We make, gather, compile archives and create a world of archives so that we remember, so that we don’t forget our history and the stories of others. Human beings have taken great care in recording and storing the product of their work throughout history. It is gathered mainly in National Libraries whose access is limited and carefully monitored. Alain Resnais’ film “La mémoire du monde” shows the gigantic French National library in Paris with its 100 km of walls covered with books. It is like entering an immense fortress, a sea of documents, it gives vertigo and we can question how many of us will ever have access or any interest in engaging with this well protected world of knowledge and memory.
I would rather look at the World as an Archive myself and see the land and landscapes as repositories of memory like Susan Hiller does in “The J project” where she scans the German landscape for remaining Jewish street names. She then created a visual inventory of 303 roads, streets, paths referring to a Jewish presence. As opposed to a traditional public memorial that suppresses collective memory by freezing meaning rather than preserving it, Hiller offers a living memorial. She creates a space for memory, a visual archive where the memorial is not immediately visible. Careful study, close reading and contemplative immersion are required to understand her work so that remembrance becomes possible.
Hiller’s work “promotes an ethics of memory rather than teaches a lesson of history”. Her interpretation of the archive is alive, poetic. She thinks the landscape as archive and captures its evocative powers.
Sophie Meyer – 2012