Archives of the Future
[Note: The conversations have been edited for clarity, length, and grammatical mistakes. They have also been edited thematically, however the dates of these utterances are noted above each section.]
14th May 2020
Alice: How do we archive this? How do we document what is going on right now? There haven’t been a lot of people who have lived through a pandemic. You could pull our conversations together into a blog series about what we need to do to get out of it, study it, and know what to do with the next one, and how do you get this data and the things that come up for the humanities through this auto-ethnography. So it makes sense that we date these online interactions, like date stamps. They are specific to a moment and they are raw and capture that rawness of what you were thinking, or what at that moment did you know? Or, did you feel the way that you did because you needed to? How what you thought or felt changed from week to week?
Varda: When the news claimed that the virus is going to be forever, it just took my breath away for a moment. This is not a headline one is used to. It was scary and my husband and I were having a discussion on how there has been an obsession with the virus in the media – it can come through the air conditioning, through the washroom, a toilet bowl, these are the headlines that we read. I just want to put it in perspective. When you say (Alice) that not many people have lived through a pandemic, I just think about what we have lived through – I was born in 1986, I have lived through curfews in my city, I have lived through dictatorships, I have lived through the hype of the Berlin Wall… that is the memory around that event with my parents and their communist, socialist circles and then Y2K, 9/11, the recession and now this, it has to end at some point.
Mikhel: I just wanted to add to what Alice said about archives of the future. I follow archival groups on Facebook, and am interested to see how they are creating collections about COVID. I am also in touch with archivist and curator friends working at large institutions. A friend at the National Gallery is—as we speak—doing a live Instagram interview of an artist. It is interesting to see people in institutions who have this pressure to produce new content now, different from what they are trained to do. This friend of mine resents it: she resents this push from the institution, the need to have new programming, to put the content online. I feel exhausted already by the mail-outs and the online activity institutions are producing: much of it being pretty crappy, especially for someone who is interested in art and the Internet. There are already so many solutions that these institutions are not paying attention to and this impulse to produce new content online is exhausting.
At the end of the day, I feel our perspective is marginal… there are people dying … there are much more pressing issues than what we are discussing. But I appreciate—and this is what Alice said—that there is actually some use in recording our responses: it’s about futurity and the fact that this is something that can be archived and can be retrieved later in meaningful ways.
Alice: I think that there is the cathartic aspect of it too. It’s not necessarily something that is intended for a time capsule, if anyone is interested in our micro conversations here. At the same time I think that for a micro-community like ours basically composed of researchers who have overlapping interests – a natural organic community – our distilled conversations became a document of this particular micro-community or network, the struggle for catharsis during this time because, as we say, when we talk about futurity either as (a) after our passing; or (b) when this may be under control, which may be five years or ten years is what the medical sector is saying, but right now, this is something we will have to deal with. Right now we are in the time of COVID and in the realization that, actually, we will be with COVID for the entirety of our lifetime. Its relation with other pandemics and the scale of them and how different they are, like Varda said, it’s so frustrating, even more so because we realize these are also always with us now. It’s the terms we set about how we are dealing with the virus, which is what is needed now, and I think part of it is to articulate it for ourselves. How do you potentialize what you want to do vis-a-vis what you need to do. Let’s talk on the level of desire as a way to potentialize yourself within this larger meta-narrative that’s going on now that didn’t exist six months ago. How will you go on as a community?
One of the other things is that it's bigger than us: what affects you affects me.
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The Graduate Teach-in Group, 2020