Monday, January 2, 2012

archive continuation

The following is a reaction to The Big Archive that I received in via email.  In attempt to keep the conversation going I have, with permission, copied it here.


I'm much intrigued by what you say on your blog about "archive" -- it sounds like such a rich exploration: "The concept of archive as a repository of collections of things, and the necessity of keeping those things connected to their original provenance," presumably including things connected to your father and his own connections with a rich past.

It makes me think, though, of something Lori said when we first knew each other. I had been talking (probably pridefully) about having recently been in a six-month retreat, and her response was more or less that she was less interested in what I'd done than who I was. The retreat was embodied in me (as were a million other experiences), but it was the embodiment that counted, not the things that had gotten me there. (I'm oversimplifying, but that's at least part of what she was saying.)

This doesn't invalidate at all the idea of archives (photos and journal notes from the retreat, say), but it makes me thirsty for a clearer idea of what the role of the archive actually is. If I lost all archival evidence of the retreat (and even my memory of it), wouldn't it still be there in me? (And if it wasn't, what would be the point of remembering it anyway?) What function DOES the "retreat" alcove in my archives serve?

This also relates to my sense of "death." which I think we've talked about. If someone's life is a process of constantly altering the world around them in little (or big) ways, those changes keep rippling outward forever, no matter if the person is "dead" or even forgotten. (When I die, the retreat will still be rippling through the world through things like the slight changes of perspective in people who had been affected by their connections with people whose perspectives had been affected by things happening between them and me that were different because of the retreat I'd been in...) If those changes can no longer be clearly connected to their original provenance, in what way does that matter?

I am NOT arguing against the idea of archives and archival investigation: you're clearly engaged in deep and creative inquiry in what you're piecing together. I'm not certain, though, that I fully understand yet what this kind of inquiry implies (perhaps because you say you don't fully understand yet what it implies!). Yes, not-knowing is a holy state.

- David

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