Cyber ~ Cyber Archive: Questions
An Archive of questions
How can ‘archives transformed by the use of digital technologies’ be studied within the framework of ‘Cybernetic relations’? What are the parameters of this study – its historic and technical vocabulary, socio-political roots and ethical considerations that shape these relations – and what are the implications of this practice? Why Philology? Does a good administrative memory serve as the foundation of all other societal memory making? making sense of what? Does artistic praxis consider the archive as a machine? As a vessel? As a precision instrument? As a source of ideas? As a vehicle for expression? How does such practice discipline the archive? Is one archive asked to compete with another? To support another? To partner another? What are the other active functions that archives do and can perform? Is it possible to formulate a singular theory of Archiving? Or has archiving already become some kind of a new ‘monster’? Aren’t there multiple theories about archives? Can theory operate at that kind of distance from either method or subject matter? Is it possible to encompass the depth of archival practice within a singular cohesive system of theorisation? What would the function of such a committed theorisation be? What would be the methods of arriving at such theory, or what forms of knowledge could we refer to in order to create a technological and political ground? Would it be a spectacularly heroic figure – from the ranks of Gods and Goddesses, demigods or their agents imbued with supernatural powers? Or some other form of divine intervention? Or can we hope at least now to imagine another kind of a hero(ine)? What are the characteristics of Clark Kent? But the question is, who will perform this scrutiny? Who still assumes this position of power? Or will we fight amongst ourselves, each struggle to be heard? What does this mean when we think about the processes for developing a system of understanding the Archive? What is this thing? What does it do? What can it do? Can going back to philosophy help us? Does it constitute as an act of creating a hybrid space, when one goes back to it after such a long period of time? Is it home still? Can the cybernetic relationship between system and agent be also understood as a cyberpunk process? What does this process entail? Will cyberspace promise privacy or access? Will it enable a free culture or a permission culture? Will it preserve a space for free speech? Was does it mean for us as cyborgs – us who are inextricably linked to the cyberspace through stratified layers of digitised embodiment and meatspace disembodiment? What is to be done? At which stage do we choose to exclude – the inevitable act of exclusion? At which stage do we define ‘We the People?’ Who really are ‘the people’? What operation of discursive power circumscribes ‘the people’ at any given moment, and for what purpose? What has really changed? How do acts and expressions of individuality curb our synchronisation with others? And Why? What does better mean? Who are we? What is the law? How can we propose an alternative? Is it even possible to simply leave dominant knowledge behind? What side are we on when [we] teach, educate and act? What side are we on when we learn and act? What is it that we learn, how do we learn it, and what do we communicate once it is learnt? What is the point of power if it is not used in the service of working against power? Do we dismiss the privilege of others in the face of our own perceived privilege? Do we become blind to the trappings; not only of power, but a binary barometer of fixed standards that measures privilege in accordance with, or through contestation against a learnt notion of what power does and ought to look like? So much so that we fail to see positions of privilege where we are used to seeing lack of power? Or is it mere tokenism, a convenient ploy to seek a balance, of presenting equalities, which are in fact unequal? What is it that we are questioning, when we are questioning privilege? Is it possible to enact this weak thinking when thinking of archives, or the act of archiving? How else can you hold the weight of the world, if you don’t refuse to be the victim? How to begin? Why wait so long? Why apply a terminology indicating a ‘Cyber’, not ‘Digital’ Archives? But is it truly an archive? Is it art? Does work premised on a dialogic, prosumer model, seeking real-world impact, need to assume representation or an object form in order to be recognized as art? Is there a possibility that in reframing terminology we may clarify the potential of Cyber Archives? But what part does existence of documents and documentation have within Cyber Archives? Why are they important? What would happen to ‘time as technology’, when we discover a new technology that is even better than time? If time is a sort of technology, then are we not transient beings, not just in time but also heading towards a time where we can dimensionally modulate time as we architect space? Perhaps the question to ask is why don’t we have access to our future as we do of our past? Is memory (past) more authentic than imagination (future)? How do we define these narratives as concepts in relation to time? What unit of time do we use - millennia, decades, years, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds, plank? Is our ‘present’ too transitory to even grasp? Is it not possible that we rely on imagination more than memory? What are we ‘pre’? Are we pre-cyber archives? What do these words mean? Is this terminology addressing a form of (techno) regression, nostalgia of pre-digital simplicity, a sentimental mythologising, or is it future shock? Or more insidiously, a longing for a certain kind of future that is in direct opposition to our current understanding of our own present. How will we shape our future? But by whom, and with what values? Do we have institutions capable of understanding and responding to these choices? Are we able to respond without undue or irrational passion? Will cyberspace promise privacy or access? Will it enable a free culture or a permission culture? Will it preserve a space for free speech? How can we mediate confidentiality? How are digital archives being utilised by marginalised groups? Can the Archives Speak? How do these processes, when mimicked by individual agents such as artists and non-institutions aiming to create counter archives, hold to a similar scrutiny of authenticity? How to understand crime and the conflict around