Concepts of the Archive

Report by Yvette van Nierop and Martijn Stevens about the DEAF03 symposium.

In his introduction to the DEAF03 Symposium, moderator Manuel DeLanda gave an overview of the thematic threads between the various lectures. DeLanda described different forms of archives and how they relate to the expression of identity and functioning of memory. There are formal, institutional archives, like museums and bureaucratic records, and informal, non-institutional archives, like personal photo albums that equally create and preserve a sense of identity.

A more collective form of informal archive is the cultural archive of immigrants, which was the topic of Arjun Appadurais lecture. Appadurai would also speak about the way memory functions: what is forgotten, lost from the old country and what is entered from the new, creating a new cultural archive.

Similar to Appadurai, Sadie Plant didn't deal with an institutional form of archive: her lecture concerned the existence of fleeting text messages and the way mobile phones knit communities together.

Scott Lash, then, made a distinction between two kinds of archives: the classical archive and the contemporary archive. Whereas the first is more static, the latter is known for its web-weaving, in which involuntary memory plays an important role. This involuntary memory comes forth from the unconsciousness, where intuition and experiences dominate.

Experience was an important concept in Brian Massumi's lecture. Massumi is concerned with the archive of experience, the risks and opportunities offered by our environment. In the archive objects are not important, as is the case in museums, but relationships between the objects matter.

Environmental circumstances are very important for evolutionary processes. In his lecture, Simon Conway Morris looked at the deeper patterns of life, the underlying order that determines the evolution of certain species. There seems to be a convergence of contingency and topological forms - the world's own archive.

Finally there was the question of artistic interventions that are made possible by the existence of huge databases. One approach centers on the issue of the topics concerning the issue of visualization and the politics intrinsic to database content; different standards and traditions based on geography and nationality; data gathering and data notation. The multiplicity of standards for data collection and the consequential incompatibility of different data sets were discussed by Ingo Günther. Günther demystified the idea that just by analyzing the data we can obtain the truth.

MVRDV-architect Winy Maas tackled the question of data visualization in urban planning. A lot of information has to be dealt with: all kinds of legislation, the locus and its opportunities, sociological aspects... All these data define possible designs and transgressive solutions. Maas has designed software that creates visual spaces of architectural hypotheses that can be used in a wider dialogue. Artistic creativity and intuition are used to visualize the content of the archive and its consequences.

All in all, the seven presentations touched upon the different aspects of the concept of the archive and the way forms of memory and identity are associated with them.

More information about the DEAF03 Symposium can be found in Information is Alive, the publication that accompanies DEAF03. This book contextualizes the festival through a collection of essays by the symposium lecturers and other theorists, descriptions of selected DEAF03 projects and a selection of 'knitted data'.

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