Mehta & Ånäs: Keskuspuisto-arkistot Mehta & Ånäs: Keskuspuisto-arkistot

Mehta & Ånäs: Keskuspuisto-arkistot

Interview by M-Cult, for Maunulassa

The artists of the Central Park Archives project, Ali Akbar Mehta and Susanna Ånäs bring together the history, present, and future of Central Park together with the residents.

Read the Interview published in Finnish here

Ali and Susanna, tell us about your practice!

Susanna: I have been involved with open cultural heritage over the last decade, advocating releasing cultural heritage artefacts in the open platforms. My curiosity for networked histories, such as is the object of amateur historians’ work, drove me to join the the international community of Wikimedians and OpenGLAM activists in creating the sum of all knowledge. But I was to learn that the scope of those projects would not extend to the more personal and intertwined mesh of great secrets and great passions, of personal and collective histories.

I am motivated by how data can give form to narratives made up of archival materials it is attached to. My work in exploring semantically driven narrative in m-cult in the early 2000’s was a precedent for my current work with the Wikidocumentaries project. I went on to investigating using historical maps in associating pieces of history in the Wikimaps project. Moreover, the OpenGLAM / GLAM-Wiki work has set the stage for a variety of collaborations between memory organisations and volunteers, such as hackathons, contests, software projects and learning events.

After trial and error in my sociocultural explorations of the open knowledge systems, I am determined to hack the system to open the gates for networked, collective remembrance.

Ali: For the last 8 years, I have been calling myself a transmedia artist. Part of media theorist Henry Jenkins’ vocabulary, the term transmedia means ‘narrative that extends beyond multiple media forms that also plays to the strength of those forms.’ This could be defined as the driving force of my practice, where each project is defined by the parameters of its subject, its need and its relationship to an audience. I am interested in making archival systems rather than excavating existing archives to re-read them, and as such I am interested in system thinking, data infrastructures, and confronting architectures of control, whether technological or socio-political. A fundamental thread of my practice is linked to investigating forms of violence, conflict, and trauma that surround us daily, and the immersive archives I construct are aimed to counter them, by exploring collective identity and making visible that which has been marginalised and repressed through history. A recent project I completed was 256 Million Colours of Violence, a survey-based archival project that invites participants to co-create an archive of colours that represent ‘violence’. Through 50 questions, participants delve into the normalised, normative, the disproved-yet-in-practice, the banal, obscure, unheard of, and the unthinkable to reveal ‘direct, structural, and cultural’ violence present in everyday life and elicit ‘knowledge systems’ that reproduce and sustain the ecology of violence.

What is the project Central Park Archives about?

Ali & Susanna: The Central Park Archives is a project where we shall explore practices of collaborative archiving together with residents of Maunula. As a community, neighborhood, suburb, forest, park, site-of-redevelopment, site of disrepute, and/or space-in-flux, Maunula and the adjoining part of the Central Park have several overlapping histories, or micro-histories, each are more under-researched and under-represented than the next.

The participants of the project represent different communities and networks that live this space. Jointly we shall investigate means for storing, rediscovering and exchanging any information along the lifeline of the Central Park that the participants themselves have a connection with.

Our aim is to create the conditions where existing voices in Maunula may be defragmented, or brought together while maintaining the plurality of each voice. In this research of the digital online archiving methods of today, we will address the Commons as a metaphor (the meadow) and a practice (public safeguard). We will examine the axes of privacy/publicity and sustainability/vulnerability related to it. accessibility.

The Wikidocumentaries project attempts to provide a platform where the globally gathered open content of Wikimedia projects as well as any openly licensed materials, can be brought together with the personal recollections for exploration, reuse and enriching. This work will contribute to further development of the platform.

What kind of collaboration do you envision in the project?

Ali & Susanna: We invite local activists, residents, and communities to cooperate, such as On behalf of Central Park, Streamwater Management Association, Maunula Column Farmers, Maunula Society, Maunula Sanomat. Free-form co-production starts with discussions, walks, and data collection trips and continues with workshops where the joint material is compiled into a live online archive.

Together, we explore the ways provided by a familiar online environment to store and archive the memory we collect. Based on this, we outline new processes that would make the preservation of the materials more secure, better linked to the collections stored by others, and could be produced on the terms of both individuals and different communities.

Central Park Archives - workshops

organised as part of residency w/ M-Cult at Maunula House, Helsinki

The Central Park Archives project organised two workshops, on 19.08.2020 and 01.09.2020 to introduce open source, and open content tools and practices for collaborative online publishing. Why and how to contribute to Wikipedia, Wikidata, OpenStreetMap, and other open projects, and how to use Creative Commons licenses to grant permission to share?

Using topics and materials from Central Park Archives as case examples in the workshop, participants learned to create new Wikipedia articles on related places, organisations, and natural phenomena. Both sessions ended with a short ‘clinic’ for the Central Park Archives, where participants were able to book private sessions with project team members for sharing their own collection with the archive. Participants are asked to bring their materials with them, for example on a memory stick or hard drive.


Central Park Archives workshop 19.8. & 1.9. 16:00-19:00
Maunula House, Metsäpuro hall, Metsäpurontie 4, Helsinki

Wed 19.8. 16:00-19:00
*Introduction to wiki tools, archive thinking, and the Central Park Archives
*What are the commons and how can we contribute?
*Central Park Archives clinic: small group sessions

Tue 1.9. 16:00-19:00
*Introduction to open mapping: OpenStreetMap, web mapping exercise
*Map services on the Central Park
*Central Park Archives clinic: small group sessions

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Central Park Archives sound walk

launch of the prototype interface

The pilot phase of Central Park Archives culminated with a launch of the interface and a curated walk that demonstrated the workings of the website interface, in the Allotment gardens of Maunula’s Central Park.

