As part of the Access and Reuse module, students were this year encouraged to visit any form of Moving Image presentation around Amsterdam and write a critical reflection on the curatorial practices of the institution as manifested in the presentation of the work. The final instalment in the series was written by Nicholas Carbone and Tulta Behm.
The (explicitly) Flemish Art Center De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam displays the fictional institute of IICADOM (The International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving and Distribution of Other people’s Memories) across a series of rooms for Jasper Rigole’s exhibition ’81 Things I Thought I Had Forgotten’. The exhibition serves as a form of access to the material collection of the fictional institution which can otherwise be viewed online through the Internet Archive. IICADOM’s collection is replicated in both an online, digital format as well as the material format of the exhibition space. Through the exhibition space the inquisitive viewer is better able to assess the way the fictional archive presents itself, and question not only the permanence of the archive, but also the way in which it classifies the memories within it.
Jasper Rigole’s work aims to offer a critique of the narrativizing efforts of archives, through fictionalizing an institution for collecting amateur films and home movies – a collection which, through his reuse of it as decontextualized, classified, and replicated raw material, satirizes institutional claims to constructing collective memory. Theorized around its ‘institution’, the work adheres to what Hal Foster has identified as ‘An Archival Impulse’ in historically-oriented contemporary art:
Finally, the work in question is archival since it not only draws on informal archives but produces them as well, and does so in a way that underscores the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet ﬁctive, public yet private. Further, it often arranges these materials according to a quasi-archival logic, a matrix of citation and juxtaposition, and presents them in a quasi-archival architecture, a complex of texts and objects.1
The thus-generic qualities in Rigole’s archival efforts may be said to reveal, in found footage researcher Eli Horwatt’s words, an aesthetic that is largely “instrumentalized rather than interrogated.”2
Found Footage and Collective Memory
Rigole’s exhibition opens De Brakke Grond’s year of “All Future Memories,” an ‘identity’ uniting arts and science events throughout 2016, and providing organizers with a thematic framework to unpack issues around memory’s place in society, its assigned value and its impact on our reading of the exhibited works. Wrapping up De Brakke Grond’s 2016, and conceptually bookending Rigole’s fictitious found footage archive at the heart of ’81 Things I Thought I Had Forgotten,’ will be an exhibition of Jan Rosseel’s explorations into the “sustainability of memory,”3 suggesting not only an impermanent future record, but a complementary necessity to reinvent a past. Echoing Rigole’s main themes of found footage and collective memory, Dana Heller’s essay ‘Found Footage: Feminism Lost in Time’ defines found footage as something that mobilizes documented images or voices in a struggle over our past, asking how, why and whether we remember histories. 4 Yet as the title and context of Rigole’s exhibition reinforces, the phrase “All Future Memories” elides the question, whose memories? In spite of the arch conceit of his fictional international archive, Rigole’s clutch of amateur films are culturally narrow, selected primarily from the flea markets of his Flemish environment.
Classification of Memories
Expanding the theme of collecting memory, Rigole’s work concerns the process of collecting and classification. The entire amateur film collection of the IICADOM is present in the first room with an explanation of its classification system titled An Elementary Taxonomy of Collected Memory (2008-2015). The work consists of a long table explaining the architectonics of IICADOM through its description of certain sections along with digital displays and shelves below housing the physical archive. Working along with the documentary Paradise Recollected (2008), Rigole tries to find a way to understand home movies through this ‘quasi-archival logic’. He employs a certain irony in all of his specific classifications of the work and the God-like documentary narration to satirize a didactic institutionalism. In contrast, the work seems to support a limited reading of home movies and belittles the differences inherent within their content.
In the categorized system of IICADOM, along with the films that Rigole made with such material, the work becomes something different from what was intended. Giovanna Fosssati, head curator at the EYE Filmmuseum, states that a film archive remains true to the work’s original intentions while found footage implies “a challenging (part of) its original meaning and creating a new one.”5 In Rigole’s imaginary archive and found footage films he seems to disregard the intentions of the original work, instead of challenging them, in order to benefit his confined conception of home movies. Despite trying to critique or satirize the collecting of home movies, he does not clearly convey any opposition between the didactic way he presents the collection and the film narration of Paradise Recollected. This works in juxtaposition to other satirical film essays like Luis Buñuel’s Land Without Bread (1933), which serves to parody documentary narration by making the viewer become aware of the constructed viewpoint that undermines its reality.
