Re(as)sisting Narratives: Exploring the past to write the future
The exhibition Re(as)sisting Narratives opened on Sunday 28 August at FramerFramed in Amsterdam (NL). The show is the result of a 2-year project involving both Dutch and South African institutions, art professionals and artists. Through the exploration of lingering legacies of colonialism between South Africa and the Netherlands, the show addresses multiple subjects such as race, gender, or memory. In her interview with IAM, curator Chandra Frank shares her views on the role of archiving and art archiving.
IAM: The first question is related to the ‘futurity of the archive’ – how do you, as a curator, see archiving moving forward? With rapid digitisation and the influx of databases, will these methods continue to be appropriate?
Chandra Frank (CF): I see the archive existing in multiple forms and shapes. Archives enter the exhibition space in various ways and I am interested in unpacking these processes. In my view, archives are constantly moving and shifting. Sometimes archives indeed move us forward, but when dealing with lingering colonial legacies, archives sometimes prevent a moving forward.
For instance, there is so much paper trail and documentation of coloniality within the Dutch context. Violent documentation as Saidiya Hartman suggests often needs to be read “against the grain”. We need to readdress these archives and question what these archives reveal about coloniality, race, gender and class. Through doing so, we are able to interrogate memory and its relationship with the making of history. Thinking through the ‘futurity of the archive’ is key because some of our histories are locked out of official narratives or simply not told. Which obviously does not mean they are not there; many communities have relied on oral histories, or keeping hidden archives under beds, ceilings and in trunks.
I am inspired by work done by black and brown queer artists and scholars that navigate the necessity of future archives. I think we need to critically question the rapid digitisation and influx of databases. For one, because these are also made, systems are created in certain ways that may include particular narratives while excluding others. Tagging or filing systems in this sense are also biased. Sometimes we lose narratives in what we try to preserve. In this sense, I think we need to re-conceptualise the notion of the archive and to broaden its meaning and purpose. Archives are also embodied. I believe we walk with archives daily and I see myself to be part of what Stuart Hall calls a ‘living archive of the diaspora’. I am interested where and when these narratives end up in the exhibition space. Trying to make sense of our histories is a continuous project. More traditional forms of archiving are constantly refigured and discussed differently, and I think conversations on this will continue to be held. At the moment I am inspired to think through archives of pleasure, intimacy and the relationship with art. This to me underlies much of the future queer and the making of black and brown archives.