Archive & Memory

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Archive & Memory

An archive is a collection of documents and records, such as letters, official papers, photographs, recorded material, or computer files that is preserved for historical purposes. As such, an archive is considered a site of the past, a place that contains traces of a collective memory of a nation, a people or a social group. Artists have always shown an interest in archives, either as inspiration for their own work, or to use and re-appropriate material. An archive has therefore become a site of reproduction. Although often not recognised as archives, commercial sites like YouTube and Facebook are examples of this: documents are posted and reposted all the time in these environments. Previously regarded as tedious repositories of the past, with the additional stereotype of archivists as spinsters who were picky, hardworking, standoffish, and, by most accounts, pitiable enforcers of orders and structures, today the image of archives is changing. They are becoming exciting places where one can adapt and appropriate through processes of cut-and-paste.

An archive was once a place to preserve the past, to build legacies as well as to remember and recognise the roots from which to grow. However, as Michel Foucault reminds us, memories and archives do not survive by chance but are constructed to serve structures of power. Thus, the shape of an archive constrains and enables the content it encloses, and the technical methods for building and supporting an archive produces the document for collection. After all, the word ‘archive’ is derived from the Greek arkhē, which means government or order, origin and first place. However, digital technologies have changed and altered the status and meaning of an archive. The creation of documents and their aggregation into all sorts of different – especially online – archives has become part of everyday life. Archives are now being collectively built. As Arjun Appadurai asserts in his text Archive and Aspiration, ‘we should begin to see all documentation as intervention, and all archiving as part of some sort of collective project. Rather than being the tomb of the trace, the archive, is more frequently the product of the anticipation of collective memory.’

It could be argued that whether the archive is composed of print, photographs, film and/or digital media, the technologies used to organise, search and share documents have taken over the purview of a state, with the crowd acting as the control mechanism. Digital archives have changed from a stable entity into flexible systems, referred to with the popular term ‘Living Archives’. But in which ways do these changes affect our relationship to the past, present and future? What are the implications for this mode of forgetting, for memories, as well as for what is suppressed? Will the erased, forgotten and neglected be redeemed, and new social memories be allowed? Will the fictional versus factual mode of archiving offer the democracy that the public domain implies, or is it another way for public instruments of power to operate?

These and other questions will be addressed and discussed from the perspective of both lens-based and networked media, by looking at different topics that relate to archive and memory, from database to narrative, time, and the glitch, and through the works of (among others) Johan Grimonprez, Chris Marker, Geoffrey Bowker, Lynn Hershmann, Paul Otlet, Suzanne Briet, Rosa Menkman, Graham Harwood, Thomson & Craighead, David Lowenthal, Etoy, Walter Benjamin. There will be additional visits to Beeld & Geluid (home of the National Broadcasting Archives and owner of unique audio-visual collections), Hilversum; Sonic Acts Festival, Amsterdam; and Netherlands Media Art Institute (an institute dedicated to video and media art), Amsterdam.

Thematic Seminar taught by Annet Dekker

Annet Dekker is independent curator and researcher. Subjects of interest are the influence of technology, science and popular culture on art and vice versa. Currently she works as webcurator for SKOR, as researcher on the project ”Born Digital art in Dutch art collections” for SBMK, VP, NIMk and DEN, as lecturer at Piet Zwart Institute for the thematic project “Archive & Memory” and new media theory at Rietveld Academy. In 2009 she initiated with Annette Wolfsberger. At the moment they organise the Artist in Residence programme at the Netherlands Media Art Institute in Amsterdam and they produced Funware, an international touring exhibition in 2010 and 2011 about fun in software (curated by Olga Goriunova). Since 2008 she is writing a PhD on strategies for documenting net art at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, under supervision of Matthew Fuller.


Unless otherwise specified, the Archive & Memory Seminar will take place on Tuesdays.

January 10: 10:00-18:00

General introduction. + Student presentation by each student of max. 10 min of your work and expectations you have of the Thematic Project.

