Relay Conversation Reading Room #18 – Anarchival Practices (part 2)

Conversation with Christoph Brunner (CB), Alanna Thain (AT), Nikki Forrest (NF), Jonathan Reus (JR), Flora Reznik (FR) and Sissel Marie Tonn (ST)

Illustration by: Sissel Marie Tonn

Editor’s note:


The Reading Room is an event series organized at Stroom in The Hague, and produced by the Instrument Inventors Initiative. Since 2015 we have been organizing this series with the intention of creating a platform for close-readings and discussion of seminal theoretical texts among an ever-growing diverse community of artists, cultural practitioners and individuals interested in intellectual discourse. For every session we invite guest readers to share their knowledge and guide the community through key texts and themes within their field of expertise. The Reading Room is made possible with the support from the Stroom Den Haag and the Creative Industries Fund.


As discussions like those in the Reading Room are so ephemeral, and yet full of the emergent knowledge within our community, in 2017 we are experimenting with ways in which we can capture the traces of this event series. In this sense it is no coincidence that we begin 2017 with clusters on topics such as Ecologies of Existence and Anarchival Practices. To this end, we are excited to start an interview series created in collaboration with the guest readers in 2017. This will not only be an effort to archive the events and the new insights offered by these events, but also an opportunity to shed light on the texts discussed for those who were unable to attend the session in person, and hopefully in some way also capture the flat hierarchies of our community within the method of relay interviews. These interviews are conducted as conversation pieces between the three organizers; artists Jonathan Reus, Flora Reznik and Sissel Marie Tonn, and the invited guests.

The Reading Room #17 and #18 took place on the 2nd and 16th of June with guest readers Christoph Brunner and Alanna Thain, and was the continuation of our collaboration between The Reading Room and ‘ArchipelagoLab for Transversal Practices’ at Leuphana University.

This cluster of the Reading Room zooms in on the concept of anarchival practicesTraditionally, archiving has been seen as a practice of documenting and conserving, often done by institutions and those in positions of power. But counter-movements and efforts to archive the daily practices left out of official archives, or artist archives, are gaining momentum and challenging at the limits of traditional approaches. The concept of anarchiving especially attempts to reproach archival methods that often erase the processual, affective, and contextual aspects of lived experience. Anarchival methods are active and lived, they are ways to carry forward the foundations of further action, catalysts for the next event. In this cluster of Reading Rooms we ask how can anarchiving be developed as a creative approach for both artists, activists and academics to use? These questions were unraveled through texts and works in the diverse fields of dance, film, queer and feminist movements as specific memories of daily life.

Furthermore we had the opportunity to collaborate with Nikki Forrest, a Montreal-based video artist around the video screening ‘The Feeling of Falling – Queer Ecologies, Uncertain Spaces’, a one-hour experimental video program of works from the independent artist run centers Groupe Intervention Video and Videographe based in Montreal. The program explored intersections of movement practice, audiovisual media and environmental relations. The works are connected by a playful focus on Queer Ecologies, drawing out on alternative and marginal histories of media form and practice, including the critical importance of intersectional identities, sustainable support, DIY and micro-budget production and other material practices. This screening took place on the 2nd of June before the first Reading Room session in this cluster.

In the first session of the cluster that revolves around Anarchival Practices we discussed the texts “Ephemera as evidence” by José Esteban Muñoz and “Anarchival Cinemas” by Alanna Thain (you can read part 1 of this Relay Conversation here). In the second session of the same cluster, we continued to discuss those texts in depth, as well as adding André Lepecki’s chapters “The body as archive. Will to reenact and the afterlives of dances” and “Choreographic angelology. The dancer as worker of history (or, remembering is a hard thing)” from his book Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance. In these texts the author address the “always-ambivalent relation dance has had with history, with dance’s own passing away” focusing on reenactments of performance and choreography. Lepecki’s work invites us to deal with the a certain afterlife, or a strategy of survival in specific cases of recent reenactments in the field of dance. In these performances, the body becomes an lived archive and immerses the audience into what he calls, following Didi Huberman (who, in turn, draws on Walter Benjamin’s notion of time), a “complex temporality”. Lepecki relates this to Munoz’ queer temporality, as these acts function within “horizons of extemporal futurities” as local strategies of critical engagement: they are a “political-performative force”. Taking Foucault’s notion of dispositif, a choreography becomes a way of “distributing the visible and the invisible”. Overall, he claims the value of a utterly humble gesture: to use one’s body as an archive for as long as one survives, counting on an ecology of existence that involves the audience and potential iterations of the work, to carry on with the task of translating.

