Introduction: Inward Outward 2021
Inward Outward is an ongoing, iterative endeavour. The driving force behind the symposium series is the wish, and need, to critically engage with audiovisual archives of coloniality. This desire stems from the working practices of the organising team, with members who are employed (often) by institutions that have such collections under their ‘care’. The first edition of Inward Outward, held in January 2020, was fuelled by a determination to engage with bodies of ‘decolonial’ knowledge and addressed the creation, acquisition, management and use of these archives within and beyond the walls of established institutions.
The year that followed this first edition was marred by an unprecedented health and ecological crisis that elicited an array of emotions as we also witnessed and participated in collective calls to redress intensified racial, gendered and socio-economic inequities. As we worked to document those moments and continued to interrelate our archival practices with the afterlives of colonialism and the identity, memory and racial politics that informed our present, we were moved by discomfort, anger, refusal, love. It became clear: the work we do in and with archives is implicated in, and driven by, the emotional. Yet archival research is often presumed to be focused on the rational excavation of materials, stereotypically imagined as being carried out in a sterile room, in a process devoid of affect.
Where, then, do we encounter emotions, affects and feelings in the archive? How are these captured in both sounds and moving images and in the practices used to organise the archive? And, most pressingly, how do these emotions inspire us to unlearn and undo the dominant imperial practices and discourses that have determined our work so far? These questions, which were amplified by our observations and reactions to the global occurrences of 2020–2021, formed the theme of the second Inward Outward symposium, “Emotion in the Archive”, which took place October 13-15, 2021.
In order to explore a theme as potentially woolly as emotion, we divided the symposium into three sessions: Defiance & Anger, Shame & Guilt and Love & Compassion, and we invited scholar, author and filmmaker Ariella Aïsha Azoulay to deliver a significant keynote. We considered these session topics as organising threads, and we tried to emphasise our understanding that emotions invite each other and exist in complex patterns. In other words, emotions are often entangled: for example, love and compassion can be very much related to grief and sorrow, or anger. Additionally, our interests also lay in thinking about the generative potential of these emotions. The tone and debate of these sessions are represented in this publication.
Collected and assembled through an invitation to all Inward Outward presenters to contribute, this publication reiterates and reflects on the presentations and conversation that took place during the symposium and explores how emotions undergird, infuse and are contained within archives. In some cases, presenters agreed to share abridged transcripts of their talks, while in others, presenters share reflections or further thoughts inspired by their experiences at the symposium itself. The contributions thus offer a mix of different writing approaches and styles, including essays, reflections, conversations and more visual pieces. As a project centred on sound and moving image materials, you will notice that a few pieces have “Open Video” buttons – these will direct you to the online platforms on which you can watch the materials.
In the table of contents we’ve offered a number of key terms alongside each entry to help navigate the works found here. These key terms represent the symposium session in which this particular text was presented. The emotions after which the sessions are named illustrate the starting point of these interventions, but by no means their end point. You are invited to enter the publication by either going down the path of the long (and ongoing) conversation, working your way through text by text, or to pick and choose the works you are most drawn to by key terms.
The publication begins with an abridged version of the symposium’s opening conversation, “Anger and Defiance and the Archive”, in which Amal Alhaag and Teresa Cisneros reflected on feeling everything from rage to boredom to amusement as they work in colonial archives, and what actions they take in response to those emotions.
Inspired by their talk, Stevie Nolten shares a series of questions that probe the nature and detail of “Anger in the Archive”.
Wigbertson Julian Isenia explores transnational dialogues between Black, LGBTQI+ intellectuals in “Love and Compassion amid Many Adversities: On Black, Queer Archival Practices”. In doing so, Julian embraces the often, but not always, contradictory relationships between love, critique and personal and institutional change.
Eliza Steinbock offers contemplations of discomfort by encouraging white readers in particular to lean into difficult emotions in “White Affect Caught in the Colonial Act: The Cultural Archive of Shame and Guilt”.
Mary Huelsbeck shares a description of the Wendy Clark Collection’s Love Tapes, a video art installation, and explores the unique contribution of audio and visual archives to the discussion of emotion
Centring the body in a dialogue between present and past, Cécile Accilien examines her own body as “a record of practices [and] values that date back centuries” and help her navigate her individual connections to collective history in “My Hair Is My Archive”.
In “Algerian Letters: The Jewellers of the Oumah”, keynote speaker Ariella Aïsha Azoulay ponders whether, when one’s ancestors have been doubly disappeared from colonial archives, it is possible to trace their experiences and existences through their craft and the objects they created.
In “Item Cannot be Displayed: Refusal as a Modality of Care”, Carine Zaayman reflects on the significance of objects and their curation in light of her recent experience of the Jagger Library fire at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She shows us how these reflections on loss and care resulted in a different kind of intervention during a workshop she facilitated at the symposium, where participants decided not to share the objects they had brought with them to the workshop.
Taking the question of objects from the material to the digital plane, Daniela Agostinho first contemplates her discomfort with being involved in the digitisation process in “Encounters with the Danish Colonial Archive: Affect, Labour and Spaces of Care”; she then seeks insight and inspiration from artist Jeannette Ehlers’s installation Black Is a Beautiful Word. I & I (Encountering the Danish Colonial Archive) which creates context for and dialogue with what had been a static, colonial image.
Imara Limon and Inez van der Scheer explore the reframing of colonially implicated material in an adaptation of their presentation which explored curatorial practice at the Amsterdam Museum and how shame and guilt are connected to a research project and exhibition about the Golden Coach. To think beyond museum collections as they currently exist, they also speak to the museum’s collaborations with artists, asking how critical art practices can interact with museum practices and their collections, while also complicating such relationships.
In “The Museum Visits a Therapist”, visual artists Mirjam Linschooten and Sameer Farooq share images and descriptions of their film of the same name, which explores the similarities and connections between symptoms of and treatment for trauma and the processes by which workers restore colonial-era objects at the Tropenmuseum, the Netherlands’ largest ethnographic museum.
Finally, in “How to Hold an Image”, Jue Yang shares her process of “interrupting the colonial gaze” by contextualising images produced for the Dutch colonial project and juxtaposing them with images of their creators and traces of herself.
We hope you enjoy exploring these contributions.
If you have any thoughts or reflections on reading this publication, we invite you to get in touch with us at inwardoutward@ beeldengeluid.nl.
— Inward Outward 2021 Editorial Team
Rachel Somers Miles, Alana Osbourne, Esther Captain, Eleni Tzialli, Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Carine Zaayman, Alison Fischer, Wayne Modest