B.2 "Affective Responsibilities:" Feminism, Care, and the Creative Transformation of the Archive, Part 2

Wed Oct 20 / 11:30 – 13:00 PDT
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chairs /

  • Leah Modigliani, Temple University
  • Julia Polyck-O'Neill, York University

Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor destabilize and denaturalize the idea of the neutrality of the archive when they position the archivist as caregiver, with "affective responsibilities" (36–38). Once understood to be objective, resolute, and determinative, archives have long been central to art historical methodologies. That is, until all those excluded from the historical record started to speak up loudly from the dustbin of history, not quite swept away after all. Today, standing at the edge of a multitude of 21stC disasters, art history has turned to interrogating its own methodologies in an effort to do things differently; to enact new ways of being. This panel invites participants to consider how feminist methodological, epistemological, and political changes have transformed "the archive" and how archival studies are understood and/or used in visual arts-based research. The organizers also welcome submissions from artists engaged in archival research and practices, papers on relevant case studies, and/or proposals from scholars or artists that discuss emerging or alternate archival forms or collections.

work cited: Caswell, Michelle and Marika Cifor. From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in the Archives. Archivaria no. 81, Spring (2016): 23–43.

Leah Modigliani is an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at Tyler School of Art and Architecture. She is an artist and scholar who rejects specialization in favour of transdisciplinary engagements with fine arts, art history, critical geography, urban studies, and politics. Modigliani's projects arise from a network of concerns, including the history of the avant-garde and its relationship to political critique, feminist art and writing, social dissent since 1968, the history of photography, performance and re-enactment as political strategy, and the pernicious effects of neoliberal capitalism. At the node of these networks is her central concern with how an individual's freedom of expression is destroyed, curtailed, or displaced through socio-economic factors beyond their control. Modigliani's artwork has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum (Philadelphia), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville, ME), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), amongst other places. Her critical writing can be found in many academic journals and magazines and her first book, Engendering an Avant-Garde: The Unsettled Landscapes of Vancouver Photo-Conceptualism, was published by Manchester University Press's Rethinking Art's Histories series in 2018. She is currently working on her second book, Counter-Revanchist Art in the Global City, to be published by Routledge in 2023.

Julia Polyck-O'Neill is an artist, curator, critic, poet, and writer. A former lecturer at the Obama Institute at Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (2017–18), international fellow of the Electronic Literature Organization, and fellow of the Editing Modernism in Canada project, she is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Visual Art and Art History and the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University where she studies digital, feminist approaches to interdisciplinary artists' archives for her project, Potential Archives: Envisioning the Future of the Interdisciplinary Artist Archive in Canada. She is currently developing a monograph based on her SSHRC-supported dissertation, Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver's Conceptual Visual Arts and Writing, which she completed at Brock University. Her writing has been published in Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft (The Journal for Aesthetics and General Art History), English Studies in Canada, DeGruyter Open Cultural Studies, BC Studies, Canadian Literature, Avant Canada: Poets, Prophets, Revolutionaries (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019), and other places.

B.2.1 Looking for Queer Designers in All the Wrong Places

Olivier Vallerand, Université de Montréal

Thinking about the relation of gender, sexuality, and spatial design requires understanding both the use and experience of space and the approaches taken by designers. But because design and architecture archives often erase biographical elements about both designers and users to focus on building-related artefacts, it becomes difficult to develop comprehensive histories that address how the self-identifications of designers intersect with the social and political life of spaces. This is particularly problematic when exploring designers that have been consistently marginalized or pushed out of architecture and design histories. In a project focused on double and triple discriminations experienced by queer women in architecture — and in my broader research on queer space — I ran into the dual problem of trying to identify these women in archives and of trying to discuss the sexual orientation or gender identity of designers who might not have been explicit about it during their career, often fearing to lose the little business they were already struggling to get in a male-dominated profession.

While believing strongly in the importance of making these figures visible, I have also dealt with the ethical questions that come with discussing designers' biographical details, addressed in this paper. How much can be inferred from limited personal archival material? Does it matter if architects' or designers' personal lives are discussed in terms that they might not have used themselves? Who gets to decide if these details matter or not to an understanding of the spaces they designed? And going back to the methodological issues of finding them in limited archives, is it even useful to use traditional design archives to trace such histories, or should other forms of archives be mined for their potential for design history research.

