Olga Solombrino

Archives of the contemporary: technologies of violence and new ecologies of witnessing

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: critical archive thinking, technologies of violence, archival activism, archival surveillance, evidence and accountability.

The essay explores the transformations of the archive in the contemporary political context and in the light of the impact of technocultural evolutions, comparing and connecting the insights and analyses contained in three books – two collections, (W)archives. Archival imaginaries, war, and contemporary art (2020) edited by Daniela Agostinho, Solveig Gade, Nanna Bonde Thylstrup and Kristin Veel and The Arab archive. Mediated memories and digital flows (2020) edited by Donatella Della Ratta, Kay Dickinson and Sune Haugbolle, and the volume The people are not an image. Vernacular video after the Arab Spring (2020) by Peter Snowdon. The volumes delineate the metamorphoses of archives into technologies of enmity and violence, but also the possible forms of questioning them, interrupting, and subverting their authoritarian infrastructure, since despite their pervasivity there is no invulnerability to internal contradictions or external dissent. Starting with a discussion of their increasing connection with regimes of war and surveillance, for the ubiquitous presence of mechanisms of everyday archiving, intelligence gathering and extraction of information, the essay examines critical readings of the archive as institution that hides and obliterates. It then proceeds examining its consequent forms of concrete opposition. It thus explores the production of autonomous and vernacular archives as a way to reconfigure new ways of seeing and forms of recognition, redefining the consistency of the records as meaning of an embodied presence, leading to a different idea of archival citizenship.

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