Archival variants in the ‘age of experience’

by Sarah Kenderdine

Introduction to the Video Presentation

He who has once begun to open the fan of memory never comes to the end of its segments (Walter Benjamin 1932)

At the birth of the Information Age in the 1950s the prominent designer Gyorgy Kepes of MIT said “information abundance” should be a “landscapes of the senses” that organizes both perception and practice.  This “felt order” he said, “should be a source of beauty, data transformed from its measured quantities and recreated as sensed forms exhibiting properties of harmony, rhythm and proportion”. Media theorists however have described our new world-order as a “database logic,” whereby users transform the physical assets of cultural organisations into digital assets, to be uploaded, downloaded, visualized, shared, “users” who treat institutions not as storehouses of physical objects, but rather as datasets to be manipulated. Through a selection of ‘archival variants’, I hope to show how such mechanistic descriptions of database logic can be replaced by the ways in which computation can become experiential, spatial and materialized; embedded and embodied.

‘Archival variants’ will draw together diverse examples, Hong Kong martial arts traditions, the recombinatory poetics of a Singaporean scribe and the re-enactment of Chinese Confucian rituals which haven’t been performed for 100s of years, to explore the codification of intangible culture as a safeguarding practice that can support embodied knowledges and provide frameworks for a new repertoire in the public domain. The discussion will then broaden to include strategies for inhabiting cultural landscapes and issues surrounding the replication of objects and sites, central to post-digital, post-colonial and post-material discourses. Archival variants will explore interfaces for cultural data sculpting, investigating trans-narrative experiences of object databases and film archives. The presentation will draw to a conclusion by peering into the deep map, challenging cartesian frameworks, allowing us to reinvent the Atlas.

This is a video presentation consisting of seven parts:

Animated GIFs and still by Zac Dougarty

* Please note that the blank screen towards the end of Part 2 is not an error with the video playback.