Archive in motion workshop

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On the invitation of Eivind Røssaak, and the Archive in Motion project, Active Archives (in the guise of Nicolas & Michael) were invited to present the work of the Kurenniemi archive and test out some in progress ideas. The conference tool place June 6, 7, 8 2013, and the workshop and presentation took place on the 7th.

June 2013




The workshop will function as an introduction to the documents produced and collected through the multidisciplinary practice of Erkki Kurenniemi. It will revisit the underlying assumptions (conceptual, relational, legal) one makes when constructing an archive.Through a hands-on approach, we will introduce to tools and algorithms to engage differently with structured and organic sets of digital documents.

Morning Session

Introduction by Eivind Røssaak.

Erkki Kurenniemi has documented his life but not archived it in any traditional sense, and didn’t develop a systematic model for what he calls a template for all human life. In his profound techno-enthusiasm, he relies on future quantum computers to make sense of it all. By 2048, Erkki states that the technology will be ready for the advent of this new artificial form of intelligence. The quantum computer will sort by itself the documents he has been recording, capturing, filming, photographing, drawing, and talking about. We have no quantum computers to make sense of it all today. At the invitation of Joasia Krisa and Geoff Cox and with the complicity of the Central Art Archive of the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki, we have begun to investigate the material and try to understand its specific character and qualities.

Introduction to Active Archives: Philosophy and projects Walkthrough of the Kurenniemi project

  • Foreword by Perttu Rastas
  • Visual Diary / Databrowser (Pairing of a blog about the process of coming to know an archive, with the problematics of creating an interface to material that can't be "shown")
  • Diary Casettes / Dataradio (Using data as a stream)

Work Session #1: Data Laundry

Exploring the multiplicity of orders contained within the archive.

While there is no clear organization in the different elements rescued from backup drives and workstations of Erkki, it doesn’t mean no ordering was present. On the contrary, many orders coexist. The hierarchical folder organization of the file system, the documents in hypertext, groups of photographs selected to make a photo-CD, folders containing downloaded documents thematically arranged (‘Net Art’ contains reproductions of paintings downloaded from websites, ‘Old Porn’ contains reproductions of early 20th century erotic photographs, etc), photographs grouped by people, by travel destinations, collections of auto-portraits, etc. What those attempts at grouping, organizing have in common is that they are all abandoned for the next one and Erkki doesn’t look back. The material is therefore ordered in an ad hoc fashion; when a specific task requires it, but never in its globality. Erkki doesn’t believe in organizing schemes, taxonomies in the long run, or perhaps simply doesn’t care.

Participants are proposed to use a range of basic disk and file oriented tools to visualize and navigate the files of the archive. Topics include: The file system as an interface; read/write/execute, erasure; metadata; tools like: file, find, disk usage, tree, git.

Work Session #2: Dialog with Algorithms

The gray literature of database culture deserves our attention as much as the prosaic aspect of bit-level organization. The legal documents, the agreements between the different stakeholders are not mere obstacles to overcome as quickly as possible to obtain the most complete visibility of the documents gathered and produced by Kurenniemi. The strength of the legal approach is that it forces us to consider the images as sites of attachment for various people. Therefore when legal protocols forbid the publication of the images until the people who are pictured have been contacted, the effect is not only hiding, it is also showing. It forces us to reconsider the image not as a given object that has been captured and framed, but as a connector, a shared object where the author does not possess all the rights.

If the images cannot be ‘shown’, – and perhaps this is a blessing rather than a tragedy – what can be shown are the relationships between them, as they can be narrated to us by agents to which we lend our reconfigured eyes. They can be sensed like a pulse, experienced as time capsules. Leaving aside the “retinal” approach to the image, we are learning from probes and experiments how the computerized visual traces of Erkki’s life let us feel temporal intensities, carnal distances and proximities. An image is an image is an image. But an image is also many stories told to us by voluble algorithms and their nonhuman points of view.

Participants are proposed to use different algorithms for face recognition, color analysis, contour detection and sense how they can gain knowledge of the content about the documents collection, the relationships that tie them together or separate them.

Additionally, as the archive contains more than images but also an impressive collection of sounds, the participants will be invited to navigate the audio files according to their various properties and interact with audio streams. For doing so, they will be invited to use programs that interface with specialized algorithms like the Fast Fourier Transform or custom scripts.

Final Session: Saturday June 8

Exercise: Blind annotation

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