us? Who defines evidence? Is an illusion more real than a fact? Can ‘poetry’ be used as ‘evidence’ in trial? How do we see, know, understand, and remember disappearances? How to look again? How can provisions be made, while at the same time allowing for diversity? What can Decoloniality and Queer Theory teach us in the contexts of the Archive? Do colonial archives still command the authority they once exerted over colonial subjects? And if they do not command any authority, what will replace the ruined colonial archives? Can we also call dematerialisation a mythologisation of material? Why do we call webpage a ‘page’? Or refer to websites as ‘site’? Why refer to a material lexicon when clearly the website is a para-site? Why expect cyberspace to operate within the parameters or our own senses and sensibilities? Should transaction economies, social norms and power structures, form within cyberspace in the same way as they do in meatspace? If we replicate the real world on the Internet, where do we leave the possibility for change? If Cyber Archives “seamlessly” embed the previously discrete acoustic, visual, linguistic, oral and literary spaces, can it represent a host/server/domain, where non-hierarchic transcultural zones can flourish? If what is to be “mediated” is in a state of flux, neither concrete, nor pre-existing and clearly summarisable, then how can mediation work in Archiving? How can archival practice be utilised as a tool for mediation? Can the mediators, in the face of a missing canon, tell what they want? What are they going to be and what are their tools for? Can the political-ity of these tools be equated? Will Cyber Archives watch out for us, or watch over us? Who polices the web police? What kind of a field would these hybrid gifts between social sciences and artistic practice constitute, and what kind of a language would this create? But between what and between whom? And that if culture is the formation of communication, then what are the linguistic components of our Hermeneutic aesthetics? What separates discourse from language? What allows one to assert at a given moment that language has become active as discourse? At what moment, and by virtue of what operation, what interplay between them, what conditions, do these concepts form discourse? What does ‘articulated’ mean? How is it possible to impose limitations on an activity that has none? How can the language of the cyber archive develop its own worldview? What are the compulsions that force us to ask these questions regarding the mapping of our lives and times? Why do we seek a model to explain ‘everything’? Where did the universe come from? How did it begin? When will it end? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Wouldn’t a ‘text on image’ be a meme only if it is popular? Does popularity equate with being right, or validity? What could be less substantial than a realm built out of waves of quantum probabilities? And what could be weirder? Are you a one or a zero? Are you a yes or a no? Are you going to act or not? Maybe the objective is describing something independent of perspective – devoid of subjectivity? In what sense can an objective description exist? What are the expected results, given the perspective from which the measurement is performed? What photons would enter my eyes if I were standing in a different location? How would I perceive this interaction if I had been born and raised in X circumstances? Will we continue forever finding better theories, but never one that cannot be improved upon? What happens when the cartographies of archives make the leap from the imagined to the (so far) unimaginable? Or if archival technologies that seem farfetched imaginations become commonplace reality? Will we think of memories differently, as another kind of technology, or another ‘re-membering’? What would the cyber archive of the future look like – when we shift from the archiving of memory through language to the archiving of ‘pure’ memory as language? Dumbledore’s Pensieve? Or perhaps some other kind of a critical commons? How do we map ourselves? How can archives and now cyber archives function as models of adequate scale so as to not under-represent the reality we wish to portray, but at the same time be manageable as interface? What are the possible parameters of such a mapping? What compromise could there be with the instrument of your repression? Does the artist-as-citizen still have a role to play in translating political projects into a vanguard aesthetic? What are the cyber archive’s role in moving a public from trauma to recovery, from normative thinking to norm-criticality, from oppression and injustice to resistance and struggle against hegemony? Will there be singing in the dark times? Is every body a witness? Is every body an archive? Do all bodies perform the archive equally? How do historical materialism, gender identities, and racial discriminations affect the body archive? How do gender, age, language, race, colour, sexual preference, nationality, religion, class, history, education, occupation, economic status, cultural conditioning, health, temperament, and political affiliation, individualise, alienate or bring together discourses of what it means to archive in the contexts of these subjects? Why is Code interesting? What do Cyber archives do? How do we utilise cyber archives to move from Chaos to Sense making? How is this maximum production of knowledge or ignorance archived? What consequences will this have for future exhibition projects and the discourse of Art ? What are archives and how to participate in the archive? What can an archive do? Why archive or what do we do with the archive? What is the scope of an archive? Where is the Archive situated? How do archives work? What can the archive contain? How to archive? What happens when an archive is outmoded? Why are archives important? what am I noticing about this archive and why: it’s spectacle? Logic? Intensity? Organisation? Simplicity or complexity?’ ‘What am I taking time to write down about this archive: the rhythm? The steps? The movement of data through its system? Its interface?’ ‘How is my conception of culture influencing what I look at?’ ‘Am I imagining culture as cohesive and bounded: as porous? Migratory? As dominated by outside forces? And what difference does that make? And, ‘how is my presence as an observer changing what I am observing? Is humanity on the path of a chronic entropic autoimmune disease?
Ali Akbar Mehta, Cyber Archive: Being and doing Knowledge, 2018