Happenings

I am the Organizer of My Own Archive

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© Sara Cwynar, “Soft Film” (2016). Courtesy of Foxy Productions.

Next week I head to Montréal for the opening of I am the Organizer of My Own Archive, a screening program I have curated for Dazibao, a centre dedicated to the dissemination of contemporary image-based practices. Housed within a building on Avenue de Gaspé that has been recently retrofitted from its factory past to a complex of arts spaces, Dazibao’s exhibition spaces include a petite bespoke cinema, which is where the program will be presented, from 02 February–01 April 2017.

In conceptualizing the program, I started with a short animation by the artist Maria Lassnig. Known primarily as a painter, this animation was made in 1992, when Lassnig was 73 years old. A totally vivacious babe, Maria Lassnig Kantate shows Lassnig making sense of her artistic ambition through a reflection on the struggles that produced her career. Although the work is 25 years old, I was struck by the unabated resonance of the misogyny and sexism she describes, of not being taken seriously as an artist because she is a woman, because she is single, because she refuses to play nice. In the face of continual neglect of her talent by the art world, she roots herself in curiosity and perseveres, constructing a narrative of her life where she is a super hero, brave and adventurous. What Lassnig shows me is how self-determination leads to a becoming of self that cannot come into being otherwise.

Gathered around Lassnig’s animation are videos by Stephanie Comilang, Sara Cwynar, Dylan Mira, Krista Belle Stewart and Martine Syms that foreground the recuperative force of articulating experience from a felt position within the social structures that hold our personal lives.

Our memories fool us when they seem to play as movies in our minds. What is left of our living is something more akin to a box of photographs—ruffled through, their order lost or barely held together. What we take for these movies are re-compositions of these still images into narratives, a process of sense making that is self-making too. I am the Organizer of My Own Archive presents a range of tactics for coming into relation with the remnants of personal and social histories, emphasizing the interpretive liberty at play in any project that aims to coax sense from isolated objects or recollected experiences.

The thing about understanding history as photographs, as opposed to movies, is that the order is up for negotiation and relationships can be proposed and constructed, or denied and torn apart. In organizing our archives, we write ourselves as we ought to be.

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