Relay Conversation

JR: Dear Nikki, we had the chance to meet up just before the Reading Room for a workshop at the University of Amsterdam. While we were sharing our work, at some point you dropped a term that has stuck with me since. We were talking about the mutual inclusion and exclusion of the word intimacy – that intimacy simultaneously promotes an opportunity to experience the detailed material textures of an event, while at the same time excluding things – or individuals. In this discussion you proposed the term ‘wild intimacy’, which I think has beautiful connotations in light of the texts by Muñoz and Lepecki. Could you give us your thoughts on this term, and how it could relate to ‘The Anarchive’?

NF: I’m really interested in the question of how intimacy works to include and exclude certain types of experience. I think I had wildness in mind because of ideas that came up in the Dynamic Form workshop in Amsterdam in a presentation by Montreal based artist Matthew Robin Nye. He mentioned Jack Halberstam – who has been working on wildness in relation to queer theory, drawing on some of Muñoz’ last work.

I think the notion of wild intimacy appeals to me as a kind of resistance to normative structures of relation. I’m thinking about intimacy that doesn’t want to be contained, that falls outside of prescribed relations and that proliferates in different and unforeseeable directions. I work a lot with experimental sound and I’m interested in unpredictable relations between sound and image. In film-making “wild sound” is the term for any recorded audio that is not synchronized with the image…it is initially unmoored and does not have a known pre-established relation with the image. You don’t know in advance exactly where it will go or what it will do…how it will enter into the soundtrack and affect the image, or what kinds of relations will emerge. Maybe this is a good analogy for wild intimacy? There are moments of wild intimacy in many of the videos in the screening program, perhaps most apparently in “Singeries”. There is a subtle and funny connection between the two performers that defies simple explanation or definition. We see two women but it is not clear how they are related. The intimacy between them changes through-out the video, sometimes arising from physical proximity, sometimes from shared and repeated movements,

sometimes from visual contact… but we always sense something that moves between them; a shared potential.

I really like the idea of intimacies that are unscripted, that don’t adhere to known forms of relation –  that are perhaps improvised? I’m thinking again about wild, non-syncronized sound as a technique that invites viewers / listeners into a speculative relation. This is a kind of ecological impulse that moves outwards into the world, potentially including any aspect of the surrounding environment, rather than the closed and inward intimacy traditionally contained exclusively within a relationship. In the sense of being expansive and creative, carrying forward the foundations of further connection, wild intimacy is anarchival.

FR: Alanna, in our encounter in the Reading Room you stated that an ecological thinking was a non-systemic way of thinking, because it understands that there is no outside the relation, no outside a situation. But you also raised the question: what does it mean to live in a world that excludes you? This tackled the specific problematic of queerness

In the sense of being expansive and creative, carrying forward the foundations of further connection, wild intimacy is anarchival.

(and I think that even if this term has a place in the history of sexuality and gender issues, it could also be a tool to think other problematics in which identities don’t fit pre-determined roles, such as immigrants, for example). Facing this, we looked for strategies of survival, and we focused on performance and documentation. In Lepecki’s text, which focuses on reenactments, we read: “the body as archive re-places and diverts notions of archive away from a documental deposit or a bureaucratic agency dedicated to the (mis)management of ‘the past’.” Can you explain how an expanded notion of both performance and documentation can have a critical potential? And how can this be as well a political project?

AT: I would want to begin with the notion of an outside, as traced in Lepecki’s text and in my own work around the intimacy of alterity, in relation to the idea of the (an)archive. (Lepecki’s reworking of the notion of the archive clearly resonates with what I call the anarchive). Performance and documentation often seem like two different temporal regimes, serving different imperatives and requiring different forms of attention. Performance can seem like a site of immersion (to revisit this word that has travelled across this conversation),

while documentation implies the limit or externality to the form of performance, a staging of point of view that might be seen to interrupt the flow of engagement.

