Part of our trend report ‘The Archive Algorithm,’ this cover story from KALEIDOSCOPE FW21–22 issue showcases an eclectic group of collectors and archivists from different creative fields who operate mainly in the digital space, inviting them to let us in on their obsession.
“I see the resurgence of the archives in the coming years being played out via media wars instigating a technocratic overhaul of all major forms of colonial infrastructure. The forward-facing interest in archives is a public response to the burden of dis-identifying with commonly held and widely resurgent white supremacist idealization and degradations. Colonial-genocidal interest in the other is a long-held source of many acts of violence, seeded in many fields. Understanding how deeply historical and mainstream narratives have slighted and dispossessed so many I think will cause more and more outcry and public pain. Pain that cannot and is bound to be recuperated by the practice of citation and of personal and collective archiving. This pain has for so long been destructive to communities that are simultaneously eradicated and their cultures shuffled and filed in anecdotal or reliquary footnotes. There are so few understandable or reliable protocols to archive the unseen (that pain) that a kind of categorization and experiential crisis will emerge as both political mandates to divest from the virtual altogether and heightened stakes of digitization. With much of the power to record for permanence and monetization still being held by entertainment, commercial and institutional sectors, I think our stories will suffer the same turn of phrase at a faster pace of much of media and people who've moved from marginal to the mainstream before us.
I read somewhere that hoarding is a symptom of a traumatic loss. I've always collected things, with a feeling that no archive could form under my protection. I don’t think of the archive in terms of collection—things just seem to gather and disperse.
I feel that the archives that need to be shared with the rest of the world are being kept from public view by predatory and genocidally invested institutions. A personal archive should remain so at the discretion of an individual’s sense of privacy.
What we have lost is all the documentation of our history under oppression—the thoughts, writings, and teachings of leaders who chose the public eye and arena, of our convict ancestors whose records are lost to court documents and legislative failures untranslated into the public concern. The rest of the world doesn’t believe in black suffering or success unless they see it, and it has been purposefully and thoughtfully captured and withheld from a public display; those are the national archives that need to be broken open and made vulnerable.”
“Subject-specific physical archives will continue to gain significance. They preserve materials that can be shared with, and researched by future generations, offering the opportunity to study past scenes and movements in detail. Something to consider is the crossroads we find ourselves at economically, socially, and environmentally, and how we look to progress our relationship with material possessions. There are movements towards minimalism, spirituality, and stoicism currently at play. Even so, people will continue to want a relationship with authentic, historically important, and culturally relevant physical archives and to experience them in curated environments, despite the fact they may choose to own less on a personal level. I started collecting club-related printed matter around 30 years ago, as a way to record the various scenes I was into. You would find flyers in stores, be handed them outside a club, and share them between friends. I also kept all the magazines, books, and zines that I read that focused on dance music culture. The internet was a change agent in terms of knowledge sharing—you could start to join the dots between all the various global scenes and virtually connect with like-minded people. This put me on a journey of locating items from particular clubs, nights, DJs, and scenes that together built out a wider narrative. The main reasons for opening up the archive to a wider audience has been to allow it to assist in documenting the history of dance music culture, and help to place this material within the wider canon of contemporary art & design. My process changes constantly—I go through phases depending on what I am researching. A couple of iconic pieces I love within the archive are the Hacienda Nude night poster as it captures the moment when house music was breaking in the UK. Also, the Larry Levan birthday bash invite from the Paradise Garage, designed by his friend and club member Keith Haring.
I think the dialogue between physical objects and virtual realities is really interesting. It’s something that has only been heightened with the pandemic by not being able to physically touch or discover objects but having to experience them exclusively on a screen. I so missed sitting on the floor of a dusty bookshop finding things, but I’ve come to love going down weird and wild internet rabbit holes, on Japanese forums and websites for instance. A lot of Climax Books comes from my personal archive or interests, but most of the stock now is sourced for it to be sold to others.
I get so much joy from finding forgotten bodies of work from artists, or cultural ephemera that was meant to be thrown away, but that someone has treasured.