January 17: Archives

10:00 - 12:00 Discussion of texts below

examples: Prezi [1]

13.00 - 17:00 Screenings by Simon Pummell


  • Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge. And the Discourse on Language. New York: Vintage Books (1972 - edition 2010)

Introduction (pp.3-17)

  • The historical a priori and the archive (pp.126-131)
  • Jacques Derrida (1995) Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression. pp. 9-21. [2]

additional reading:

  • Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge: Archaeology and the history of ideas (pp.135-140) and
  • The original and the regular (pp.141-148)
  • Contradictions (pp.149-156)
  • Arjun Appadurai, Archive and Aspiration. In Information is Alive, edited by Joke Brouwer and Arjen Mulder 14-25. Rotterdam: V2_Publishing/NAI Publishers, pp.14-25 (2003) [3]

January 24: Databases

10:00 - 13:00


  • Briet, Suzanne (1951, English translation 2006) What is Documentation? Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press Inc.
  • Lev Manovich (2007) Database as Symbolic Form. In: Database Aesthetics. Art in the Age of Information Overflow, edited by Victoria Vesna. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, pp.39-60.

examples and screening:

  • Francoise Levie, The man who wanted to classify the world.

14:00 - 17:00

guest: Dominic Gagnon + screening RIP (2009).

January 31

visit: Richard Wright 14:00 – 15:00

February 7


  • Matthew Fuller & Andrew Goffey (2012) Advisable Techniques for Super-Hubs: The Topological Machinery of Abstraction. In: Evil Media, by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey (The MIT Press: forthcoming)


  • Adrian MacKenzie, More Parts than Elements: How Databases Multiply (online 2 November 2011)
  • Andrew Goffey (2008) Algorithm. In: Software Studies. A Lexicon, edited by Matthew Fuller. Cambridge: The MIT Press, pp.15-20.
  • Wendy Chun (2011) Deamonic Interfaces, Empowering Obfuscations. In: Programmed Visions, Wendy Chun. Cambridge: The MIT Press, pp.59-95.

examples & screening (among others):

  • YoHa, Database Documentary

guest: Michael Murtaugh, on Active Archives

February 14: Assessments

every student needs to prepare a presentation of 10 minutes about the project that she/he is working on for the end presentation on 3 April.

February 21: memory, past present future:


and if you like there is also a videolecture by Chun on the same topic:


  • David Lowenthal (1998) ‘Fabricating Heritage’. History & Memory Volume 10, Number 1, pp. 5-24.
  • Jose van Dijck (2008). Mediated memories: a snapshot of remembered experience. In J. Kooijman, P. Pisters & W. Strauven (Eds.), Mind the screen: media concepts according to Thomas Elsaesser (pp. 71-81). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

examples & screenings (among others):'''

  • Quirine Racke & Helena Muskens, The Tower
  • Johan Grimonprez, DIAL History
  • Chris Marker, La Jetee + Sans Soleil

February 24: Time >> additional date, visit to Sonic Acts Festival in Amsterdam

February 28: Spring Break

March 6: Authenticity, Original, Versions


  • Liam Buckley (2008) Objects of Love and Decay: Colonial Photographs in a Postcolonial Archive. Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 20, Issue 2, pp. 249 – 270.
  • Olga Goriunova (2011) Organizational Aesthetics, Digital Folklore and Software. In: Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet. London: Routledge.




March 13: Documentation & Performativity


visit: NIMk, Amsterdam - with screening programme, tour, exhibition. - start 11:00

March 20: accessibility, transparency and distribution


  • Clay Shirky (2005) “Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags.” -

  • Wolfgang Ernst (2004) Beyond the Archive. Bit Mapping. -


  • Sabine Niederer, Wisdom of the Crowd or Technicity of Content? Wikipedia as a socio-technical system.

visit: Beeld & Geluid, Hilversum - 13:00 at entrance Beeld & Geluid

March 27: Glitch: loss & forgetting


  • Olga Goriunova & Alexei Shulgin (2008) Glitch. In: Software Studies, edited by Matthew Fuller, pp. 110-119.
  • Jean Baudrillard (2009) Why hasn't everything already disappeared?


Hito Steyerl, In Defence of the Poor Image,

guest: Rosa Menkman


References, Resources and Links

Bill Morrison, 'The Film of Her' 1996,

(ad) exhibition: a library as memory -

The dominance of digital media as the primary place for information exchange has fundamentally changed the place of the written word and books in our culture. Once the central place for both formalizing current discourse and preserving ideas books have become something more iconic often representing the need for some kind of collective memory that is more physically tangible then images on a computer screen. The artists in this exhibition all use the idea and image of a book in an idiosyncratic way which links shared cultural information with personal memory or interpretation challenging the singular voice of an author as well as examining the book as an iconic object versus a container for text.

