(W)archives

Event Start Date:
August 21, 2017
Event End Date:
August 22, 2017
Event Venue:
University of Copenhagen

21 August – 22 August 2017

Organizers: Daniela Agostinho, Solveig Gade, Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, Ekaterina Kalinina and Kristin Veel

Prompted by factors such as globalization, digitization and mediatization the role and impact of archives are currently undergoing decisive changes. The changing role of the archive as political technology has impacted the understanding and conduct of contemporary warfare. Whereas military and states used to control the production of information about – and thus also mainstream news’ media coverage of – warfare, different actors now leak, mass-produce, -circulate, and -mobilize information across various media platforms.

While this change arguably reflects dynamic hierarchies within militaries and mediascapes, it also testifies to the fact that the archive has become a central, contested and uncertain technology of warfare. We wish to address this changing archival role. In particular we are interested in inquiring into archives as integral, opaque, leaky and uncertain infrastructures in contemporary warfare, the multiple rationalities, spatialities and temporalities that organize them and render them operative, the signs and signals they emit, the interpretational logics that process them, the aesthetic genres they give rise to and the risks and uncertainties they pose. 

We suggest that the multiple flows of diverse digital streams of information comprising texts, images, sounds and bodies could be considered parts of a global (W)archive to which a potentially infinite number of actors may contribute information and draw from. This new (W)archive gives rise to new questions: how can we conceive of – and make use of – the notions of uncertainty, black box, transparency and opacity in relation to contents and infrastructures in war archives?  How does the ever-increasing contestation of the evidence and truth-value of the image affect the practice of bearing witness to war? How can we consider leaking and containing as forms of mediation? What new forms of cultural memories do we see emerging from distributed war archives? What kind of counter-archives do they produce? What are the temporalities of contemporary warfare? Has the seemingly open-access quality of war archives led to democratization of the control mechanisms of archival inclusions and exclusions? Or has the traditional distribution of archival power merely taken on new, ever more opaque forms in today’s connective media culture?

Uncertain Archives | Adapting Cultural Theories of the Archive to Understand the Risks and Potentials of Big Data

Confirmed speakers:

• Ariella Azoulay (Brown University)

• Carles Guerra (Tapiès Foundation, Barcelona)

• Mariam Ghani (Cooper Union School of Art)

• Rebecca Schneider (Brown University)

•  Susan Schuppli (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Lecture-performance by Rabih Mroué & Hito Steyerl: “Probable title: zero probability”