Archival Times


Venue: KUA room 27.0.09

Big data archives offer us a previously unknown sense of security; for one, the huge bodies of information that internet archives contain can augment our human capacities to those of prosthetic gods at the click of a button. Meanwhile the mass collection of data by corporations and agencies of the state promises to make the world’s populations increasingly traceable and, it is hoped, predictable or even preemptable.

As the archive moves from a regime of existent truth to one of future anticipation, we seem to have garnered command of the future in the form of cultural fluctuations, flu epidemics, criminal acts, environmental disasters and terrorist attacks. Yet, do the predictive possibilities of digital storage institutions provide a false sense of security? Recent scandals, including the Wikileaks and NSA revelations, have caused experts and observers to question not only the statistical validity of the diagnoses and prognoses conjured from big data, but also the broader implications of their large-scale determination of knowledge.

On the one hand, big data raise questions that are well known to the theoretical regime of the archive as it developed at the height of poststructuralism; the theories of archival structuration and function that were explored by such cultural theorists as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in the late twentieth century thus provide a unique entry-point to our investigation of the cultural politics of big data. On the other hand, the new digital forms of the big data archive present urgent, cultural and epistemological challenges in need of contemporary theorization.

This inaugural event brings into focus the question of archival temporality. It focuses on archives not only as places of documentation but also of speculation, asking: What happens when we reconfigure the archive from a place that tells us about previous historic events to a machine that projects futures back onto our presents? 

Filmmaker Manu Luksch will deliver the keynote MoonWalk in RealTime that will set the stage for ensuing discussions with Professor Frederik Tygstrup and the audience.

Manu Luksch is an artist and filmmaker who interrogates conceptions of progress and scrutinises the effects of network technologies on social relations, urban space, and political structures. Her widely acclaimed speculative fiction film FACELESS (2002–07), compiled from CCTV footage recovered under the UK’s Data Protection Act, was also voiced by Tilda Swinton, and translated into nine languages. Her upcoming film Dreams Rewired which will premiere on CPH DOX later in November traces the desires and anxieties of today’s hyper-connected world back more than a hundred years, when telephone, film and television were new. As revolutionary then as contemporary social media is today, early electric media sparked a fervent utopianism in the public imagination – promising total communication, the annihilation of distance, an end to war. But then, too, there were fears over the erosion of privacy, security, morality. Using rare (and often unseen) archival material from nearly 200 films to articulate the present, DREAMS REWIRED reveals a history of hopes to share, and betrayals to avoid.