Archive of Exile
Sculpture in memory of Kristallnacht (Karl Biedermann, Koppenplatz Park, Berlin) [Click to enlarge
The Archive of Exile project brings together two very different ideas, two seemingly conflicting figures, into a creative meeting. The archive is sedentary, attached to a particular place and time; a protected trove of knowledge. The exile, by contrast, is someone who has lost the place or nation they call home. Where the archive is safe, the exile is exposed. Where the archive is at rest, the exile is mobile. The Archive of Exile project is all about bringing the restlessness and creativity of the exile to the archive itself.
Archives, as institutions, are often tied to the idea of place. They lie at centre of national, regional, and civic life, housing the materials on which identities and histories at each of these levels are based. Whether we think of the British Museum, the county record office, or the filing cabinets in the city hall, the archive holds the key to the meaning of a place.
Exile is the experience of being 'out of place'. Exiles are people who leave their homes without the expectation of returning. Loss, disorientation, melancholy, and trauma: these are the states that we usually associate with this condition. But exile is also connected to a host of other possibilities - ethical, political, and theoretical. It forces one to live, see, and think differently. As Theodor Adorno, himself an exile, said, all morality depends on 'learning to carry one's home on one's back'. Does every exile bring with her an archive of her past?
At first glance, the archive and the exile appear to be in opposition - antithetical and contradictory. But what might happen to each of them if they were brought together? What might an 'archive of exile' look like? How can the estranged view of the exile transform the place of the archive? And is such a thing even possible?
In this project, three academics and three artists are collaborating to explore these questions in three ways. A cultural geographer and a video artist are focusing on ideas of space and spatiality; a historian of ideas and a composer are investigating the possibilities of the human voice; and a theatre scholar and a maker of performances are working on a series of acts and interventions. Collectively we are looking at the critical and creative possibilities of reimagining the archive as an exilic practice.