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Expo - En mal d’archives / Memory Revisited

Opening Thursday June 21, 6pm

Participating Artists | Behjat Omer Abdullah, Heba Y. Amin, Anna Banout, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Fadi F Jabour, Randa Maddah, Mohammad Omran, Jayce Salloum

Curated and organized by Studio Khaled Barakeh, the exhibition is a cooperation between Dawlaty and Syria Cultural Index as part of the Syrian Oral History Archive (SOHA) initiative.

"We are all ‘en mal d’archive’: in need of archives […] We burn with a passion never to cease searching for the archive right where it slips away […] We have a compulsive, repetitive and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return of the most archaic place of absolute beginning. […] It belongs to the concept of the archive that it be public, precisely because it is located. You cannot keep archive inside yourself – this is not archive." _Jacques Derrida

The En mal d’archive – Memory Revisited project seeks to connect the undeniable force of organized structures of archives with creations that could aim in almost every direction, from the boldly researched to the completely surreal. Studio Khaled Barakeh in Berlin and Dawlaty Institute in Beirut launched an open call for Syrian artists, offering grants for the production of an archive-based artwork. The four selected artists were granted access to archived stories from Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and have produced original artworks to be presented for the first time at the exhibition En mal d’archive - Memory Visited. The exhibition also presents the works of four international artists engaged with similar topics in their practice. Parallel to the exhibition, a two-day workshop with special guests will focus on the topic of archival art.

Why does the theme of archives interest us so much today? They seem to surround us more prominently than ever before, in academic discourse, public debate and, increasingly, in popular culture. As significant devices of knowledge hidden in memory, they process, collect, preserve and pass on the essence of a certain time in human history. The memory itself, whether collective or personal, doesn’t only rely on storing, but also retrieving memorized data. Whether by the use of real or virtual memory, archives need our actions to remain valid – to reflect the past in the future, to create stories away from the passiveness of the physical form of an archive.

Sadly, archives are often popularly conceived as outdated sources of information, passively hiding data in a state of mysterious equilibrium. The appearance and social perception of archives can blur the initial point of their existence. This perception of storage spaces filled with alleys of boxes and drawers full of never-ending piles of documents takes away the human element from the archive itself.

So how can an archive become further integrated within current social debates and discourses of art and culture, without losing its initial context? How can an artwork give voice to those buried underneath archival files? Any use of archives is a unique journey, not only inside a certain story or message they convey, but also inside ourselves, as our response to archived data seems to say more about us than the archive itself. We should aim to rescue and preserve not just the body of information on stories bearing value and meaning, but the true meaning of these stories, lives and memories documented and the overlapping contexts formed within them.


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