Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Untitled (dissertation 4.2)
Untitled (dissertation 4.2) offers a performative take on the political implications of digital archives. I argue that technological developments and their increasing ubiquity has not resulted in more reliable archives; it has facilitated the exacerbation of what Jacques Derrida calls mal d’archive—or archive fever—which refers to the institutionally supported passion to preserve that is perpetually threatened by the inevitably of loss. A performative perspective, specifically derived from the work of contemporary performance theorists and artists, affords a contemporary archival practice that not only accepts, but is informed by mal d’archive because it shifts the focus from what is preserved to how it has become and continues to be preservable through archival acts. This is important in our contemporary moment because the ubiquity of digital technologies has exacerbated the symptoms of mal d’archive: a rapid increase in both the formal and informal production of preservable content, and consequently, as Derrida reminds us, archival violence. Untitled (dissertation 4.2) also includes a performative engagement with mal d’archive through two interludes. The first interlude features what I am calling “glitch-utterances,” which refers to the visual representations of technological mishaps. The documents in the second interlude—an iteration of the exhibition catalogue that resulted from my 2020 artist residency at the Art Gallery of Peterborough—engage with the productive function of the archive because they performatively constitute the exhibition as having happened regardless of whether or not it actually occurred, which, significantly, it did not. I conclude Untitled (dissertation 4.2) with a look at the ecological impact of digital archives—perhaps an “ecological fever.” It is not my intention to offer a solution for this “ecological fever,” nor address its full impact. My aim is to conclude this dissertation with a supplement of sorts: a look at the ecological impact of digital archives because I feel it is irresponsible not to given their increasing ubiquity. With this in mind, the glitch-utterances featured in both interludes can perform an important role in calling attention to the technological materialities and computational processes that are rendered invisible by Big Tech companies via metaphors—the ethereal Cloud metaphor, for example. These glitch-utterances point to the very material substrates that support the virtual, and can thus act as an important reminder of the ecological consequences of digital archives, which, like archival practices, are tied to institutional agendas. Author Keywords: Archive , Curation , Digital Archive, Documentation, Multimedia performance, Performativity

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