(rec)

radical education collective

Absent Archive

“There is probably an archive here,” I said. This is a hospital in Bombay,” the doctor answered, “forget your European categories, they are a presumptuous luxury.”

This short passage from Antonio Tabucchi’s Indian Nocturne shows how western/ Eurocentric categories, systems of thought, and methods of accumulating knowledge can mean very little and remain alien in other cultural spheres. It also symbolically describes the way we are conditioned and institutionalized by the established order of things. Unless we go beyond these categories, as the doctor in the passage suggests, we are bound by the network of rules establishing what is meaningful, who has the authority to decide, and who the privilege to speak.

A lot has been written about the meaning of the archive, about the construction and interpretation of the archive, about its representation. When we think archive we think, for example, of Foucault, Derrida and Borghes and their notions and writings on that matter especially on the politics of the archive: who and what constitutes the archive and who has the right to access it. We have become aware that history can be considered as an archeology, that documents can become artifacts, and that certain categories must be always questioned and even ridiculed in order to avoid the power of institutionalized rationality to take full force over imagination.

But at the end, the archive is, regardless of our attempts to prevent it, always the articulable and the visible. It becomes a representation, a kind of constitutive device, or according to Foucault: a general system of both the formation and transformation of statements. Following this logic we can never be outside the archive.

But what happens when the archive is absent? When it is either not existent or has been destroyed? Or perhaps, where there is no such need as to preserve objects, memories, data, movements and even speech? Do we cease to exist then? Do we create new taxonomies, new meanings that justify our existence? What would the world look like without thoughts and objects being captured by an already named discourse? Without repetition, without what already is?

ABSENT ARCHIVE is a poetical investigation into the meaning of archive, its absence and the possibility for a different ‘imaginative work’.

” Fortis imaginatio generat casum”

***

ABSENT FAMILY (B. Piškur)

Canadian Pacific - S.S. "Montcalm"

from the Ellis Island Archives, New York:

1. Paternal great uncle: Janez Poljanc

from: Gabrosica, Austria, ethnicity: Slovenian

arrived to the USA in 1908, age on arrival: 14, ship: The “La Provence” Le Havre – New York line

all traces about his whereabouts have been lost in the 1920s

in one of his last letters to his mother, he writes (in English, not in Slovene): “America now is in my blood I am an American with my heart and soul.”

2. Paternal great grandfather: Johan Poljanc, changed his name to John Polance, resident of Putnam, Illinois

arrived to the USA in 1903, age on arrival: 44, ship: The “La Gascogne” Le Havre – New York line

race: Slovak (!), laborer, possession of $ upon arrival: 20

probably deceased in the 1930s, place unknown

3. Paternal great uncle: Franc Poljanc

spent over 5 years in Canada (traveled on the S.S. “Montcalm” from Rotterdam, on the Holland – Amerika Linie) in the 1920s and 1930s, in various locations, mostly British Columbia: Telegraph Point, Dorreen, Sangudo, Prince Rupert

Worked at the Canadian Pacific Railway. Active in the resistance movement in Yugoslavia in the 2. WW, killed by German collaborators.