Richard Artschwager, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Joseph Havel, Leslie Hewitt, Nelson Leirner, Christian Marclay, Theo Mercier, Marco Rountree, Allen Ruppersberg, Ian Wallace, Richard Wentworth

(ad) Tips for Transmediale programmes that are connected to the theme:

- Re-enactment Videospiegel, 31 Jan.

- the new, 1 Feb, 15:00: If net art is cashing in on the utopian promise of video art, what dream does net art have left for itself? Has it come full circle? Is now at its end? With Constant Dullaart (nl), Petra Cortright (us) and Igor Štromajer (si). Moderated by Robert Sakrowski (de).

- Videomakers Unite!, 2 Feb, 11:00: An open conversation about video art and net culture, media collectives and counter-publics. With Kathy Rae Huffman (us/de), Eckart Lottman (de) and Pit Schultz (de). Conceived and moderated by Florian Wüst (de).

- Transmediale Unarchived, 5 Feb, 11:00: With presentations by Dieter Daniels (de), Thomas Munz (de), Rudolf Frieling (de/us), Susanne Jaschko (de). Moderated by Baruch Gottlieb (ca/de).

- Search for a Method, 5 Feb., 14:30: Discussion with Inke Arns (de), Wolfgang Ernst (de), Jussi Parikka (fi/uk) and Siegfried Zielinski (de). Conceived and moderated by Timothy Druckrey (us).

Other Highlights:

Exhibition Dark Times, uneasy energies in technological times

Keynote by Graham Harman, Everything is not Connected

Keynote by Matthew Fuller, Knotty Problems in the Fables of Computing

For those outside of Berlin, most of the programme is also live streamed - check the website:

(ad) Additional reading for those interested in Paul Otlet, Suzanne Briet and their connection to the present see: Ronald E. Day, The Modern Invention of Information. Discourse, History, and Power. (Carbondale and Edwardville: Southern Illinois University Press).

I have a digital copy of the book (it can also be downloaded from scibd) so let me know if you like a copy.

(ad) audio lecture Against The Grain: Memory and the Radical Imagination.

Global capitalism, far from being only an economic phenomenon, affects and influences how we think, including what and how we think about the past. Max Haiven reveals how neoliberal-era initiatives frame human cooperation and collective action; he also emphasizes the importance of what he calls "commoning memory."

(ad) opening at TAG, the Hague Double or Nothing, with Eileen Maxson, Leidy Churchman and A.K. Burns February 18 – April 1, 2012 Opening Saturday February 18th from 7-10 PM

TAG is pleased to present “Double or Nothing”, featuring works made by Eileen Maxson, Leidy Churchman and A.K. Burns. The exhibition draws upon artistic methods of simultaneously inflating and puncturing the authority of persons, institutions or objects. With formal playfulness the artists undermine the way in which we are accustomed to dealing with media images and objects from consumer society.

Central to the exhibition is a series of prints commissioned by Eileen Maxson (b. 1980, USA) based on the archives of, a website dedicated to exposing Internet scammers - a form of Internet vigilantism that involves communicating under false pretense, in order to waste the scammer’s time, gather information that will be of use to authorities, or publicly humiliate the scammer. Maxson’s work considers the role and function of communication and the creation of identity through video, performance, print and installation.

Through conducting seemingly banal experiments in his videos, Leidy Churchman (b. 1979, USA) is drawing lines between painting, gesture, gender and subjectivity. The artist’s approach to medium-specific interventions registers his fascination with transformative processes and uncertainty.

A.K. Burns’s sculptural video installation is created by watching several YouTube videos focused around a particular fetish. The artist (b. 1975, USA) is redoing a set of gestures from memory; by appropriating esthetics and using similar framing or camera work from the ‘original’ videos banal activities such as the layering of pairs of gloves, the crushing of food underfoot or popping a balloon get translated into tangible expressions of a specific set of desires.

Double or Nothing in a betting situation is where the loser of a bet gets another chance at the bet. If the loser of the initial bet wins, he owes nothing. But if the loser of the initial bet loses again, then the winner gets double the original bet. The title, which has become ubiquitous in film, refers to the politicized roles and functions of the use of media and the creation of identities. Through their work, the artists present accounts of ambiguous interpersonal communication and transmissions of desire.