Artists Susanna Ånäs and Ali Akbar Mehta, in collaboration with Arun Ganesh from Mapbox and technical support from Palash Mukhopadhyay, developed a locative map interface as part of their M-cult Residency in Maunula.

Visitors experienced the archive on-site, by walking in the forest. Through the walk, the audience/participants explored the hybridised physical+digital space through stories, interviews, and ambient soundscapes presented as audio files, as well as photographs and archive documents. Through the website’s “exploration mode” they found the mapped elements by following the increasing volume of the sounds as they grew nearer and other directions provided by the interface. With aerial photos from previous decades, the map interface also makes visible the geographical changes to the Park, the Maunula area, and its surroundings.

The first collections include Allotment Stories, Flying Squirrel Mating Games, General Plan 2050 Protests, and a selection of Maunulan Sanomat newspaper stories about the Central Park. The collections of sounds and photographs were edited by Kalle Kuisma, Iida Nissinen, and Minna Tarkka with contributions from Susanna Pitkänen and Antti Viren. Further material will continue to be processed and added to later editions of the interface.

Event details:

Central Park Archives sound walk
Thursday, September 24, 16:00-18:00

Continuous minibus transportation from Maunula House (Metsäpurontie 4) to walk venue and back. Herb tea, coffee, and lingonberry pie serving at the Maunula allotment gardens.

Annet Dekker, Susanna Ånäs, and Ali Akbar Mehta will discuss the project right after the walk in the Rehearsing Hospitalities online programme by Frame Contemporary Art Finland.

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Rehearsing Hospitalities Companion 2 Readings with Annet Dekker, and Susanna Ånäs and Ali Akbar Mehta

Rehearsing Hospitalities, Frame Contemporary Art Finland, Helsinki (online)

Welcome to Rehearsing Hospitalities Companion 2 Readings with Annet Dekker, and Central Park Archives artists Ali Akbar Mehta and Susanna Ånäs, hosted by the publication editors Yvonne Billimore and Jussi Koitela.

In this event, Annet Dekker is invited to present her contribution to Rehearsing Hospitalities Companion 2 “Archival absurdity, or a walk in the park”. Annet Dekker’s text takes us on a journey from her childhood garden with sweet berry bushes to her new allotment garden, and further onwards to think-with a speculative project based in Helsinki Central Park. Allotment Archives is a project which mirrors a real project (Central Park Archives) but remains a fictional thinking exercise. Annet’s fictitious project Allotment Archives invites us to consider different approaches for commons archiving from the artist-activist to the federative-archivist.

Following Annet’s reading, artists Susanna Ånäs and Ali Akbar Mehta from m-cult project Central Park Archives will share responses to Annet’s text in reflection with their own work. The final part of this event invites questions and responses from contributors and audiences.

A free-flowing conversation with Annet Decker, Susanna Ånäs, and myself on archival practices. Beginning with the reading of an excerpt from Annet’s text, we talk about artist-archivists, federated archives, the #fediverse model, networks of care, and the importance of generating archives as a method to voice and preserve marginalised knowledges.

This conversation came at the heels of an equally robust afternoon where we launched the prototype of our project Keskuspuistoarkistot / Central Park Archives: an online composite archive project seeking to preserve microhistories through generating co-archiving practices.

Together they represent the culmination of months of work, and for Susanna and I, the end of a fruitful and rich residency with M-cult.

Thank you Minna Tarkka, Iida Nissinen, and Kalle Kuisma from mcult to all their support and backing the project through months of hard work; Jussi Koitela and Yvonne Billimore and Frame Contemporary Art Finland for their support as partners to mcult through the #gatheringforrehearsinghospitalies2020 programme.

We could not have done this without the technical support from Arun Ganesh and Palash Mukhopadhyay.

And of course all the support through a growing community of #maunula partners: everyone who shared their stories and contributed years of work through their material documents.

About the speakers:

Annet Dekker is assistant professor Media Studies: Archival and Information Studies at the University of Amsterdam and visiting professor and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University. She has previously been Researcher, Digital Preservation at Tate, London and core tutor at Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, and Fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam. Alongside being an independent curator, she worked as web curator for SKOR (Foundation for Art and Public Domain) and curator/head of exhibitions, education and artists in residence at the Netherlands Media Art Institute.

Central Park Archives is a project exploring practices of collaborative archiving, together with communities and residents of Maunula, Helsinki. This long-term project is inaugurated in 2020 as a local/online residency with artists Susanna Ånäs and Ali Akbar Mehta, both whose artistic practices deal with conceptual extensions of the archive and the commons. The project is co-produced by Iida Nissinen and Minna Tarkka from digital culture and collaborative art agency m-cult.

How to access copies:

  • Rehearsing Hospitalities Companion 2 is available as an open access PDF and in hard copy. In addition, it will be released as ebook and audiobook versions later in the autumn. Download the publication PDF here.
  • Hard copies can be purchased from the Archive Books website.
  • In addition, Frame is distributing a limited number of hard copies for free from their office space in Helsinki. These can be collected on Thursday 24th September and Thursday 1st October from 10:00 - 15:00. Full information on how to access the building is available on their website.

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