Somewhere in the pile of stuff in my new apartment (just moved), I have a bright pink box, the word “archive” handwritten in blue on a piece of paper slid into the box’s plastic placeholder. The box’s contents are a mishmash of various stages of my life; notes passed in anthropology class, postcards from traveling friends, high school concert tickets, party invitations, photos of people I don’t know, love letters, and an assortment of scraps from past friendships. On occasion, I’m going to share on this blog some items I’ve saved in this archive box. I bet there are a lot of similar boxes out there, so I’ll also point out individuals doing more interesting things with their personal archives. Have you come across any ingenious uses of personal artifacts?
Keeping archives not only gives people a sense of personal satisfaction, but can also be a creative inspiration. When my friend Erik introduced me to artist Stephanie Diamond’s Listings Project, I was struck by how her personal and family archive of over 200,000 photographs crept into her artistic work. The photo archive launched a number of creative projects including her It Would Look Like series. In one, Diamond asks young mothers living in the non-profit Project Row Houses in Houston questions about the types of photos they’d like to display in their homes and selected photographs from her archive base on the mother’s answers. The mothers in turn were given photos which closely matched their requests, giving new life to the photographs and gifting visual art to new families.
In Captive Audience she challenged participants to ask themselves, “If I were to go to prison, and I could only bring one photograph with me, it would look like…” She got over 100 responses and spent weeks rummaging in the archive to find photos that matched. When Diamond started incorporating the archive into projects it helped her see the photos in a new light. Diamond’s work encourages me to stop letting my personal archive sit around my apartment for periodic peaking and start experimenting!
Any ideas? How can our archives be the medium for something greater?
For more about Stephanie Diamond read this stellar profile by Jessica Breiman http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/stephanie-diamonds-social-practice/
Photos are borrowed from Stephanie’s website.