But common to Lepecki’s text and my own idea of the anarchive is an insistence on time as a dynamic form. In his work on re-enactment and what he calls the “will to archive”, Lepecki identifies a will for difference as the re-animation of “impalpable possibilities” in the work of art. He links this so explicitly to “the indetermination that is a body,” that every ‘will to archive’ is also a ‘will to dance’, where “the body is archive and archive a body”.  You could take this so far as to think of (an)archiving in these terms as a movement practice of differentiation, which for me is both the critical and political site of possibility.

Rerouting personalized forces expressed as pathological (why he rejects insistently the mourning of lost origins), Lepecki’s work opens onto the possibility of survival as a form of re-animation. Dance re-enactments, in which bodies document this will to archive, are depersonalizing and radically disjunctive forces, anti-possessive. Archiving as an ‘affective mode of historicity’ charts a form of survival that is not preservative, 

moving away from “domiciling”; he writes “reenactments transform all authored objects into fugitives in their own home”.  While this might seem like a description of alienation, how could we rethink this fugitivity as a positive force of sociability instead? In Nikki’s video “Flip/ Bend” (which was screened at our event before The Reading Room), the domestic discomfort of a home turned upside down plays out in the tension between two women, displacing the closed world of a couple form into an anarchic archive of (re) playable forces, which ripple the ecology of that film. We see gravity in action because it is an anarchival force that allows for unusual movement possibilities. The space and the bodies unfold, and we both witness and sense this perceptual skew as fugitive perception—we feel our habits fleeing their habitus!

To return to the idea of embodied presence, Lepecki draws on Foucault to articulate the archive as potentially activating a critical zone: “The analysis of the archive, then, involves a privileged zone, at once close to us and different from our present existence, it is the border of time which surrounds our presence”. This ambiguous limit to the edges of embodiment I’ve called the body’s anotherness, the intimacy of experiencing the body in time as a ongoing alter-fication, 

Anotherness, the body as indeterminate archive, is a way to moving from survival to thriving, or onto-political potential.

the feeling of difference being made. Again, rather than alienating, we can see this as the recognition of our own creative strangeness as relational beings in what Christoph calls an ecology of existence. Lepecki describes how for Foucault, “the archive dissipates that ‘temporal identity in which we are pleased to look at ourselves’” in favor of establishing “that we are difference’”.

Survival in the face of exclusion does not require expansiveness or incorporation in relation to an archive, but rather the opportunity to fully tap into the excorporative effects of this untimely border, that is the experience of having a body. Lepecki suggests that we only enter the archive choreographically, and in some ways, this notion loops back around to Christoph’s gloss on my joke about the deadly potential of immersion in mobile media. Anarchival cinema, I proposed, is a mode of re-animation where one no longer knows what counts as part of the show, when we take media forms out of the box. It allows us to feel that temporal border, our own anotherness, as a force of re-animation. Like Lepecki, who rejects the 

melancholic or lamentational relation to a lost origin in favor of an onto-political creativity, I think of survival not simply as continuation, but as access to the non-fatal cut, to the disjunctive as a relinking force. Anotherness, the body as indeterminate archive, is a way to moving from survival to thriving, or onto-political potential.

To pick up on another idea in this conversation, the body’s anotherness is also a site for wild intimacy, the anti-domestic. Lepecki describes, for instance, Julie Tolentino’s intensive excorporation of Ron Athey’s “Self-Obliteration #1″, which occurs through a process I would call “witnessing withness”. He describes Tolentino’s absolute attention before Athey’s initial performance, as she prepares her body to become an archive of the work; her “will to archive” is also capacitated by what Lepecki describes as the audience’s silence. In this description, the body’s capacity to serve as a recording or archiving device or dispositif is made, rather than presumed—the body becomes like a blank tape, where a receptivity develops through a depersonalizing force of attention, like the inverse of 

a photographic image developing on a sheet of paper.

The body’s expansive capacity for alterfication, for anotherness, yokes our ongoing existence in time—survival—with a tender intimacy that exceeds the two-ness of Tolentino and Athey, that relies on and relays the audience’s immersion into a making-space. Tolentino’s act of witnessing isn’t simply virtuosic, but creates an ecological relay with the audience as well that is excessive. In this way, it is a form of immersion shared across performing bodies that “disjunctively produc(es) conjunctions”, to repeat Christoph, highlighting the necessary fragility of the body in time as an archive.

