We found ourselves at Mada recently receiving a number of submissions on archiving and working with archives. This wasn’t something we actively set out to commission, but is reflective of a flurry of interest over the last few years in archival activity by artists, activists and filmmakers, alongside those who have always worked with and deconstructed archives, namely historians, academics and researchers.
The allure of the past in terms of how it speaks to the present and future is certainly not new, though a strong desire to preserve, resurrect, document, narrate and retell often follows moments of political upheaval. This has been compounded in Egypt by lack of access to official archives (often hidden away in government buildings), and the blatant co-option of memory by the state, rendering the archive an attractive battlefield. But, to what extent have alternative modes of telling become a new locus of authority, with their own discursive structures?
Aware of how much has been written on archives, particularly in terms of their accessibility and the power structures embedded within them, and more recently championing their use and appropriation as a subversive act, the pieces that follow in this series seek to both explore and go beyond these ideas. They include an important reflection on the chaotic entanglement of bureaucracy and emotion in archival processes, a collectively written text posing a series of provocative questions that emerged out of a course offered at the Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CILAS) titled “Archive Fever: Appropriation in Contemporary Art,” and a number of creative responses to these questions and ideas.
If you would like to submit a response or engage with this topic, in English or Arabic, as part of this series, please get in touch with us.