- Archival Praxis
I have never looked to the norm to define myself. I want more than LOGO TV; I want a queer media practice that seeks to be more than a marketable “crossover” entertainment. With so many channels on—the only one that has any relevance to my life is the weather. I’ve always looked to the periphery; this is where the stories that interest me are, and have been. This is where our history is archived.
To replay an early Lumiere brothers film is to view a moment over a hundred years from its premiere. Yet the fact it is still available and relevant attests to a desire to reconvene the past and the power of an archival practice. This is what spurs me to keep an archive of video from the AIDS activist movement and to use it. My archive is both a testament to a movement that changed the world and a memento mori of lost comrades.
Queers have always been committed to the historical significance of personal experience. For those of us who have a long-term practice of documentary filmmaking, using our personal archives in our work gives it new relevance and meaning.
Why return to these moments in time?
While formats and equipment change, the footage we acquire remains locked in its original format unless we transfer it. Those of us who try to keep a personal archive are always jockeying toward the most stable form of archival acquisition. In a world where tape stock decays, formats become obsolete, and decks fall into disrepair, the promise of digital remastering would be reassuring if discs never became corrupted or inoperable over time. Now we can add “the cloud” as yet another means of storage that comes with gatekeepers and their new sets of demands, quirks, and vulnerabilities. Given the challenges of storing an archive, actually using the archive is what keeps it vibrant and often provides a catalyst to transfer and preserve the footage. It’s a way to recirculate the inventory and preserve history.
Recycle your archive of moving images. It’s not just fading memories you save, it’s the material of our stories. [End Page 570]
Jean Carlomusto’s films are unorthodox investigative reports on subjects that have been all but erased from history. In 1987 Carlomusto began making videos for Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Her GMHC coproductions have helped bring about positive change in the face of the epidemic, and include Doctors, Liars, and Women, AIDS Activists Say No to Cosmo, Seize Control of the FDA, and Safer Sex Shorts. Her current documentary, Sex in an Epidemic, is the outgrowth of over twenty years of making videos about the HIV/AIDS movement. She was a member of the Testing the Limits AIDS Video Collective and the ACT-UP/NY affinity group, DIVA TV.