The Archive: from Memories of the Past to Predictions of the Future

Published on December 6th, 2015

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DISH 2015
The conference about digital strategies for heritage

Workshop: Monday 7 December 2015


This session explores some of the challenges and opportunities presented by digital archives. The main focus is on exploring the invisible layers of digital archives by treating them as systems, and by presenting several specifically commissioned artworks that confront notions of digital archiving. The aim of these artists, or archive-thinkers, is not to construct a new archive or to analyse an archive’s contents, but to see it as something that is in constant flux: something that is largely invisible and at the same time monumental, hidden and pervasive.

Such practice-led approaches to digital archiving are vital because the characteristics of the digital demand a reconsideration of the material value of (digital) documents, which not only refer to the past, but also, for example, through optimising and predicting algorithms, focus on the present and the future. In the process, the research addresses the impact of the ‘transparency mantra’ on the authoritarian position of museums and their archives.

The presentation and discussion, led by Annet Dekker (independent researcher, curator and writer), will move from the practical matters concerning digital archives into speculative thinking about born-digital archives. Questions that will be addressed are among others: What are the consequences on the content of the archive when physical collections are being digitised? To what extent does a digital archive function differently? Will the links between works and documents in the archive become clearer? And will insight into the past and present be advanced? In other words, can we learn (more) from the digital archive? How might we think about the content in archives when it is made by machines for other machines? How is the transformation of the archive into a computional, networked device changing how archives are curated, experienced and sustained? How can artists and archivists through practically engaging with the digital archive playfully interrogate, subvert or open up closed technical systems such as the archive to produce new knowledge concerning their social and cultural value?

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