Loving the Archive; Controlling the Archive

November 5, 2009

The archivist brings work to visibility by seeing it, knowing it in her way, and connecting it to other video and viewers that will frame and hold it: giving context, making friends, building arguments, forming associations. Unruly archives need curators. Their holdings nothing but inconsequential detritus until loved and re-purposed.

I have proposed a video archive love fest. I want to take the dead work of the L.A. Woman’s Building (recently archived at the Getty’s Research Institute) and re-purpose it on-line. Bring it back to life. Make it relevant. Make if visible and re-usable. Put it on YouTube.

A proposed (pending funding) continuation of my work with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Project, I hope to move old tapes on-line linking this inspiring (and too invisible) retro-video-vision to the hyper-mediated now. I am eager to re-purpose YouTube as a productive archive of video art that addresses some of the contradictions engendered by this unique process archive. Women’s Building video was made and saved by countless (often anonymous) women who were mutually developing and enjoying a uniquely feminist theory and practice of video fundamentally informed by a consciousness raising that was itself conversant with contemporary art and primarily engaged with video at its inception. Throughout feminist art education at the Building (video) process was valued, and itself documented as well as being document, and all of this was meant to be made public (often through video), and then saved for history (as video), even, counter-intuitively, as it was also, most critically, marking something entirely internal and ephemeral.

In videos from the Building, there is a consistent and self-aware project that evocatively links video across this archive to both feminist process and preservation. I would continue this past project, by selecting videos from the archive, with the artists’ permissions put them on-line, and produce prompts, frameworks, and tools for their contemporary use. In so doing, I would be attempting to making this archive newly usable for present-day digital (video) processes, thus unmooring it from its obscure, frozen, and misunderstood place as feminist history, and encouraging it to better engage with our feminist present (which was once its under-theorized future), in the meantime allowing past work to remain relevant, become active, and embark in dialogue with the present.

I will speak on this Saturday at the ASA Conference.

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