(ad) Van Slow tot Twitter: strategie en vernieuwing in de documentaire fotografie Mondriaan Fonds organiseert discussie / debat 8 maart 2012, 19:30 Pakhuis De Zwijger Diverse sprekers en columnisten geven hun visie op inhoudelijke en andere ontwikkelingen in de afgelopen jaren; op de veranderende werkwijze van documentair fotografen door onder meer economische invloeden en nieuwe technische mogelijkheden. Het programma wordt afgewisseld met visuele presentaties van bijzondere documentaire fotografie projecten. Meer informatie:

e-flux journal no. 32, with contributions by Adam Curtis / Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gean Moreno, Hito Steyerl, Slavoj Žižek, Alenka Zupančič.

Opening Saturday, February 11, 6–8pm:

Adam Curtis The Desperate Edge of Now Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist Exhibition design by Liam Gillick 11 February–14 April 2012

The films of Adam Curtis — a BBC journalist by vocation, but a filmmaker and information archeologist in practice — appear as conspiracy theories wrapped in historical facts wrapped in social desires. These films remind us that dominant historical narratives are not only subject to rewriting but also sites of intense confusion, ideology, and intrigue. By fusing together narrative and reportage, Curtis's films enter an ecstatic and playful sphere where themes of power, coercion, technology, morality, and freedom assume a life of their own. This issue of e-flux journal features a rare in-depth interview with Curtis by Hans Ulrich Obrist, coinciding with the filmmaker's first exhibition in his career, on view at e-flux in New York from February 11–April 14, 2012.

Also in the issue, Hito Steyerl concludes a three-part trilogy of texts with a close look at image spam as de facto portraiture. What do these images do to the humans they portray, and how do their floating signs form a negative image that effectively serves to repel their audience? Also, the second part of Gean Moreno's series on the spread of nonhuman and inorganic agents in neoliberal capitalism looks at Steven Shaviro's "accelerationist aesthetics" as an opening into forms of nonspace and a generic sublime encouraged by network topologies and global finance.

In this issue:

Hans Ulrich Obrist—In Conversation with Adam Curtis, Part I I think the way forward is somehow to make it emotional, to rediscover the idea of transcending yourself and joining together with other people. If a novelist is going to come along and write the grand novel of our time, I think the sensibility will have to deal with the interaction between the desire of the individual to feel and experience everything themselves, and how that desire can also transcend the immediacy of the individual to become something else, a kind of shared experience.

(ad) The Lived Logics of Database Machinery A one-day workshop organised by Computational Culture (

Date: Thursday 28th June Location: Central London

With many of the most significant changes in the organisation and distribution of knowledge, practices of ordering, forms of communication and modes of governance taking shape around it, the database has remained surprisingly recalcitrant to anything other than technical forms of analysis. Its ostensibly neutral status as a technology has allowed it to play a significant - yet largely overlooked - role in modelling of populations and configuring practices, from organisational labour through knowledge production to art.

The importance of the database for gathering and analysing information has been a theme of many studies (especially those relating to surveillance) but the specific agency of the database as an active mediator in its own right, as an actor in constructing, organising and modifying social relations is less well understood.

A one-day workshop, organised by Computational Culture seeks to rectify this state of affairs. We are looking for proposals for papers, interventions, poster presentations and critical accounts of practical projects that address the theme of the social, cultural and political logics of database technologies.

Proposals should aim to address the intersection of the technical qualities of databases and their management systems with social or cultural relations and the critical questions these raise. We are particularly interested in work that addresses the ways in which entity-relations models, or structures of data-atomisation, become active logics in the construction of the world. Historical contributions that tease out the connections between the database 'condition' and antecedent technical and theoretical objects (from indexes and archives to set theory), or which develop critical accounts of transparency are also particularly welcome.

The focus of the workshop on the lived social dynamics and political logics of database technologies is envisaged as a means of opening up paths of enquiry and addressing questions that typically get lost between the ‘social’ and the ‘technological’:

• How do the ordering of views, permissions structures, the normalisation of data, and other characteristic forms of databases contribute to the generation of forms subjectivity and of culture?

• What impact does the need to manage terabytes of data have on knowledge production, and how can the normative assumptions embedded in uses of data and database technologies be challenged or counter-effectuated?

• What conceptual frameworks do we need to get a hold on the operational logics of the database and the immanence of social categorization to relational algebras?

• Is there a workable politics available for exploring strategies of data management, the commonalities and differences of practices in different settings - from genome sequence archiving through supply chain management to medical records and cultural history?

Abstracts of around 500 words should be sent to by March 9th

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