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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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Interactions is based at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

Partial funding provided by the UCLA Graduate Students Association

[mis]representation, [dis]memory, & [re]figuring the archival lens

Special Section Articles

Speculative classification: Tracing a disputed portrait between the archives of Malvina Hoffman and Sergey Merkurov

This paper presents a case study that illustrates how porous the bond is between two different epistemological regimes: the emphasis that is placed on visuality in art historical collections, and the act of labeling by the archive. I will touch upon collections representing two sculptors, Malvina Hoffman (1885–1966) and Sergey Merkurov (1881–1952), who both passed through the studio of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). In this case the slippage is the assigning of an incorrect or at least misleading keyword or ‘tag’ of one portrait in Hoffman’s archives at the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute. Intended as part of The Races of Mankind project, in the archive the portrait is titled “Armenian Jew.” That initial title, as well as the current archival description and the lineage invoked through the title, have all been left open and in dispute. As such, the unresolved status of this portrait emerges as an anomaly in Hoffman’s archive that tests the limits of her logic of physiognomy and facial character. My research shows that due to this mistag, the portrait has a direct reference to a completely different work of Hoffman. This invites in turn another reading that sees a provocative physiognomic resemblance with Merkurov’s first death mask.

 

“Useful Information Turned into Something Useless”: Archival Silences, Imagined Records, and Suspicion of Mediated Information in the JFK Assassination Collection

The controversies, beliefs, and arguments surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 are classics in the canon of conspiracy theories. In October and November 2017, a large cache of documents was declassified and made available to the public through the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) website. A small community of researchers coalesced soon after on reddit.com. When these users encounter silences, they often react to them with a certain level of suspicion towards NARA, its archivists, or the originating institution. I call this suspicion of mediated information. It is entangled with, and comes about as a result of, the notoriety and contested nature of the JFK assassination and its aftermath, the strength of the impossible archival imaginary and the imagined records associated with the JFK Assassination collection, and the nature of the archival silences in the online JFK Assassination Collection. Archivists, particularly those working with collections of conspiratorial significance (the MK-ULTRA documents, collections having to do with UFOs, etc.), should be aware of these sorts of reasoning patterns and how they affect use of the collection and user attitudes towards the collecting institution. The first section of this paper introduces the JFK Assassination Collection, the second goes through the canon of scholarship on conspiracy theories, outlining the new notion of suspicion of mediated information. In section three, I present my theoretical framework—rooted in the notion of Michel-Rolphe Trouillot’s “archival silences,” and Anne Gilliland and Michelle Caswell’s imagined records and impossible archival imaginaries. Section four outlines method, and section five consists of data and discussion. This paper constitutes preliminary research into the area, and will be built upon in later research.

Representation, Affect, and the Archives: A Shrine to Lon Chaney

This paper reflects on the experience of creating a Lon Chaney shrine based on a fan’s detailed scrapbook. The shrine was my final assignment for a course that required students to make art based on archival materials. I explore how affect is an integral part of the archival research process while also making connections between affect, representation, and memory’s relationship to power in the archives.

Logical Horses: Or Several Historical, Aesthetic, Allegorical, and Mythical Vignettes

Logical Horses: Or Several Historical, Aesthetic, Allegorical, and Mythical Vignettes is a multi-tiered essay that weaves historical accounts in relation to storytelling, science fiction, and visual culture. The various methodologies detail instances of categorization within aesthetic discourse while also narrating absence––how exclusion/inclusion as polarities create conflicting histories. The essay jumps historical time periods––a problem I attempt to navigate by focusing on particular instances and cases that relate together the "cacophony" of history, time and aesthetics (using the concept of "cacophony" in line with Jodi Byrd’s argumentation in The Transit of Empire). The essay was edited by 6 participants and colleagues, in order to treat their art, writing and work as integral to the narratives established for the service of my writing. The essay begins with a vignette on the Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, establishing a thread regarding cultural and social othering as a broader social issue, continued later in the essay specific to artistic aesthetics. Other vignettes detail structures, such as Marxist thought, the history of Western ideas like the Great Chain of Being and institutions such as the College Art Association––analyzed as participants that promote certain artists over others as hierarchicalized authentic producers of art and culture, alternately falling into dangerous territories of exotification when including subjectivities previously excluded from the canon. Systems of connoisseurship and validation (Sally Price), deference and preference within how language is a tool for "doing it right" or "wrong" (Joanna Russ), and "Liquid Blackness" (a research collective and a term used by Black Studies scholars), are themes throughout the essay that address particular artists within and aside from the canon. Additionally interspersed throughout the essay is a speculative science fiction narrative, a story that unfolds under an alternative planetary setting, where resistances to dominant cultural paradigms are taking place. The aim of this essay is to, following Byrd’s idea of "cacophony," place instances next to each other so that the tensions of the narratives might trouble the stability of monolithic canonical histories, and seek hybridity as a methodology (though admittedly troubled as well)––what Byrd describes as "opening doors," on the complex issues relevant to how colonialism, cultural othering and aesthetics are interwoven.

