The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices

It is difficult to say with a 100% certainty what an anarchive is. Not so much because anarchives are mostly unfinished but rather because they reveal as well as conceal. Archives can be seen as violent technologies of inscription. They force coherence on incoherence with their rigid memory templates that order events chronologically, alphabetically, per geographical region, group, or nation, in other words: according to the canon.

Canons, like archives, are exclusive. They suppress one type of information at the expense of another forcing visibility on latency. In daily life, many oppressive practices, such as racism or ablism, have developed strategies of invisibilisation by prescribing zones of non-experience that render invisible the very process of rendering invisible. Correspondingly, most struggles for recognition have striven for a politics of visibility. Despite this general trend, there have also been strategies of ‘becoming-invisible’ such as the activist not identifying with any existing representation that has created an intentional politics of invisibility.

In recent years, there has been much effort to de-canonise and decolonise memory institutions – archives, libraries, museums, and other heritage institutions – through the inclusion of marginalised populations and events, and through participatory archiving. Although these efforts are both praise-worthy and necessary they also affirm the dominant paradigm: visibility is good. More information is always better than less information.

Historically, the critical-poetic practice of anarchiving has sought to expose the destructive tendencies of the archive by questioning the evidentiary status of the record, the ‘more is better’ approach to information, and by demonstrating that interpretations are always reductive. The prefix ‘an’ – which is the same as in the word ‘anarchy’ – suggests both the subversion of the dominant paradigm and the preservation impulse (also known as the anal impulse in psychoanalysis, as the word ἀρχή, from which ‘archive’ derives, means ‘source,’ ‘government’ as well as ‘anus’).

However, anarchiving is not a contestatory practice alone. It is also an aesthetic- ludic practice. Aesthetic because it acknowledges the many shapes of memory such as folds, diagrams, labyrinths, and rhizomes. Ludic because it preserves as well as squanders, connects as well as disconnects, remembers as well as forgets. Since the last decade of the 20th century anarchiving has also been a response to the new ways of knowing and remembering afforded by the digital technologies.

The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices is a constellation embedded in the operation of the Internet. In this sense, it is a ready-made, although not of a physical but rather of a virtual and processual kind. The Internet amplifies anarchival tendencies as data is continuously modified, reorganised, and erased. Meaning-making is enmeshed in micro-temporal executions of programmed code. In other words, what something ‘is’ depends on the constellation it is embedded in at a particular moment in time. And this changes all the time.

When you access The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices a constellation of terms appears. These terms are neither exhaustive nor do they separate content from form, or quality from quantity. Rather, they bring together formal and thematic aspects of indeterminacy. Formal aspects include artistic techniques such as chance operations, and forms such as intermedia. Thematic aspects include the unstable nature of knowledge and in-between states such as liminality.

The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices ‘thinks’ both its own basic ‘units’ – such as data – and the ultimate horizon of archiving, which is infinity. The shape of the constellation that facilitates rhizomatic connections was chosen for its similarity with the horizon of what are usually called ‘positions.’ All ‘subject,’ like all ‘object’ positions are produced through relations, and the reconfiguration of past constellations. What we perceive as an ‘individual’ thing or being is carved out of indeterminacy. It is not that individual things and beings exist first and then engage in relations, but that things and beings emerge from relations.

The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices has more than 50 and less than 500 entries. When you access the initial constellation of terms, and click on one of the terms, you are taken to one of the possible works associated with this term. If, once you have viewed the work, you click on ‘go back’ you will be taken to a (slightly or very) different constellation.

The Anarchive of Indeterminate Artistic Practices uses a randomising algorithm to acknowledge the (digital) forking of time – the fact that what appears, and the sequence it appears in, is always dependent on prior relations. As the famous saying – variously attributed to Confucius and Heraclitus – goes: you can never step in the same river twice. In a manner similar to a river current, The Anarchive traces inscription – the giving and receiving of form – through the interplay of novelty and repetition.

Go to Anarchive

Created by Natasha Lushetich & Adam Lockhart
Developed by Waterfront Digital
Assisted by Sam Andrews
With thanks to the participating artists, galleries, and trusts.