The first of the Procesos de archivo/ Archivalprocess. 'expert working sessions' took place at Intermediæ in Madrid. The working sessions are to enable the core curatorial team to gain knowedge and experience. The sessions are closed but resources will be on-line soon.
Artist and amateur archivist Jorge Blasco Gallardo, founder of Culturas de Archivo and Amateurarchivist lead the sessions.
In the first, Jorge gave an extraordinary 5 hour tour-de-force presentation on the history, politics and philosophy of the idea of the archive.
I wrote into Jorge’s presentation as he spoke, following are the tweaked notes....
Day 1: 10am - 3pm
Jorge talked about his experience of working in the archive of the Spanish Civil War
He stressed that documents matter. Think of love letters, birth/death/marriage certificate, documents can communicate tenderness and love, but they can also terrorize. Documents can incriminate and kill. In the archive of the Spanish Civil War: pencils, paper, lists, names and addresses become instruments of repression. We should be considerate regarding the archives we make, and the uses we put them too.
An archive is an organization of knowledge, it’s as tool for grasping the world. And by analyzing the tool – you can intimate its uses. The tool, the organizational structure, the interface enables you to represent the material acted upon by the tool, and the people who designed and used the tool. – technicity ( a neologism for the subtle interaction of subjects/prosthesis (or tools)/ and the worlds they inhabit.
An archive is tool that can be deployed for repression or freedom – and everything else in between. And as with all tools – like a gun, potentialities are not prescribed in the tool itself.
Tools are Information held in a physical form.
The wunderkamern, collectors cabinet, the museum, and archive. Cabinets of collected materials are interfaces, codifications and structures of knowledge. Historically, the collector or curator narrates the collection to visitors, un-archives the objects and knowledge. Performs knowledge.
Material things, even the most obdurate material things – tables, hammers, plates and chairs, as well as artworks , are always accompanied by an informational prosthesis. A knowledge ecology. An informational medium that they are suspended within.
Regimes of knowledge and organization - the archivist narrating the collection, structure the discourse of what is thinkable and sayable. Tools structure discourse, interfaces interfere in the knowledge they represent.
A reflexive archive, is an archive that exposes the logic of its own organization.
Every archive excludes, every archive organises. To make these decisions and processes visible is the key. The ideal would be to make the flows of power and desire visible. To facilitate transparency and accountability. To show where, and why there are exclusions.
Relational and dynamic databases –
Open archive protocols, and standards – is not just a technical decision, there are ideological and political implications.
Jorge feels there is recording, rather than (after Derrida) an Archive Fever. Every sneeze and cough had the potential to be recorded – look at youtube. The problem then, is how do you find that material and make it available to others – the problem is with interface and cataloguing. Organising Meta-data is the key. Enabling your knowledge to be accessed and re- assembled by others
Meta-data and the amateur.
The amateur is one who is not alienated from their knowledge. Jorge here links to philosopher Bernard Stiegler who provocatively used – at the Economy of Contribution symposium in Goldsmiths, the idea that financiers are the new proletariat because they are alienated from their knowledge, and therefore their own means of reproduction (after Marx). Mr Alan Greenspan, ex chairman of the US federal reserve, is a member of this new cognitive proletariat. In contrast, the enthusiast or amateur is embedded and enmeshed in their knowledge ecologies.
We collect, we produce and we hope to make sense of the process later, – meta data and the notarium – bi-lingual Stephen is recording, transcribing and making sense of the 'expert' process as we speak – the transcription will soon be on-line.
Archives are a potential, a store of future resources, a future capital, an asset to be leveraged. Hence the eruption of Research Centre’s, Documentation Centres and Ideas Stores. Intellectual property regimes are attempts to monetize knowledge in a new enclosure of the knowledge commons.
Affinities and intensities of knowledge.
Day 2: 11am-3pm
An institution is a knowledge ecology. A programme.
We set about mapping all the document/item/object, and the flows of document/item/object that comprise Intermediae. Each person working at Intermediae accounts for the document/item/object they produce, and with who and how they are exchanged.
A programme is an institution, and a map is a programme. On a huge sheet of paper we map the flows of knowledge – through tracing the flow of documents. We picture the programme that is the institution. We list, inventory, map affinities, index, and trace intensities. We codify, execute and run.
Contracts, agendas, dossiers, files, templates, invitations, flyers, publications, images and logos, budgets, invoices, receipts and catalogues, timelines, rights, expenses, lists, plans, reports, photographs, press releases, posters, emails, thousands of emails, letters, test documents, certificates, insurance, liabilities, bills, business cards, drafts, specifications, minutes, memos, etc
To identify document/item/object producers, to map the flows of document/item/object, and trace their intended destination is the best possible portrait of an institution.
Representations – press releases, Aims and Objectives and mission statements are second order representations. An archive of the documents is an indexical portrait, its a trace of a how an institution actually functions as opposed to how it imagines, initends, thinks or would like to function.
Th porus nature of institutions, documents flow through, aggregate and congeal. How and what to make public?
A cartography of data, mapping the links, people and connections: Actor Network Theory.
Return to Procesos de archivo/Archivalprocess or see the second working session with Daniel Andujar, the third with Miren Eraso, the fourth with archivist Sue Breakwell or the Relational Machine session.