This fragility, the body’s time form, is not to be mourned—for Lepecki, this afterlife is itself reanimation. For this reason, Tolentino’s humble proposition—that her body becomes an archive (only) for her own life’s duration, while she survives—is a gamble on an entire ecology of existence that exceeds the personal. Lepecki describes this in terms of donation and the gift, which resonates, but I prefer to think 

of it in the way that Fred Moten and Stefano Harney describe debt in The Undercommons, as that which, in passing away, passes around and comes back around.

ST: Flora, in your recent work you’re engaging directly with the question of performance and documentation, for example in your work ‘Hole’, the durational performative gesture of digging a hole on the beach near the Zandmotor (close to The Hague) becomes a point of circumvention of engaging with philosophical concepts, histories, the notion of place in relation to the body (sorry if I misinterpret, please correct if I’m wrong). I wonder if you can talk about what the role of documentation plays in your work, how, specifically the claim to ‘liveness’ and presence that has often been attributed performance as an artistic medium might not necessarily be lost in the documenting medium. How do you think ‘presence’ (of a body, situation or gesture) can be captured, or perhaps re-lived, in encountering documentation of a work? and what strategies do you invoke to infuse the document with a 

sense of presence within the trace that is the document? How can this in a way ‘democratise’ performance as an art form, making it available to others who were not present in the given point of time when the performative gesture was executed, and thus thinking of the performative gesture as something that can span well beyond the present moment?

FR: Dear Sissel, your question seems to go in a direction that is quite opposite to what I am trying to do. I work with performance as a starting point. I like to think of these performances as research processes: while doing something I find out what it is about that specific activity that is interesting and that can become a piece. I take the moment of doing as a very personal, self indulgent part of my work: I do what I enjoy and in that pleasure I look for (or I invent) meaning. One can think of these performances as pieces in themselves, with or without audience. But I think the most interesting part (and also the most challenging) is working with the documentation of those performances and producing an installation. I do not intend to re-present the performance. 

The performance is one work, it happened, it’s done, dead. Precisely because it is dead it can become a ghost. One could argue that all existence has a ghostly potential and that everything is haunted. I take very seriously the notion of trace from Derrida: a trace is a trace of a trace, never present, always an iteration. But in these particular experiments that I am conducting, I am interested in working with the traces of a performance to emphasize the distance to their source and and not their closeness. A small differance that opens a big playroom for me to work in the in-between zone of performance and documentation.

I have no interest in telling the truth of what happened. In the end, it is the same person who is performing the act and documenting it. Shouldn’t this be already suspicious? Like a judge ruling over the rights his own company has over a certain matter… There is a conflict of interests, if we believe in neutrality, and I am all for exploiting this. Meaning: all that is “shown” in the documents could have easily never happened, or happened differently. I’d rather play with the possibility all of that is actually a fiction. I find the documentary discipline extremely interesting, because it 

I’d rather play with the possibility all of that is actually a fiction. I find the documentary discipline extremely interesting, because it plays in a gray zone between what we think is true and what is fantasy.

plays in a gray zone between what we think is true and what is fantasy. In Introduction to Documentary by Bill Nichols, a super boring book I was supposed to read if I wanted to apply for a Film Studies program, he states that the documentary as a notion has become so vague that is impossible to distinguish from fiction anymore. It is impossible to define and therefore the book goes on for hundreds of pages describing different “modes” of documentary. But there is one interesting insight: one note that the documentary as a genre has is that there is an intention to relate to reality. So it is a very special kind of fiction.

To me, the most interesting aspect about reality is common sense. There’s nothing more real than that, it is stronger than a rock. There are political reasons why this is relevant to me. Common sense, under the disguise of notions like progress and change, is by nature conservative. The document addresses notions about truth, about how we as a society build our mechanisms to be able to tell when something happened or not, or if it is worth it to tell the story or not, etc. Perhaps it is just a matter of accents: even if what happened did in fact happen, I choose 

to abstract only certain elements from it, or tell it in a way that makes you wonder what is important there, if what happened, or the gesture in itself as an abstraction, or some ridiculous shiny detail that emerged and I didn’t even plan to be noticeable.

