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Credits: Examining items found in the Oblivia analogue archive. Photo TLF

Reflections from the Oblivia analogue archive

I recently spent a few days locked up in what we call the analogue archive of Oblivia. Our archive contains material from the whole twenty one years of Oblivia´s existence so you can easily imagine what it looks like; cardboard boxes full of photographs, prints and negatives, DVDs, mini DVs, C-cassettes, VHS-cassettes, books, notebooks, flyers, posters and a lot of unsorted papers. As our analogue archive is sharing the same space with our storage it is mingling with costumes stored according to their age; the ones still in use neatly hanging from a clothes rack, those from recent works neatly stored in big see through plastic containers, the older ones in plastic bags. Add to this more plastic bags full of unidentified clothing and now I realize that I forgot to mention all the shoes, wigs, gloves and other accessories. One category is of course the technical equipment; lamps, cables, stands etc. In short we are talking about a rather small space full of stuff.

My task (that i have been postponing for a ..hm, long time because..er…it’s hard to know where to start and…) was to make an inventory of what we have so that we can decide what to keep, what to give away and what to hand over to somewhere else for preservation. I decided to start with the archive bit as it was stored in boxes and seemed to have a sense of order about it.

But what is an archive, really? Is it a kind of memory? And how does that memory work? I was looking at the silent boxes and listening to the humming of air conditioning and I falled in a trance; I was transported into the future as an art historian. I was the first one to examine the contents of the Oblivia archive that had just been excavated at an archaeological site. I held the negatives against light, wondering who the people were and what they were doing. Searching in the already existing database I could of course identify many of the faces and was even able to determine a date and location for some of the photos but not anywhere near all of them. I wished I could ask someone who had been there at the time or that someone would have at least taken the trouble to add the relevant information to the envelopes in which they were found. A painful realization; all the miniDVs, VHSs, and DVDs would have to be sent to the All-European Central Cultural Research Center for playback.  They still had a few machines from the era in working order, otherwise my material would remain silent forever. Now, luckily I can read handwritten text so I immediately saw that the notes and notebooks were for the most part written in English, Bingo! But why are there so many costumes in small sizes, who can possibly ever have been able to fit in them? It started to look like a lot of this would have to remain a mystery. Such a pity!

 Another interesting find. Photo TLF

Back in the archive in 2021 it was time for some conclusions. All the analogue material has to be digitized, identified, categorized, labelled and put into the form of a catalogue (with a couple of back-up copies, of course) as long as the memory of the group members is still working normally.  All the costumes need to be labelled; which production, who was wearing, what materials? Flyers and other print material in albums. Credits! All the material that we consider not to be absolutely essential has to be disposed of responsibly. 

Now, that is a serious plan. After all, it’s nice to have an archive where the work is available for anyone for entertainment and research, even for oneself. Maybe someone will even decide to resurrect some of the work at some point – perfectly possible! But at the same time one wants the past to be in order and maybe even stored in such a way that one doesn’t need to deal with it all the time while creating new work.