PhD Project

"(Re-)works: re-cycling, re-circulating, re-staging, re-ing the archive(s)." by Marc Johnson

Researcher: Marc Johnson

In a nutshell, my research practice is concerned with ways of working with the archive(s). That which is there comes here. What do re—cycling, re—circulating, and re—ing archive(s) afford? What can cultural workers learn from re—searching and re—staging archive(s)?

(Re-)works: re-cycling, re-circulating, re-staging, re-ing the archive(s).

In a nutshell,  Marc Johnson’s research practice is concerned with ways of working with the archive(s).[1] That which is there comes here.

How is the re-calling from there to here made?

What does re-cycling, re-circulating and re-ing archive(s) afford?

What can cultural workers learn from re-searching and re-staging archive(s)?

To answer these questions, Marc Johnson have designed a series of (re-)work experiments in a studio environment.

Marc Johnson has deployed research methods such as (1) performing extensive research on records in national collections, (2) carrying out interviews, (3) writing work stories[2], and (4) reprinting, rephotographing, refilming, re-editing and re-ing archival images from state archives, digital libraries and other cultural artifacts in digital forms, publicly accessible Git[3] repositories, and training datasets used for machine learning tasks such as deep-learning predictions.

The outcomes of these experiments are Marc Johnson’s own archive, books, born-digital artifacts, films and videos, maps, forms of re-enactments/re-staging, photographs, tapestries and texts.

Through interpreting the results of the experiments, Marc Johnson has found that the archival re-staging practice vehicle, bear, carry and hold:

(1) a creation of a social space in which viewers become aware of each other’s presence to consider what it means to think through a subject as a temporary community in the exhibition space and through time;

(2) an emphasis on the present tense importance of the history with which the (re-)work is concerned;

(3) a mechanism to make the viewers aware of their agency and responsibility in deciding what to make of the story or subject of the (re-)work, and how they contribute to a new mode of historical representation through their reading of the (re-)work;

(4) an education to inform viewers of their potential affiliations with the material exposed.

(5) a calling at the viewers to revive or pursue forms of activism in the civil society.

Where does the archive fever[4] comes from?


[1] Embodied, intangible and material knowledges.

[2] Magnus Bärtås, “You Told Me – Work Stories and Video Essays / Verkberättelser Och Videoessäer” (2010).

[3] Git is an open-source distributed version control system; that is a practice of tracking and managing changes to software code.

[4] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Pr., 1995) ; Terry Cook, “What Is Past Is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” Archivaria, no. 43 (February 1997): 17–63; Carolyn Hamilton et al., eds., Refiguring the Archive (Dordrecht, Boston, Londo: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002); Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, A John Hope Franklin Center Book (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Okwui Enwezor, ed., Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, 1st ed (New York, N.Y. : International Center of Photography ;, 2008); Tonia Sutherland, “Restaging the Record: The Role of Contemporary Archives in Safeguarding and Preserving Performance as Intangible Cultural Heritage” (Thesis dissertation, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 2014), http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/23889; Michelle Caswell, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand, “Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction,” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 2 (June 27, 2017), https://doi.org/10.24242/jclis.v1i2.50;
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[1] Embodied, intangible and material knowledges.

[1] Magnus Bärtås, “You Told Me – Work Stories and Video Essays / Verkberättelser Och Videoessäer” (2010).

[1] Git is an open-source distributed version control system; that is a practice of tracking and managing changes to software code.

[1] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Pr., 1995) ; Terry Cook, “What Is Past Is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” Archivaria, no. 43 (February 1997): 17–63; Carolyn Hamilton et al., eds., Refiguring the Archive (Dordrecht, Boston.
_____

I have been affected by archive fever since 2006.

First, I re-used a fragment of film depicting a Senegalese tirailleur in the first world war. The young solder looked like my father and that was enough of a reason for me to borrow it from the military archivist and reproduce it in front of my class in art school in France.

A phenomenologist obsessed with Aufhebung boomerang and the relations between painting and cinema had the idea to introduce the class to Mirror (1975) by Andrei Tarkovski. In it, the cinematographer uses documentary archival images in relation to fiction which is an artistic operation I had never seen.

This event triggered my interest and curiosity to know more. I was at the time completely ignorant of the history of cinema. I had seen no moving images outside Hollywood blockbusters and Tv-series from the USA. I was not particularly underprivileged. I had simply no access to such films in my home.

Therefore, the class had much impact on my upbringing as a filmmaker.

A community of archival practitioners  

I am not alone in this labour. Many before me have re-examined various historiographies—outside the context of academic history—with various levels of societal change if any.

Nonetheless, the potency and agency of embodied, intangible and material records seem unfathomable.

Looking at the works of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci-Lucchi made me reconsider my personal engagement with the past.

What is the past? Who makes it? Who controls it? How is it made?
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Londo: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002); Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, A John Hope Franklin Center Book (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Okwui Enwezor, ed., Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, 1st ed (New York, N.Y. : International Center of Photography ;, 2008); Tonia Sutherland, “Restaging the Record: The Role of Contemporary Archives in Safeguarding and Preserving Performance as Intangible Cultural Heritage” (Thesis dissertation, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 2014), http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/23889; Michelle Caswell, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand, “Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction,” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1, no. 2 (June 27, 2017), https://doi.org/10.24242/jclis.v1i2.50;
_____

"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, http://festivalcinesevilla.eu/en/news/yervant-gianikian-explaining-present.

"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, https://www.publicbooks.org/a-black-power-method/.

"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, https://doi.org/10.24242/jclis.v1i2.42

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

Read more about Marc Johnsons PhD project in this Pdf document