Lazy Machine
→ Moored Between the Columns

*class in session*
January – May 2021

BA (Hons) Graphic Design
Kingston School of Art
Knights Park, 3rd floor, Room 309


Archives hold and preserve, protect and record; they label, store and conceal fragments. Acquisitions are sanctioned, maintained and organised; the archival accumulation supported by – and contained within – physical and digital architectures – housed in a building and/or residing on a webspace. Archives are products of their time, they are bound to a specific context, yet span geographies and temporalities. An archive, to borrow a definition from the Archives and Records Association (a professional UK and Irish body for archivists), consists of ‘documents which have been selected for preservation from all of the documents from one source or provenance because of their enduring value.’

But according to whose criteria is this lasting virtue bestowed? After all, the nature of archival materials, as Hal Foster describes them, are at once ‘found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private.’ This material and its supporting infrastructure can be duplicitous. It can provide us with a direct line to a distilled past told through visible traces, through the ephemera kept and conserved, then ventriloquised – histories defined, framed and curated through various acts and actions, all those involved in obtaining, selecting, safeguarding, indexing, comprehending and activating play their part. But these accounts and records are never definitive.

The archival process has gaps, holes and blindspots; there’s the mislaid, the overlooked, the lost, the stolen, the destroyed, the forgotten. And while archives themselves are sources of history, they are forever incomplete, patchy and messy (often literally), telling only half-truths, with voices absent and accounts permanently left untold. Whispered echoes resonate across the void, between artefacts and ojects, within the pages of manuscripts. Full of loss, the archive nevertheless holds potential, offering, as poet Holly Pester notes, ‘a space for future aberrance’.

Moored Between the Columns is a 10-week long *project* that will attempt to work towards an understanding of the archive as a complex living organism, a site entrenched with conflict, politics and possibility; holding at once incompatible ideologies and ideals, as well as artefacts with diverging histories. Taking the writer and researcher Saidiya Hartman’s archival process as our model, we will work reflectively and critically ‘with and against the archive’, ‘disordering and transgressing’ its protocols to bring into question ‘the authority of its statements’. 

Talks, discusions and workshops will each be framed around weekly readings, listenings and watchings. Through this critical and contextual material we will investigate how supporting material, modes of display, recording, indexing, annotation and description shape our understanding of the past, and provide a framework for our own archival interventions.