PhD Project

”Filmmaker in the archival multiverse” by Marc Johnson

Researcher: Marc Johnson

Filmmaker in the archival multiverse: practices, politics and poetics of the archive(s). [What the future will know about its past, who will have a continuing voice and who will be silenced.] is a PhD project by Marc Johnson. Marc is a PhD candidate in Film and Media.

"We are not archaeologists, entomologists, anthropologists, as we are often defined. Rather we are witnesses. Some talk of our work in terms of nostalgia and memory, but that isn’t what interests us. We have used the archive for the present. It is a dialect between yesterday and today. Our films and installations deal with those stories which defined our present as it is. We don’t use the archive in itself, we use what is already made, to talk about today, about us, about the horrors that surround us. The job of the artist is to fight against the violence that envelops us from east and west. From the beginning, our work has been against violence to the environment, to animals, against the violence that man inflicts on man".

Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci-Lucchi, “YERVANT GIANIKIAN: EXPLAINING THE PRESENT | Festival de Cine de Sevilla,” Festiva de Sevilla, accessed February 14, 2021,

"The objective is to try to penetrate into the heart of the archival process that determines the formation of our documentary heritage."

Hans Booms, “Society and the Formation of a Documentary Heritage: Issues in the Appraisal of Archival Sources,” trans. Hermina Joldersma and Richard Klumpenhouwer, Archivaria, no. 24 (January 1987): 72.

keywords: animal studies, archival imagination, archival film practice, artistic research, contested narratives, counter-narratives archives, anthropocentrism, critical archival studies, critical theory, colonial archives, digital literacy, European heritage, expressions of marginalized identities, extractivism, film-makers in the archives, film studies, historical consciousness, historicity, historiography, human-animal relations, oral history, photographic records, practice-led research, record-keeping, reparation, restorative justice, returns, sampling, technological imagination, teleliteracy,  visual literacy, violence.

"Who gets to become an archivist, how archives get organized, and even what counts as an archive have a profound racial impact on what endures as valued historical research. Expansive, digital archives can still be locked behind paywalls or library turnstiles at elite universities. Brick and mortar archives stand in racially segregated parts of town. In the most concrete ways possible, racial politics determine how we locate the past."

N. D. B. Connolly, “A Black Power Method,” Culture, Public Books (blog), June 15, 2016,

"George Steiner, in a very different mood, has discussed the ancient power of myth and wondered whether the 'New Europe' could provide us with a new myth that will enable us to face our past and, therefore, our future (Steiner, 1994). The past that was on his mind was the Holocaust. But there are other European pasts that have also been repressed, in particular imperial pasts, which, to the mind of many in the present, are best remembered only through the mists of nostalgia. Many Europeans, concerned to forget that past, look to a future which focuses on Europe and discards the uncomfortable memories of colonialism. Perhaps before we can embark on the construction of new myths we need to do some 'memory work' on the legacy of Empire."

Catherine Hall, “Histories, Empires and the Post-Colonial Moment,” in The Postcolonial Question: Common Skies, Divided Horizons, ed. Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti (London: Routledge, 1996), 66.

“Archives of the State are not just repositories of historical sources for researchers to use in understanding the past; they can also be perceived as political manifestations of the dominant culture of society. Archives are not merely scholarly playgrounds for their staff and researchers; they can also be active agents of political accountability, social memory, and national identity. And what documents the archives chooses to keep or destroy (or lose as “missing”) are not simply the result of dispassionate historical research or bureaucratic processes, but rather of sensitive, sometimes controversial acts for which archives can be held accountable in courts of law and the court of public opinion. The cultural wars can be waged on the archival doorstep. And the reputation, and thus influence, of archives and archivists can be negatively affected unless they engage constructively in public debates about the nature of memory, history and the past."

Terry Cook, “‘A Monumental Blunder’: The Destruction of Records on Nazi War Criminals in Canada.,” in Archives and the Public Good: Accountability and Records in Modern Society, ed. Richard J Cox and David A. Wallace (Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002), 38–39.

"These efforts to subvert archival amnesty by creating a historical record and a counter-narrative speak to the agency Black Americans have found in responding to violence and racism vis-à-vis new and emerging digital technologies. There is, however, more work to be done to better understand the myriad phenomena of race, death, and digital media. For example, future work around race, death, and digital culture might specifically consider the ways that users subvert structural decisions around spectatorship and sponsorship on social media and in search engines like Google, bringing surveillance and sousveillance into the discussion."

Tonia Sutherland, “Archival Amnesty: In Search of Black American Transitional and Restorative Justice,” ed. Michelle Caswell, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand, Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, Critical Archival Studies, 1, no. 2 (2017): 19,

Start and end year for the research is January 2021-December 2025.