In Rigole’s ‘elementary taxonomy,’ aspects of reality and by extension collective memory are conspicuous by their absence: war; women outside of family orbits; racial, class or cultural diversity; narratives of difference or resistance; shame; sexuality; agency. The table, presenting a matrix of digitized amateur films divorced from context, constructs a technologically mediated memory with no roots in experience. By its thematic decontextualization and ahistorical distancing, Rigole’s presentation of IICADOM asks, who is in possession of our past experiences? In response we might ask, how should Rigole’s work be projected into the future? What answers does he provide for the ongoing value of his archive of reused images?
Materiality and Entropy
The answers are most eloquently to be found in the work that refuses the generality of IICADOM and its leveling replication of atemporal archetypes; the works that explore memory’s archival impermanence, and its potential for loss, bound up in materiality and entropy. De Brakke Grond’s presentation of ’81 Things…’ displays the material presence of the archive through its use of analogue projection and the literal presence of all the objects from the IICADOM. There are other parts that emphasize the material presence of the archive as well as its degradation which includes From Scratch (2008), a presentation of a looped projector with a knife that cuts away the 16mm film’s image throughout the duration of the show. The projected 16mm prints within the exhibition continually get more scratches throughout this time period, and one may even smell the decay of the over 1,000 collected films in An Elementary Taxonomy of Collected Memory. A piece entitled Nude Decay (2008) comprising a 16mm film loop blown-up from decayed parts within an erotic film, seems to blend the performer’s skin into the material of the celluloid. These works serve to showcase the more literal material presence of the archive as well as its materiality and decomposition, which is not tangible in the digitized version of the collection on the Internet Archive. On closer consideration, Rigole does not simply employ an ironic, machinic, arbitrarily fungible aesthetic, but strives to realize personal, human-legible works.
On the one hand, these materially individuated works reflect what Heller has identified as a tendency within found footage filmmaking “to experience history in sensuous, tangible, and intimate forms that emphasize individual identifications over the more collective textures of public history.”6 On the other, it is only in these works that explore notions of entropy and materiality that the artist formally displays the acts of his manipulation of public history, thus enabling a critique of the institutionalization of collective memory. Ultimately, IICADOM’s collection aims to subtly contrast with the FIAF ethics that Rick Prelinger often criticizes for taking “a rarefied and restrictive path” towards gatekeeping access.7 Rigole exhibits the physically degradable work of the IICADOM to bring the audience into contact with the frail materials of our collective memory. In so doing, he implicitly critiques the constraints around access that a traditional archive would face – or fear – for its material collection, by displaying its degradation and its entire collection without any regulation.
As befitting Foster’s definition “underscore[ing] the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private,”8 Rigole attempts to reframe the archival aesthetics that, in Foucault’s words, enable institutions “to reprogramme, to stifle what I’ve called the ‘popular memory’; and also to propose and impose, on people a framework in which to interpret the present.”9 By exhibiting both his individual, incomplete and flawed efforts towards archiving personal memory, and the drive towards entropy within his own practice of reuse, Rigole makes explicit what Derrida identified as the constant tension begetting the archival impulse, and extends entropy into the archive. In its realization, IICADOM more successfully draws attention to the impermanence of the archive than it achieves a fictional totality of “all future memories” within it.
1Foster, Hal. ‘An Archival Impulse.’ October 110 (Fall 2004), pp. 3–22. p. 5.
2Horwatt, Eli. ‘On The Clock and Christian Marclay’s Instrumental Logic of Appropriation.’ Framework 54:2 (Fall 2013), pp. 208–225. p. 209.
3‘All Future Memories.’ De Brakke Grond website, translated via Google <https://www.brakkegrond.nl/nieuws/all-future-memories> Accessed 20 January 2016
4Paraphrasing Heller, p. 85. Heller, Dana. ‘Found Footage: Feminism Lost in Time.’ Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 21:1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 85-98.
5Fossati, Giovanna. ‘Found Footage Filmmaking, Film Archiving and New Participatory Forms.’ Marente Bloemheuvel, Giovanna Fossati, Jaap Guldemond eds. Found Footage: Exposed. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press/EYE Film Institute Netherlands, 2012, pp. 178-179.
6Heller, ibid p. 88.
7Prelinger, Rick. ‘Archives and Access in the 21st Century.’ Cinema Journal 46:3 (Spring, 2007), pp. 114-118. p. 115. “Code of Ethics” Federacion Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF) (Brussels: FIAF, 1998), accessed January 22, 2016, http://www.fiafnet.org/pages/Community/Code-Of-Ethics.html.
8Foster, ibid. p. 5.
9Foucault, Michel. ‘Film and Popular Memory: An Interview with Michel Foucault.’ Radical Philosophy 11 (Summer 1975) pp. 24-29. p. 28.