But I don’t work with documents only because I want to make engaged, critical pieces. I like working with them because I find it liberating. I work with documents like a poet works with words. They are materials, as new and present, and as old and worn out as their supposed event-source was when it happened or the thing that the word refers to. To me, poetry is the cracks in reality. It is the uncertainty that lays in what we take for a fact in our most ordinary landscapes, painted by our common sense. In a way, I get the feeling that in a performance, with the apparent “presence” of that involved (the bodies, the objects, the contexts, the words), everything is too close to our common sense. When I say apparent I mean that our common sense is telling us to read the situation in that way, in a way in which things are present and nothing but present, the dead are not operational anymore, and what didn’t happen doesn’t count.

Although some of us have read Lepecki and totally believe we are indeed inhabiting a “complex time”, we do not live our everyday lives like this. There are multiple fictions operating at the same time, parallel, in different spheres of reality. We all are equipped with a survival kit that keeps us from renouncing to our common sense.

I do believe in the white cube: it can be beautiful! You count on the commitment of an audience that decided to spend some time letting go of that armour that is our common sense. You cannot play with someone who doesn’t want to play, you cannot make love with someone who is not willing to engage in the experience. I think it’s the same with art and I have no hopes for democratizing strategies. We need to be more subtle. And less megalomaniacs. Democracy is perhaps the best thing we have, but we should never forget that it is in its nature the possibility of becoming totalitarian.

FR: Sissel, in Lepecki’s text there is an emphasis on the active role of the body as an archive. A body would be different from both an original artwork that is present and complete and a dead 

document (a mythical dichotomy that the text is deconstructing) because it acts. It seems to be mainly because of this reason that it can open the present to the past and to potential futurities. But of course, action is entangled with passion, and bodies are always being affected (by an environment, by memories, by perceptions, by other people). Do you think that this aspect is as important? Do you think that there are some specific capacities that the ‘body as archive’ has because it is being affected?

ST: Flora, in my reply I would also like to turn to the piece by Ron Athey archived by Julie Tolentino, which Alanna described so beautifully above. The archiving process is her viewing and copying/archiving into her body the quite visceral performance piece of Athey, called Self-Obliteration, in front of an audience. The gesture of Tolentino is to ‘turn her body into an archive’ by inscribing the experience of performing Self-Obliteration into her own embodied memory. Through this gesture the body becomes archive through attention and repetition, as Alanna writes, and I would add – exactly in all it’s precariousness, perceptual blind spots, affects and muscle tremors. In this sense I think the affective properties that you mention in your question, Flora, is ‘part of the package’, of 

thinking of this ‘will to archive’, that Lepecki talks of, and that Alanna unpacks above. I guess for me it makes sense to think of Lepecki’s notion of archive as less as a practical methodology of capture/storage and more of a critical approach to challenge the idea of liveness/value pertaining to the original work. Lepecki is quite fond of this idea from Foucault (and so am I): “Archiving is a system of transforming simultaneously past, present and future – that is, a system for recreating a whole economy of the temporal”. What I am a bit confused by is the jump from the artwork and re-enactment/archiving of the work in another temporal framework than its conception, and the critical investigation of the idea of archive in general, as something that is bureaucratic and excluding (as in Muñoz). I guess the efforts of disconnecting the art event from its claim to presence and originality, and focusing on the ‘will to archive’ as an active form of archiving which is intimately connected to the body, is a critique of the linearity in Hal Foster’s claim about the “archival impulse” in contemporary art (in which he states that the impulse is one of ‘probing a misplaced past’, and something which ‘cannot be connected’). Lepecki mines dance reenactments for their critical potential for disrupting this linearity and to expose the ‘complex time’ of the art event.  

(Lepecki introduces his chapter on dance reenactment with Walter Benjamin’s ideas on the translation of an original, the ‘radical incompleteness’ of the artwork that sends them off into future endless iterations/translations, alluding to this futurity as the “complex time” of the artwork – as coined by Georges Didi-Huberman).