I love that on Climax Books we can sell a huge pink Keith Haring penis flyer from 1993, Shame Space by Martine Syms, original promotional photographs taken of Kathy Acker when she was in England in the mid-‘80s, and an original flyer for Clit Club, the boldly named lesbian party that had a particularly significant impact on lesbian life in 1990s New York City. That all of these things can co-exist in one place is very cool to me. A few years ago I was lucky enough to discover this rare first edition of Yayoi Kusama’s self-published periodical An Orgy of Nudity, Love, Sex & Beauty and saved up for years to buy it. It was sort of formative in developing the concept of Climax Books because it represented the intersection of a number of different threads I was interested in: politics, sexuality, and countercultural ephemera. The same goes for the invitation card for Mike Kelley’s cult exhibition Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Metro Pictures in New York, or Wolfgang Tillmans’ I Didn’t Inhale 1997 poster, designed by Scott King.
It seems that archiving has had a resurgence on Instagram. But, the practice itself is not new. What is novel is the internet, which is really good at contextualizing and presenting archives. But we are reaching the point where the internet is maxed out and archiving needs to spill over into other formats to progress. There’s a generous community of independent archivists doing really hard, invisible, and many times unpaid work. This should be leveraged by institutions who need help making their archives accessible and up to date.
Once institutions and brands integrate contemporary archivists into their infrastructure and programming, we will experience a much-needed development of the practice. It’s almost 2022—there’s no reason a rigorous MoMA show can’t have been as compelling and current as the inter- net. Today, there's an obvious gap between the two communities, but it's only a matter of time before that starts to close. It’s already starting to happen. I’m excited. But to be totally honest, when I take a step back, my hope is that people put their energy into creating something new with their friends and for their generation that ends up being a larger force than anything in an archive. The very first item I collected was tapes I made from recording songs o the radio. I didn’t really fall in love with books until I started making them. That's what made me want to collect. Being a designer for an experimental publication (Visionaire) made me question and re-think the anatomy of a book. The construction, materials, binding, printing techniques, inks, paper stocks—every piece of the book was an obsession. There’s plenty of topics I collect thematically, but it wouldn't be genuine to talk about them. I credit it all to the experience of publishing and what happened in between. I guess that’s what is kinda cool and profound; in every generation, there are people immersed in the exchanging of ideas, culture, and deciding what should be public information in New York City—books serve as little sculptures to it all. Being a publisher, to me that’s always been the purpose of the work—to communicate publicly. I see the archive as no different. Sharing is also important because educational systems and institutions have set up barriers where resources can be difficult to obtain.
The archive, or the act of archiving, is definitely having a moment right now. I think what we’re witnessing is a shift in the way we perceive the archive. The preservation of physical objects will continue to exist, but preserving a digital artifact will be increasingly important. For years, archives have been hidden, mysterious, hard to access. But from what we can already see on social media profiles like mine, is that the new wave of archivists will be more open to letting people peek into their archives, in order to provide an information bank via online platforms.
My archive of fabrics started to take form during my studies in textile development. Guided by curiosity, I would find every excuse to keep scraps of fabrics I thought were interesting, and started archiving them.
Eventually, I found myself with a collection of different kinds of materials—from technical fabrics to knits—that is now a huge source of inspiration for future developments. I felt like there wasn’t a place giving the right perspective into the world of textiles and materials, so I decided to create one supported by my personal archive and my knowledge on the subject. Though It’s not just a platform where I showcase my personal archive of fabrics. A big part of creating content for the page is supported by my continuous research of images and other information. I’m always learning new things and, in a way, the page is a place for me to share this journey. The continuous exchange with the community is also really important.
