The »Anarchive« register of images is part of the FUZZY SPACE platform, linking discourse on contemporary imagery with archival theory and political practice.
Different worlds collide in the »Anarchive« register of images: while on the one hand a sense of artistic/anarchistic commitment begins to take shape, on the other hand the conscience of the archivist calls for the existing (archival) order and conditions to be upheld. And while the anarchistic idea wants to restrict the organisational structures to the smallest possible unit and thereby achieve maximum flexibility, archival structures demand far-reaching and superordinate principles of organisation that dictate every action and need to be taken systematically into account at every turn.
The liquescent nature of the archive
Using the format of »anarchival practice«, the archivist ventures out of the safe haven of the archive room to analyse the social dimension of archival practice in image and text. The findings generated by this process are then fed back into the archivist’s own archival structures and systems, whereby anarchival processes will inevitably collide with conventional archival principles. The themes of contemporary social discourse force their way through the complex security measures that protect the archives: the archive as an entity grows unstable, organisational structures become distorted, dimensions of time rotate on their own axis, archive rooms abruptly shrink or expand.
The blind spot of archival practice
In recent years, visual perception has become a key factor in archival practice. The »Anarchive« register therefore examines social, cultural and communication theories, analysing their applicability in relation to contemporary archival discourse on imagery. A »private« set of images is used to explore the structures and mechanisms behind private depictions and installations, as well as the implications of documentary practice for social phenomena. In this area of conflicting priorities between private and published/public images, the protagonist is active in both historical and contemporary discourse on imagery: the development process behind an image is not based primarily on an admixture of chemicals (analogue photography) or on digital computing power (digital photography) but takes place in the ontological gap between the depiction of something that has taken place in the past and its constant updating in the present. In this process, past and present combine instantaneously to create an unstable illusion of order with a minimal half-life. And it is this elusive interval that, time and time again, provokes new perspectives on subjects, objects, metaphors, life stories, societies and groups and the conflicts between them. The image in the »Leap through space and time« exposes an intrinsic motion blur that is an inherent feature (constitutive element) of producing an image. Little wonder, then, that this »unsharp« or »fuzzy« process lies at the very heart of the anarchival practice of FUZZY SPACE.
The Hegelian archive
Against this shifting background, the question arises as to what extent insight into the »private sphere« of the archivist may reveal hitherto unsuspected perspectives on anarchival practice. What conclusions can be drawn in terms of archival practice by looking over the shoulder of the an/archivist? What does he show, what does he conceal, either consciously or unconsciously? At what point do the political views of the protagonist become visible, how and where are they contradictory and what remains demonstratively(!) hidden? The focus here is on individual strategies for the acquisition of knowledge, under the influence of cultural representational relationships and the social balance of power. It becomes clear, for instance, that in their quest for objectivity, the protagonists – and particularly so in the context of the archive – must also become (self-)critically emancipated in order to be able to expand constantly the scope of their own political awareness and actions. The effort undertaken in this struggle for interpretational jurisdiction and authority to act makes it possible to call into critical question the private, social and political circumstances that oblige the archivist to live out a norm that is supposedly an intrinsic part of his being. For there is a key difference as to whether the archivist allows himself to be »monopolised« by his archive or whether he uses his archive and its contents to reflect critically on the processes and mechanisms behind this monopolisation: »In the master, the bondsman feels self-existence to be something external, an objective fact; in fear self-existence is present within himself; in fashioning the thing, self-existence comes to be felt explicitly as his own proper being, and he attains the consciousness that he himself exists in its own right and on its own account (an und für sich).«1
Shadow play in the archive
Archives manifest themselves through their internal and external forms and structures. Questions and decisions relating to form are, however, always at the same time also political statements. The format of anarchival practice therefore also serves to help develop an appropriate aesthetic vocabulary of form that allows the negotiation of political content in the context of the archive. In the search for reciprocal effects in the relationship between archival forms and structures, and anarchival practice, it becomes clear that an activist attitude by no means precludes investigative artistic analysis; indeed, the contrary is true – a committed approach to access sharpens the focus on the object of the study. In specific circumstances the spotlight falls on societal prerequisites and their implications for the archive. Through all this the archivist acts as a participating observer – while at the same time being the subject of observation – pursuing his own shadow into the wide field of anarchival theory and practice.
1 Hegel: Independent and Dependent Self-Consciousness; Lordship and Bondage. In: The Phenomenology of Mind. 1807, trans. J.B. Baillie.