Another point that your question brought to my mind is that the body proper also has a “complex time”, or perhaps what Alanna calls ‘dynamic time’, and this in a very literal and politically charged sense. The body doesn’t only exist within the time frame of birth-to-death, it carries traces from the past, genes and DNA as well as heavy metals, minerals, hormones and toxins that it absorbs – perhaps from mothers’ milk, through consumption or exposure to the environment. These substances have much longer temporalities than our current bodily constellations in the moment of living. The calcium of our bones persist longer than the assemblage we call ourselves as well, potentially becoming recording media for the exposure to the environment we endured while we were moving around as big sponges inhaling and exhaling, sweating, absorbing, excreting, ejaculating, eating and peeling. I know this tangent doesn’t have very much to do with the text that concerns documenting dance and performance, but I find it fascinating to think

The calcium of our bones persists longer than the assemblage we call ourselves as well, potentially becoming recording media for the exposure to the environment we endured while we were moving around as big sponges inhaling and exhaling, sweating, absorbing, excreting, ejaculating, eating and peeling.

of the materiality of our bodies as not something so privileged to the moment of living – of our bodies having the same kind of ‘radical incompleteness’ that Benjamin ascribes to the original artwork – in a constant state of becoming (for better or worse). I think that the ‘will to archive’ has something of an affective force, experienced by the ‘archivist/re-enactor’, to explore the non-exhausted creative fields of potential that every work carries, as well as the attentiveness and care in the effort of the ‘will to archive’, which Alanna describes. Lepecki referred to Leibniz’ mode of a possible recollection that exert pressure toward actualization – so this very active gesture to re-enact and archive is deeply engrained in the body’s urge or intent to (in this case) dance.

ST: Dear Jon. Alanna mentions in her first answer the discussions around documenting/archiving the ephemerality of dance, and in the Reading Room we were discussing the issues of documenting digital/online artwork that becomes obsolete, or media-specific work that was born and existed within a very specific socio-cultural context of the time. I am curious whether you 

consider the ‘anarchival’ tendencies of your own work, and if you could talk a bit about the ephemerality of digital objects/artworks? Perhaps this quote by Lepecki can inspire you: “In his essay ‘The Task of the Translator’, Walter Benjamin considers how works of art are constituted by a kind of originary, radical incompleteness —one that, nevertheless, animates them, sends them off into endless future iterations, or translations, each of which would somehow unveil or actualize figments of potentiality not expressed in the ‘original’. Thus the movement of works into their many futures and different expressions is literally one of being ‘carried across’, i.e.: translated”.  

JR: As a musician, I am mainly making work in the domain of the present. However, as an instrumentalist, I am working with the past – as instruments are always in some way the unfinished archives of previous musical generations. As an instrument maker, I am considering past, present and future in superposition. For me this is a useful entry point for opening up the scope of history. This sounds a lot like Media Archeology, which is also framed as a

response to certain exclusionary tendencies in archival practice. I think Media Archeology in many ways is anarchival.

For example, much of my work from a few years ago, like iMac Music and Telco Remains, could be thought of as re-animating specific techno-scientific moments. However, I prefer to think of what I do as remixing rather than re-animating, because these moments are not the walking dead, rather they are there to be iterated upon.

Re-animating is not the same as re-living. In his writing about remix culture, Lawrence Lessig makes a conceptual link between contemporary digital reappropriation (in memes, for example) to oral performance cultures such as those found in folk music and dance traditions. In such traditions, a piece of music or dance is constantly being incrementally created with each performance. What I try to do in my performances and other work is to reduce the medial boundaries between performance practices and other creative acts. This includes acts from artistic disciplines as much as from science and engineering, or in my more recent work, from anthropology.

As a result my work ‘looks’ like so many things. It looks like performance art. It looks like media art. It looks like music. Not to mention research, design, engineering, pedagogy, etc… My work often involves many activities widely considered as non-artistic, such as deep research into science and engineering journals, reading obscure engineering schematics – this makes it difficult to be accepted by some art circles, but I consider all of this as part of participating in an iteration. To iterate on Foucault’s mantra from the beginning of the first relay: “Acts, not identities”.

On your question about the preservation of digital art. I’m definitely no expert here. But in the reading room I recall we discussed two cases: the first was the attempt by the MoMa to conserve one of Nam June Paik’s “Altered Piano” sculptures. 

The second was “”, a seminal net-art piece by Martine Neddam that was recently purchased by the Stedelijk Museum. Paik’s piano piece includes obsolete technologies such as a floppy disk drive and a number of CRT television sets he collected in the 1980’s. In the case of “”, you have a work dependent on the web technologies of 1996, including specific HTML tags and web browser features that no longer exist. Both are examples of how the accelerated entropy of post-industrial technical media exacerbates the already difficult choices that are part and parcel of what conservationists do, such as when to replace vs. when to rebuild, but also what to do about the problem of preserving functionalities that are excluded from the archive much in the same way as the lived experiences of queer communities and dancers that we discussed.