Streamlined global supply networks plus the proliferation of high-speed internet in most urban centers have brought us peak access to stuff. However, the tradeoff has been a massive loss of local context (not to mention the carbon cost of transport and production). Want the new Yeezy sandals a week before the official launch? Want an Iron Maiden 1984 “World Slavery Tour” t-shirt in 76 hours? All possible! But good luck recreating the full context for these signifiers. In part, the resurgence of the archive may be driven by this desire for context—as value, particularly in fashion, is often predicated on knowledge of the original context. For those who can create strong signals, the act of aggregation (context-crafting) is equally if not even more valuable than the production of the original objects.
An unfathomable amount of data has been generated and archived online over the past 5 years, leaving an informational muck that feels impossible to navigate. One can visualize trillions of informational particles randomly arranged in a thick layer—essentially, a digital topsoil capable of fertilizing a more context-centric internet.
With New Models, we're not sharing our personal archives so much as collectively generating a context-rich archive in real-time. While much of our community exists digitally (on Discord primarily), the most valuable archival items New Models has produced have been formed through acts of devirtualization.
For instance, two creative directors within the NM community, Bryan Wolff and Marc Vermeeren initiated the swarm-produced “Decade Brain: New Models 2010s” last year, capturing the community's timeline impression of the 2010s. This massive Google Sheets doc was then used as the basis for a collaboration with Bjarne Melgaard. Most recently, the NM community collectively archived their digital experience of 2020 in printed book-form as the NM Codex Y2k20, thereby saving it from its otherwise inevitable fate of turning to digital dust as present-day platforms fade from use.”
“As a society, we now document everything all the time, whether we are in control, or not. We all have an archive now, and we can access anything we want, as easily as ever before. We simultaneously crave and feel overwhelmed by all this information that is around us. We want to simplify it, so we look to an archive as an authority to cut through the noise. It gives us a sense of control and grounds us.
An intentional physical or digital archive will have even more value and meaning as time goes on. Society is homesick for nostalgia, especially after the pandemic. We want something real, unchanging, and meaningful from the past.
Our archive started forming after a visit to the Judd Foundation on Spring St. in SoHo. That space is a great example of preservation—a permanent unchanging installation. The house is no longer a house, the chairs are no longer chairs—they are images of these objects that once shaped the artist’s life, and this was always his intention. It’s the first example of his work as an installation.”
”Archives presented in the right way can shape a whole body of work for those who don’t have access to it. Our aim is to show works in context. The images can sometimes (not always) be found online, but are usually isolated from the entire body of work, so the viewer can’t see the artists’ original intention.”
“I see the demand for archives growing over time, while also becoming more exclusive and harder to get. This is because pieces that are considered archival can only be acquired from secondhand marketplaces, meaning that the seller gets to set the price. This has caused archive prices to sky- rocket in recent years because the amount of available pieces stays the same, even as the demand increases.
I’ve been collecting things since I was a child. I used to collect all types of things—I had a rock collection when I was little. But I really found my love for clothing when I was in high school. That’s when I started collecting garments and began to dive into the work of different designers. When I first fell in love with fashion, I didn’t have many like-minded friends to talk about it with. So I took to the internet and started posting pictures of items that I wanted but couldn’t afford at the time. I had no idea that the account would grow to the point where it’s at now. It started as a simple form of self-expression; I wanted to express my love for interesting garments, as well as create a safe haven where I would be able to interact with like-minded people and talk about the topics that interested me. After a few years, I was able to start selling and showcasing some of the pieces. I hope to keep evolving Archived Dreams and sharing my interests and taste with people.
Currently, my most prized possession is this reconstructed Artisanal leather jacket from Maison Martin Margiela’s Autumn/Winter 2004 menswear collection. It is made from 3 different Vintage WW2 German Air Force Luftwaffe flight jackets that date back to the 1940s. Since this piece is from the artisanal line it means that the WW2 flight jackets were cut apart and then sewn together by hand, making this piece an extremely rare and limited Margiela menswear piece, from a collection where Martin was still fully involved in the design process making it even more sought after.”
IS ONE OF TODAY’S MOST INFLUENTIAL INSTAGRAM FEEDS ACTIVE IN THE FIELD OF SHARING KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FASHION ARCHIVAL PIECES.