Archives are often understood as accumulations of historical records, stored in physical form. As a process, then, archiving is observed as fixed and static. Yet, the archive can be so much more, particularly when it looks to students as producers of knowledge in the current geopolitical and neoliberal landscape––surrounded by structures that consistently (re)produce individualism. Thus, how do we enact archival practices that breathe life into our (interconnected) modes of existence and highlight the importance of communal(/student) knowledge production? How might we practice (curatorial) experimentation without reproducing violence when dealing with archival materials that are linked to remnants of colonialism and imperialism? Paulo Gerbaudo notes that it is (perhaps) only through a “choreography of assembly” (Gerbaudo, 2012: 40) through which we can hope to make the abstraction of the archive––tangible and meaningful.
The aim of this project is two-fold.
Firstly, I aim to research the colonial legacies of archival purposes and curatorial work in the context of post-colonial spaces. This will be explored through the context of my own community in Cyprus––tracing history through its orality, rather than through physical (a)historical accounts. I will engage in conversation(s) with my immediate community in order to inquire about their experiences post the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. How did the effects of imperialism affect their memories and their relationships, their communities? How do they relate to the ‘archive’ as a living embodiment of community? Achilles Mbembe notes that “for an incomplete archive to speak with the fullness of a voice, it has to be created, not out of nothing but out of the debris of information, on the very site of the ruins, the remains and traces left behind.” (Mbembe, 2019: 160-1). The question I hope to answer is: what is entailed in the process of developing a curatorial practice that does not perpetuate the violence of the past-present, but instead: paves the way for communal knowledge production regarding our shared futures? If we observe the archive as a “fissile material, [and that] at its source, it is made of cuts” (Mbembe, 2019: 172), how do we then approach the archive as a process of sensitively ‘filling in the void’––left by imperialism, colonialism, historical omission––if only to inform our present-future relationships (familial, communal, relational)?
Secondly, the project will coalesce into a physical manifestation of the research undertaken––a reimagined understanding of archival purposes. I intend to host an exhibition in collaboration with the Endrosia Collective (endrosiacollective.com) in Cyprus in order to share the importance of “writing yourself in.” (Butler, 2000). I intend to make use of my artwork, the interviews conducted with my community, poetry, political reflections and my grandmother’s manuscripts in order to depict the importance of archiving ourselves in a neoliberal world. As Tina M. Campt reminds us, archival materials such as photographs, art and manuscripts are “deeply affective objects that implicate and leave impressions upon us through multiple forms of contact”, including the visual, haptic, psychic and sonic. (Campt, 2017: 72) It is precisely through the act of (re/de)constructing the physical elements of my own ‘archive’(/artwork/interviews) in various forms that I will be able to animate critical reflections and (personal) response(s) to the (neo)colonial archive––one which quiets and pushes communities into the periphery, relegated to the oral confines of history.
Through an active process of dismantling the abstraction of the archive, we come one step closer to understanding the importance of oral and non-linear historical narratives; knowledge production through a collective process, and shared artistic practices.