What functionality is necessary for an artwork to function? In the case of Paik the MoMa hunted down new tv sets to replace the old ones. In the case of “”, the entire website was remade with contemporary web techniques – fun fact: by my father – to look and act like a website made in 1996. However, when passing into obsolescence, these media take on entirely different affective charges. To the museum their value lies in their representational capability – via the wood-decor CRT tvs, or crude late-90’s web graphics – to maintain a certain threshold of authenticity, but their functionality is utterly non-authentic, it can never be, it has been historically displaced and is now a cultural free agent, perhaps ready for the next remix.


Alanna Thain is associate professor of World Cinemas and Cultural Studies at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. She directs the Moving Image Research Laboratory (, dedicated to the study of the body in moving image media, and home to Cinema Out of the Box, a bicycle powered mobile cinema staging guerrilla screenings in the urban ecology of Montreal. She is also director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. Her research focuses on time and embodiment in cinema, media and performance. Her book Bodies in Time: Suspense, Affect and Cinema was published from University of Minnesota Press in 2017.

Christoph Brunner is assistant professor for cultural theory at Leuphana University Lüneburg. He works on the intersections between art, philosophy, and activism with a specific focus on emergent collectivity and technopolitics. Together with Yvonne Volkart he organized the symposium “Ecologies of Existence” in 2016. Before coming to the north of Germany he worked at Zurich University of Arts and studied in Montreal and London. He is member of the SenseLab in Montreal, part of the SSHRC partnership grant Immediation: Art, Media, Event, and initiated the ArchipelagoLab for Transversal Practices at Leuphana. 

Nikki Forrest is a Montreal based artist whose practice includes video, sound, installation and live performance projects. Their short experimental videos have been shown at many festivals, galleries and screening spaces including: The Mix Festival (New York), The Glasgow Film and Video Workshop, Dundee Contemporary Arts, The Oberhausen Short film and Video Festival (Germany), Ausland (Berlin), Le Center d’Art Santa Monica (Barcelona), The Images Festival, Toronto and the Festival Internationale du Films sur l’Art (Montreal). They have also participated in several international artist s residencies including: The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec studio exchange residency in Buenos Aires and The Canada Council studio at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.  Nikki’s work is included in the collections of The National Gallery of Canada, The Saskatchewan Arts Board and Concordia University.

Sissel Marie Tonn is a Danish artist living in The Hague. She works with multi-media installation, textiles and writing, and her processual approach is driven by a great deal of curiosity and the possibilities of building relationships across fields. Her work revolves around an interest in structures of attention and perception within ecologies undergoing subtle or profound changes. Within this discourse her work explores these environmental (often humanly induced) changes, extending the public debates towards epistemological issues connecting these events to the body and its sensing of presence. She completed a master in Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in 2015 and will be a resident at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht in 2017.

Jonathan Reus is an American musician, researcher and curator whose work blends machine aesthetics with free improvisation. His broader research is into instruments and instrumentations, and their potential to bring new insight into knowing the world. Jonathan is associate lecturer of Computing and Coded Culture at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media in Leuphana University, Lüneburg, where he has created teaching methods for hybrid coursework blending science, mathematics and cultural studies. He is also a lecturer in performative sound art at the ArtEZ academy of art in Arnhem.

Flora Reznik is an Argentinian artist based in The Netherlands. She was born in Buenos Aires, in 1986. There she studied in Universidad del Cine (FUC), obtained a diploma in Philosophy (University of Buenos Aires), while she worked as a video editor in film and TV, and co-funded the contemporary arts magazine “CIA”. In The Netherlands she graduated from the ArtScience Interfaculty department, in The Royal Academy of Art, and currently co-curates the artist initiative Platform for Thought in Motion, while she develops her work as an artist in the fields of video, performance, installation and text. She is busy with the notions of physicality, territory and time.

From the curators of the Reading Room: Thank you again to Christoph Brunner, Alanna Thain and Nikki Forrest for their insights both in The Reading Room and in this piece! We hope to welcome you both back in Den Haag. And special thanks to all the participants that joined in this gathering.