Olivier Vallerand is a community activist, architect, historian, and assistant professor at Université de Montréal. He completed a PhD in Architecture from McGill University and postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on self-identifications and their relation to the use and design of the built environment, on queer and feminist approaches to design education, and on alternative practices of architecture and design. His book Unplanned Visitors: Queering the Ethics and Aesthetics of Domestic Space (2020) discusses the emergence of queer theory in architectural discourse. His research has been published in the Journal of Architectural Education, Interiors: Design | Architecture | Culture, Inter art actuel, The Educational Forum, The Plan, Captures, and in the edited volumes Sexuality (Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art), Making Men, Making History: Canadian Masculinities across Time and Place, and Contentious Cities: Design and the Gendered Production of Space. He also regularly writes for Canadian Architect.

B.2.2 Returning to the Open Wound of the Archive with Emilio Rojas through Gloria E. Anzaldúa

  • Laurel McLaughlin, Bryn Mawr College
  • Emilio Rojas, Bard College

Chicana feminist and queer theorist Gloria Anzaldúa wrote in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), "The US-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds." Through this quote, Anzaldúa identifies the borderspace as a zone of abject bodily accrual, a kind of fleshly archive. Multidisciplinary artist Emilio Rojas draws upon Anzaldúa's archive in the Benson Latin American Center of the University of Texas in Austin, alongside autobiographical experiences, to perform such fleshly encounters with, around, and of the US-Mexican border. Whether tattooing its outline down his spine annually in Heridas Abiertas (2017–ongoing); or growing corns, beans, and squash, in a 100-foot organic wall replica of the border activated by whispered border pedagogies from Anzaldúa archive transparencies in Naturalized Borders (to Gloria) (2019); or inviting audiences to draw the border in exchange for a paleta (Mexican frozen treat), only to realize they cannot recollect its abstracted nature in A Vague and Undetermined Place (to Gloria) (2019), Rojas incarnates the border as affective catharsis.

In a co-presented paper, McLaughlin and Rojas query these works and the artist's ongoing artist-based research in Anzaldúa's archive within the context of a recent survey exhibition Emilio Rojas: Tracing a Wound through My Body, at Lafayette College, September 2–November 13, 2021. Notably, they explore how these performance and social practice works draw upon an embodied autobiographical and feminist understanding of the archive via Anzaldúa and a recognition of a queer retroactive temporality, akin to what Elizabeth Freeman calls "temporal drag," or a counter- or antisystematic history. In so doing, they ultimately examine how the open wound exists across time and perhaps offers a bridge to healing.

Laurel V. McLaughlin is a curator, writer, and art historian from Philadelphia based in Portland, OR. She holds MAs from The Courtauld Institute of Art and Bryn Mawr College and is currently a 2020–21 Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellow in American Art and History of Art PhD candidate at Bryn Mawr College.

Emilio Rojas is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily with the body in performance, using video, photography, installation, public interventions and sculpture. He holds an MFA in Performance from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA in Film from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada. Rojas is currently a Visiting Artist/Scholar in Residency in the Theater and Performance Department at Bard College in New York for the 2019–22 academic years and the inaugural resident of the Judy Pfaff Foundation (2019–21).

B.2.3 Archival (W)holes: Exploring Posters with Glitter Issues

Jessica Lapp, University of British Columbia

This paper explores the Newberry Library's Chicago Protest Collection and its "posters with glitter issues," that is, posters collected from recent Chicago protest actions that have been classified by conservation concern due to the amount of glitter and glue used in their construction. The Newberry's collection of modern protest materials is a unique and, at times, contradictory archival body. What allows these materials to hang together is their glitter proximity; how they shed, spread, accumulate, and intermingle in the stacks. Drawing from in-situ research at the Newberry, as well as interviews with Newberry archivists and an artist creating textiles in response to queer archival absence, this paper "follows the glitter" (Coleman 2020) in order to position feminist and queer archival records as transgressive and leaky. Thinking alongside archival theorizing on the archival body, and feminist and queer studies of glitter as world-building, I trace and corral glitter across four distinct, but interpolated acts of records shaping that constitute the Newberry Library's collection of protest materials: Initial inscription, collective constitution, institutional archivalization, and artistic use. In undertaking this analysis, I demonstrate how this bright and glittery archival body continually creates, sustains, obscures, and fabulates feminist and queer life worlds.

Jessica Lapp is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information, where she also completed her PhD in Information Studies. Her SSHRC-funded dissertation research project The Provenance of Protest: Conceptualizing Records Creation in Archives of Feminist Materials focuses on feminist archival practice and process, records creation, provenance theory, and the circulation of digital feminist histories. Throughout the course of her doctoral studies, she worked with the Rise Up! Feminist Digital Archive and Alternative Toronto, a community digital archive, on the documentation of social movement histories. Her research has been published in Archival Science and Information & Culture. In September 2021, she will be joining the University of British Columbia's School of Information as a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow focusing on the creation, maintenance, and use of digital surrogate records by performance artists.