and then analyse that conversation through the periphery of Why Fashion Matters – a text attached to the Dior exhibit. I chose these objects because each speaks through the other at an ideational level, and each opens multiple constellations of contingencies – they speak both to the subtle and overt, and in the overlap, they can deceive.
In week 11, NZEPC hosted a class with Terese Svoboda, the biographer of Lola Ridge “Anything that Burns you”; one thing I took from Terese’s experience in the archive was the importance of uncovering lost or otherwise marginalised voices, resolidifying that I would curate with a variety of works in mind. The reason this assignment is offered as a digital presentation/ research essay (with voice recordings), is because I wanted the site to speak to voices, art or ideas that are interesting to uncover. Moreover, the physical structure and form of my project reflect the content it engages. For example, as a digital archive, this site possesses its own sense of spectrality. The website ‘becomes’ when it undergoes a morphological flux that occurs in the space or exchange between interpretant and content; I may continue to use the site long after this project.
This project reflects a development of my ideas spurred through earlier considerations of the course. On the 30th March, I considered Hito Steyerl’s musings – when Steyerl asks, “How do archives work?”, the dialectical question (and Marxist interpretation), becomes: “How does the archive reproduce and maintain itself?” This is essentially the idea she gets at in a video watched in class where she mentions that neoliberal restructuring of media production and digital technology acts as a kind of capitalist deterritorialization (Steyerl). This statement prompted me to consider hegemonic readings where we can look at the poor quality (or any) image as ‘art’ and think about what this art and its dissemination mean in terms of what it reflects of its relationship to the archive and society. For instance, is replication, alteration and dissemination of ‘the poor image’ a legitimate or metaphorical unseen rebellion against the infrastructure (or economic base) of society? What about the high-quality image (like couture?) If the superstructure comprises everything cultural (such as religion, politics, the arts etc), and is determined by a specific economy (in this case, capitalism), then I think Hito’s reflection on the archive brings up concerns of who truly produces the archive – and if, like Derrida and others claim – the archive is endlessly in flux, who can claim its production and reproduction? My website content remains enmeshed within these economic considerations – hyperlinks lead to views which lead to advertisement/curatorial algorithms which leads to revenue. Digital archives (curated for us) reduce our lives to a series of data points for sale; the content we engage with influences our ontology (thoughts, actions) and if we leave it up to algorithms to curate content for us, the archive plays out its artifice.
Although my project’s content has altered significantly, base concepts from the course, my readings and own thinking have remained. My assignment bears more relation to earlier ideas than to specific themes or objects.
Thank you to my wonderful friend, Harriet Robinson-Chen, who without her generosity this website would not exist.
Harriet helped create better website accessibility; the website has been edited to enable screen-readers to pick up quotes and references. Harriet helped set up the domain from the ISP that provides hosting and helped design the interface.