Case Number 87-447: An Image Essay in 12 Parts

With these twelve images I propose Janna Flessa's personal archive in relation to her public record as a generative space for creating a more critical historical vision regarding the function of the judicial system and the cultural contexts of mental illness, gender and race in the United States.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Doling out Colonialism: Refiguring Archival Memory of Settler Colonialism in the Hawaiian Islands

In 1893, a group of primarily American insurgents overthrew the Kingdom of Hawai’i and Queen Liliuokalani with support from the United States navy. This marked a turning point in a long process of settler colonialism, after which Sanford B. Dole led the Republic of Hawai’i and advocated for annexation as an American territory. The Dole Family Papers archive at the Huntington Library contains numerous resources relating to the overthrow and the events leading up to and following it. The resources’ positionality within the framework of family archive and scholarly institution elides their potential for evidencing historic injustices and raising awareness of the issues Native Hawaiians have and continue to face. This essay will utilize frameworks for decolonizing archives and identify ways of re-figuring the Dole Family Papers in a way that would disrupt hegemonic understandings of Hawai’i and support a deeper understanding of settler colonialism’s impact on Native Hawaiians.

Cheryl Sim's Un jour, Un jour: Imagining potential futures in the fragmented archives of Expo67

This article looks at the historical and national fantasies produced by the reactivation of archival records during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Expo67 in Montreal, Canada. By asking whose “memories” were put on display during the month-long festivities, this text addresses the many ways power, national identity and memories intertwine in archival institutions and highlights the dynamics and logics of archival encounters. To complicate this claim, this article then shifts to a close reading of Cheryl Sim’s video project Un jour, un jour, produced for the anniversary by Montreal’s contemporary art museum, in order to demonstrate that using records that have affective and personal value can help us imagine better collective futures.

 

Spherical Memory: Shaping Immersive Narratives From Personal Media Collections

This spherical video project expands on visual themes and materials from the author’s dissertation project, In Camera: a Video Practice of Living, Learning and Connecting, that took the form of a feature length essay film composed specifically for exhibition in IMAX. That project mined and externalized a personal and professional video archive spanning 19-years and explored the relationship between mediation, body and memory. The architectural scale and nature of the giant screen IMAX experience lent itself to a visual composition marked by multichannel simultaneity and multi layered collage and nesting. The goal of this project is an experimental translation of that visual experience into the intimate yet expansive space of spherical, or VR, video. As immersive video authoring practices become more accessible, they present interesting opportunities for organizing, exploring, narrativizing and sharing personal media collections. The author aims to explore these new opportunities as they relate to mediated experiences of identity formation and the negotiation of personal and professional practices of knowledge creation. Immersive video experiences offer novel opportunities for personal reflection and processing. This piece includes audio recorded at UCLA in January 2018 as well as new material depicting experiences of a recent surgery, diagnosis and treatment.

Troubling Accounts of the Archives

This article unravels on archival mystery by tracing the creation and archivization of a series of photographs staged by Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn, an Indian immigrant, in Oklahoma in the 1950s. The collection has been digitized and made accessible in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), a community archive that is using records to spark conversations about racism, assimilation, and resistance. The article argues that community archives can activate troubling records from the past in order to forge relationships of care and mutual responsibility with their communities now.

Collecting Contested Identities: The ambiguity of national culture in the Israeli Digital National Collection

The Israeli National Library of Israel and Ministry of Heritage, recently commissioned a digitization project that would create a central digital repository of Israeli Culture. This sizeable contribution to cultural preservation Israel, raises the specter of past exclusions of marginalized communities. Yet an analysis of the project’s appraisal decisions and the descriptions made of its mission by both the Digital National Collection and the Ministry of Heritage, demonstrates that not all communities haunted by ghosts of a traumatic past are treated equally by the Digital National Collection. While some communities, such as non-European Jews were foregrounded to correct some of the past deficiencies, others such as Palestinians remain disenfranchised.

  • 1 supplemental file

"A LOUD response to Zero Tolerance"

The 45th administration’s Zero Tolerance policy at the southern U.S. border has resulted in the systemic criminalization of refugee asylum seekers.[1] The stories of horrific child abuse have been revealed by the tireless efforts of journalists, public leaders, whistleblowers, and activists. This paper takes a look at LOUD, a Latinx-lead grassroots activist group created by entertainment professionals in response to this state sponsored violence. It analyzes the ways in which the group has used social media and digital tools in the course of their activities, the records they are (co-) creating, and the archival needs that these have revealed. Finally, this paper thinks through the group’s needs for an optimal digital data collection and records management system and the ways in which archivists trained in human rights might be key allies in their efforts. My hope is that this article sheds light on the strategic collaboration between artists and archivists in the activist arena as events unfold.

[1] My refusal to name him in a consistent manner is a deliberate act of resistance.

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