Anger in the Archive

Stevie Nolten
(Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision)

During the Anger & Defiance session of this year’s Inward Outward, I was blessed to listen to the conversation between Amal Alhaag and Teresa Cisneros.

Their honest exchange—about feeling angry in the archive, but also about who gets to emote and when to step away—really resonated with me.

I was asked to write a text about the entire session.

Ultimately I decided to honour all of the emotions that rushed through me at that time. As a person of colour, I recognised their experiences in dealing with colonial violence in the archive and not having the privilege to depersonalise from it.

These are feelings of frustration but also of recognition.

The premise of this text is directly inspired by a quote by Teresa, or rather a question she raised: “Am I really that radical, or am I just asking different questions?”

By sharing some of my questions, I hope to normalise raising them more often.

Why do I feel angry in the archive? Am I taking it “too personally”?

Aren’t you appalled by the violence? Do you need to see, hear and touch the material in order to empathise?

Do you confuse detachment with objectivity? Is it “professional” to leave your humanity behind?

How does it feel to trust the archive, the boxes, the labels, the people guiding you through it?

Are you expecting to find the truth, or will you read against the grain?

Can you rethink what the archive is, or are you a part of it? Are you ready to acknowledge that colonialism is your history too?

Can you sit with the discomfort and can you question your position? Are you not used to being asked what you are doing here to begin with?

Do you see the difference between “learning about” and “knowing”? Do I need to intellectualise my trauma in order for you to see me as your peer?

Am I really that radical and brave, or am I just asking different questions? Aren’t you paying me for this work?

Are you inviting me in to disarm my critique? Is this accountability, or is it delegating responsibility?

How do you guarantee my safety as I stick my neck out? Are you ready to unlearn, resist and give up space?

Do you understand that including me now acknowledges that you excluded me before? Will you redirect your emotions to counter the system?

What are you feeling? Are you angry now?

Anger & Defiance