Introduction: Inward Outward 2020

On the 24th and 25th of January 2020, the first edition of the Inward Outward symposium took place at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. Initiated between the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and Sound and Vision, and with the support of the Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC), Inward Outward brought together archival practitioners, artists, academics, and researchers to explore the status of moving image and sound archives as they intertwine with questions of coloniality, identity and race.

There is something specific to sound and moving images as they hold a particular type of textured representation that uniquely captures the visual and aural qualities of who or what is being recorded. The experience of such resources—their offering a unique closeness with that which is recorded—imbues them with a particular power. Taking this materiality as a point of departure, the symposium reflected on the work of archives, and our work as archival practitioners, scholars, artists, filmmakers, and audio producers, when contending with sounds and images created in a context of coloniality.

The title of the symposium and of this publication—Inward Outward—evokes a sense of both movement and fixedness. It alludes to the ebb and flow of memory but also to the boundaries that determine who is included or excluded from the sto­ries we tell ourselves about our past and contemporary colonial histories. It gestures to the materials that are brought in or left out of archival collections, and to the responsibilities archival institutions hold in their conversations with themselves and with the public. Using a critical archival approach as a base, the symposium pro­vided a platform through which to explore what “decolonizing” the sound and moving image archive—within and beyond the walls of established institutions—might look like. Such an approach entailed critically ex­ploring the role of archives in knowledge production and investigating how archives, including their everyday archival tasks, play an active role in proliferating socio-political structures of power.

To continue the dialogues started during the two-day conference, Inward Outward is growing beyond the frame of a one-off gathering: through this publication, and a range of forthcoming events, we aim to provide a liminal space and a continuous conversation around issues of audiovisual representation, archiving, and coloniality. In probing the different processes involved in the creation, management, and collection of these materials in order to unpack heritage configurations that are imbued with questions of power and violence, we hope to generate new avenues for reflection, and­ ­­­different forms of knowledge, that may hold the power to destabilize the gaze and auditory afterlives of coloniality.

This publication collects different contributions from the speakers of Inward Outward that reiterate and reflect on the presentations that took place during the sym­posium; they interrogate how we might situate our­selves in relation to the materials we work with, and the locations we work from. The essays gathered in this publication thus continue some of the significant conversation threads started at Sound and Vision, but are by no means exhaustive of the rich exchanges that took place during the event or in the days that followed.

This collection was assembled through an invitation to all presenters of Inward Outward to contribute. While one approach would have been to divide the sixteen re­ceived pieces into thematic sections, we felt a more open structure spoke to the ways in which the different questions, perspectives, and critiques raised in the texts are the­matically enmeshed with one another. The contributions found here offer a mix of different writing approaches and styles, including essays, reflections, and more sonic textual pieces. As a project that explores sound and moving image materials, you will notice that a number of the contributions have “Open Video” or “Play Track” buttons—these will direct you to various platforms online in which you can watch and/or listen to the materials shared.

In the article overview offered a number of key terms alongside each entry to help navigate the works found here. 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 opens with an exploration of the archived life of Betty Paërl. Through their attempt to reconcile the gap between race, sexuality, colonial history, and the normative politics of archiving, Wigbertson Julian Isenia and Eliza Steinbock offer a reflection on the use of terminology related to the decolonial during the symposium.

Sebastian Jackson explores different ways in which people actively unmake social distinctions and blur racial boundaries in South Africa, and how they participate in the decolonization of intimacy in the contemporary moment.

Matthias De Groof adapts a text from his presentation on his documentary film pro­ject Palimpsest of the Africa Museum, that chronicles the renovation of the Africa­Museum in Belgium, seeing the reno­vation as a failed act of decolonization, and the filmmaking process as the creation of a counter-archive.

David Fronhapfel views “queer forget­ful­ness,” applied to archives and to domi­nant stories, as a productive way to create new affective breathing spaces that refuse to partake in structures of power.

Charissa Granger looks at her confronta­tion with the silences in Afro-Curaçaoan archives and explores how in working within this silence, in occupying it, we can imagine, and make our own narratives.

Clemens Gütl considers methodological approaches to historical sound record­ings from Africa in the Phonogrammarchiv of ­the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

Andrea Zarza Canova, a curator in the World and Traditional Music section within the sound archive at the British Library, reflects on the Museum Affordances project and explores opening materials to experimental and creative reworkings as a tentative pathway to decolonization.

Jonas van Mulder and Brecht Declerq delve into the White Father’s Society of the Missionaries of Africa film collection to ask if, and how, archival practices and restitution policies can avoid reproducing the paternalistic historical dynamics that informed their making.

Moira van Dijk, Leila Musson, and Eef Vermeij ask how conversations on institutionalized archival practices that up­hold colonial, imperial, and discrim­i­natory practices should affect the International Institute of Social History’s collection management and acquisition policies.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, part of an indepen­dent curatorial project called Views of the Ottoman Empire, researches and col­lects archival footage from the former Ottoman territories. Using several examples, she shows us how archival attempts at organizing and describing collections often confound and do injustice to their various potential meanings and historical contexts.

Gerda Jansen Hendriks analyzes Dutch newsreels that were created in colonial Indone­sia as part of Dutch-Indonesia shared heritage, asking “what is the value of these newsreels” and for whom?

Jeftha Pattikawa explores the importance of self-representation and community archives in retelling and complicating the power dynamics that inform the stories we tell about Moluccans in the Netherlands.

Tao Leigh Goffe reflects on intimacy and erotic power in the space of the colonial archive, explored through her creative practice as a PhDJ and by juxtaposing images of the archive with images and soundtracks of contemporary artists and musicians.

Deborah Thomas, who was a keynote speaker of the symposium, offers a reflection on her collaborative multi-modal and multi-dimensional project Tivoli Stories, exploring the potential for the archives they’ve assembled in the project to carry affective registers that animate both individual and collective acts of witnessing violence.

Sadiah Boonstra’s contribution is a reflection on the first day of the symposium, underlining what she sees as a continued struggle for change.

Esther Captain’s text reflects on the second day of the symposium, exploring questions of positionality, accountability, and respon­sibility towards audiovisual archives.

As Esther Captain notes in her reflection, which in tandem with Sadiah Boonstra’s thoughts are included as a conclusion to this publication, we come from different spaces and work at different paces, making conversation between us often fragmen­ted. The “archive” (physically, conceptually and emotionally) has a different standing for an archival practitioner than it does for an academic, artist or activist (professional “lanes” that are often not so clear-cut), and, as Wigbertson Julian Isenia and Eliza Steinbock highlight, terms such as “decolonization” are leveraged and work to differing ends by those who employ them. Inward Outward wants to foster space for these variegated spaces and paces to intertwine, and for critical dia­logue and practices to emerge. In reading this ­publication you are invited to travel across different media and professional grappling with the themes that animated the symposium. Collectively, they offer the kaleidoscopic commence­ments of a con­versation we are committed to keep going.

If you have any thoughts or reflections in reading this publication we invite you to get in touch with us at:

— Inward Outward 2020 Programming & Editorial Team

Rachel Somers Miles, Alana Osbourne,
Eleni Tzialli & Esther Captain