Looking Back to this Semester

Write about your experience this semester. Describe one thing you have learned. Reflect on the class format, what you wish had been different, what surprised you, what you enjoyed the most, what was the most challenging, etc. 

The Experimental Archives course was a new and interesting take on a studio art course focusing a little more than usual on theoretical thinking and meta-data that we associate with art pieces. I enjoyed various readings and case studies but overall wish there would have been a better balance between visual in-class presentations and readings/discussions. I feel as the readings were useful but would have been also great to apply some of these theories and test the accountability of them through some specific current art projects, such as watching a video or an artist project which relates to the reading followed by a further discussion on how the dynamic between the reading and the just watched artist project clashes, or harmonizes.

I enjoyed very much the video we watched in class about various stories told by Palestinian residents and the artistic choices made in the video. I wish the conversation after it would have been more expansive and the students knew more about what was going on politically in the area.

The challenging part was probably linking some of these theories discussed in class to the particular projects we were supposed to work on. Sometimes the links became very direct such as, creating "foundness" though object that students have found in their basement, while at least in my opinion it was more about something abstract and more related to the quality of work that makes us discover things, or the piece itself being somehow "discoverable". It would probably help to learn more about artists, look at documentary videos of art exhibitions (such as the MOMA exhibition featuring various bullets) and just be exposed to artist that work with "found" objects or create this idea of foundness in their works.

Coming back to my first journal entry which focused on archiving in the digital space I regret not having enough time to explore that idea more. The idea of personal archiving is something that many projects touched upon yet all from this relatively redundant angle, looking at a box of random things at home, a photo album or a collection of selfies - many coming from personal "archives" rather than public ones. This is why social media and in general even search engine results would be interesting to discuss since they have rules, categories, frameworks, and they are publically available (unless the user restricts that, which many don't or if they do then only certain posts or sections, not the whole profile).

Something that comes to mine was an art collection I saw of Instagram photos published in Crimea in 2014 showcasing anything posted by anyone within the area that at the moment was basically an area of conflict, a war zone. What the collection showcased was that most photographs were still selfies, colorful, applied with heavy filters and positive. There were very few ones actually directly documenting the war activity or showing desperation. It's something interesting to think about because various social media platforms tend to have audiences that we're all familiar creating niche markets. E.g. Facebook is slowly becoming the bloated dinosaur that's informative but also very advertising oriented, used by the widest demographic, and in some way boring; Instagram, on the other hand, is known for being more trendy, modern, youthful, positive and the focus is on celebrating various types of lifestyles and personas; Snapchat caters to a much more tech-savvy and younger audience providing fun interactive filters and more personal connections. It would be interesting to think about it in the context of this course. Was the reason that most posts posted in Crimea selfies because Instagram is known for its polaroid-style filters and selfie photo-format, or was it because no matter what people go through, we get used to things rather than falling into depression we reach a new equilibrium of normal helping us to appreciate variety of things without becoming obsessed or depressed over one negative aspect of our life?

I think this course could definitely be more focused in terms of talking only about frameworks of categorizing items, what are various platforms and frameworks that affect our daily life. Some of this we did in class but a lot more modern concepts such as Facebook's political echo chambers, and the aforementioned Instagram-based art presentation could be a nice way to build a more focused yet diverse selection of case studies around "building archives" and how archives are also often just naturally born when the public is given access to a certain platforms (E.g. the Facebook's "cemetery phenomenon", where in a few years we will have more dead people on Facebook than alive.)

Valev Laube