Unfolding The Unreliable Archives

April 2021, Rataplan, Antwerp, under the wings of Mestizo Arts Platform. As part of a joint residency with Enrica Camporesi: ‘Stanza: on proximity’. (more about this in a separate blogpost) In the Photos: Enrica Camporesi, Duraid Abbas, Charlotte Peys, Mulanga Nkolo, Bert Serneels & Gaea Schooters. Photos by Karolina Maruszak.

This is the first time The Unreliable Archives unfolds themselves in a large open space. It is exciting and daunting. There is a lot of material: paper, photos, newspaper articles, sound stories, conversations, sentences pulled out the conversations, microphones, blanket creatures, earth, decomposting blankets, earth, moss, fragments and fossils.

The materials form islands on the floor and try to find ways to catch the attention of people who enter the archives. In the second week, one or two people people enter the Archives and on the last day there is a small crowd. The materials try different tactics to catch their attention: smells, tactility, they themselves as numbers, giving themselves names,…most of these labels are gone by the end of the second week. The materials communicate in their own way, they invite touch and send out signals. They rearrange themselves when I go to bed at night.

Blankets are appearing and setting up shop in groups of three. They want to be knelt on, to be sat on. They create a place to consider the sentences that have appeared on long strips of paper. The sentences are rearranging themselves into different conversations. There are microphones that either make reading aloud possible or just a bit too scary. New sentences appear in different coloured felt tip pens. They want to join the conversation.

Then there are these stories, these individual stories of shame and pain and joy and sensuality. Stories of packing boxes and packing tape, of old soft blankets you still have from your childhood, of not allowing yourself to take roots and being torn between loving the sounds of your own language and being ashamed to speak it. Stories of blaming anyone but yourself for what goes wrong in your life. Stories layered geologically, carrying traces of histories, buried memories and sudden laughter. These are beautiful messy stories where people bang the table and laugh so hard the microphone jumps. Where someone cries or starts to sound drunk or says small minded things in a booming voice or have to shout above the music playing in the restaurant to make themselves heard. Stories where people are bitter or frustrated and people are fighting for change. Stories of being sent away, of being removed, of wanting to leave. Stories about the impact of colonialism, racism, apartheid, economic systems, corruption, migration that trouble all easy ideas of what putting down roots and home means and at the same time express the longing and sensuous joy of our need to do so. These stories are coalescing slowly, geologically. They are chrystalising like hot minerals bumping up against a impervious band of hard bedrock. These stories are stone stories.

One half of my brain is trying hard to control everything, make lists, have a plan and structure all the information logically into an accessible and logical archive. The other half is entirely unreliable, flitting from impulse to impulse, associatively weaving a tappestry of connections or falling asleep under a tree. I often follow my intuition and record what I enjoy hearing or what catches my attention. I gather loose pieces of information that seem meaningful at the time and keep them together in constantly changing systems and folders. I have been told I need to stop gathering, make choices, find form.

When I plug in my computer and hear my recordings on four great speakers in a large space I know i can trust my instincts. The sounds of the morning birds chorus in Mpumalanga and the sound of pots and pans in the kitchen in the morning in Bethal. Me recording my own footsteps in a Finnish forest and ending up with the zoom of mosquitos in every track. The voices of the children who stole my headphones and dragged me around the garden in Lapland making me point the microphone at everything saying ‘what about this? what does this sound like? These sounds are my base line. ‘ When I listen to a Finnish artist talking about how everything is alive and how it is possible to move around and still be rooted I can feel myself orientating in the complexity. I understand it is all connected. When all this comes together in one space I know, that this tapestry is weaving itself around me. These Unreliable Archives will find form and they will form me in the process.

This residency was about letting go of control and seeing what the material does with me and observing what it does with the people who enter the space.

Thanks to all the fabulous people @Rataplan and @Mestizoartsplatform and to the STANZA crew: Enrica Camporesi, Charlotte Peys and Duraid Abbas. I felt at home with you all for two weeks.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.