- Archive Everything: Mapping the Everyday by Gabriella Giannachi, and: Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving ed. by Toni Sant, and: Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom by Abigail De Kosnik
In his 1994 talk, later published as “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,” Jacques Derrida named the archive as a place of “commencement” and “commandment” where “[...] documents [...] are only kept and classified under the title of the archive by virtue of a privileged topology” ( 1998:1, 3). Forming the critical baseline for archive theory, this poststructuralist view of official archives, as formed by governance, upholds the power to dictate what constitutes history. As such, the archive discloses an ideological position dominated by Western, patriarchal, heteronormative, colonial values. In 2003, Diana Taylor responded with her companion theory of the “repertoire” wherein corporeal knowledge forms the oftentimes nonmaterial repository that must necessarily accompany our decolonial picture of a global past. In 2010, Taylor further asserted that digital technology is irrevocably intertwining embodiment with its electronic media in such complex ways that subjectivity at the site of its virtual interface becomes barely visible and even more difficult to track (see Taylor 2010). Although Derrida retreated from examining this realm of “science fiction” (16), as we approach the third decade of the 21st century, three scholars —Abigail De Kosnik, Gabriella Giannachi, and Toni Sant—have published two book-length studies and one edited anthology, respectively, that amply fulfill the call of both these foundational theorists. Building upon Jon Ippolito and Richard Rinehart’s theory of formal and informal memory as equally substantial realities in a mediated world (2014), these three volumes demonstrate the now explosive range of public as well as less official, but [End Page 187] nevertheless prescient, collections of records and objects, immersive artworks, web affiliates, and multimedia performances that preoccupy current archival scholarship (14–15).
In their address to performance theory, a third consideration runs through these rich publications recognizing the digital archive’s multitemporal and user-driven ontologies. As initiated by Peggy Phelan ( 2006) and countered by Philip Auslander ( 2005), the debate qualifying performance’s ephemerality versus its liveness haunts any study addressing the curation of culturally significant objects, much less what constitutes the care of live performance. While Ippolito and Rinehart take a pragmatic approach to the lifespan of works of media art, asking, “How many ways are there to die?” (2014:22), Phelan’s updated notion of “the photographic effect” concedes coexisting interior experiences across time and space in the encounter with camera images (2010:51). In establishing that photographs and other performance documents mark their own presence alongside a live event, she positions “two nows”— the moment of making and the moment of seeing—as simultaneous occurrences (51). For performance studies, this suite of books further details the archive’s mixed site of temporality, its capture of more than singular pasts, and how planning for death insures the future life of performance.
Through their embrace of the digital archive’s mediated universes, its oftentimes self-aware knowledge production, and the possibility of alternate truths, these authors specify their stake in archive theory through a dense array of examples. Ranging from Sosolimited’s live televisual remix of the 2004, 2008, and 2012 US presidential debates to Boris Charmatz’s 10-hour performance of a museum collection in If Tate Modern was Musée de la Danse (2015) in Giannachi’s account; to the near countless internet-based fan archives dedicated to Star Trek, Harry Potter, or a queer feminist multifan base such as the Archive of Our Own (AO3) explored by De Kosnik, these works constitute a sampling of the layered realities and archivally embedded practices at work in...