From the Archive to the Atlas

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne

June 1-2, 2023 Climate Change Working Group

[Image: Le rebrousse-poll, nº 6-7, 1978. Archive Contestataires]

Archives are spaces of conflict where history and memory are constantly disputed. They tend to reproduce the political and cultural power of modernity. Yet, since the 1970s they have been largely challenged by post-structuralist critics, feminism, queer theory and decolonial discourses, among others, which have detected the exclusions, authoritarianism and epistemological roughness that traditionally operate in archival practice. At the same time, from these nodes of knowledge, various ways of subverting archives have been suggested, with proposals for counter-archives and anarchives. In the current context of ecological and energy crisis, it becomes urgent to include the ecosocial approach in the equation of critical analysis of the archive and its technologies. This workshop aims to question where, with which intensities, and how the traces of the ecological movement are studied and disseminated at the international level.

This two-day meeting intends to open a space to approach the traces of environmentalism without temporal or geographical restriction by three different, though complementary, ways.

  1. Drawing attention to the usual lack of ecological specificity of archives. Although there are repositories created and managed by environmental groups, it is common to find the documents and graphic and audiovisual materials produced by the movement, or of importance for reconstructing its history, in other kinds of archives, like the one belonging to trade unions, foundations or governmental entities. Locating the spaces where the traces of ecologism lie is part of our interests.
  2. Studying the structure and metabolism of archives. In the archival collections dwell the bases of the mindsets that allow us to think and understand the past of environmentalism, which are in permanent connection with the values, interests and needs of the present. These mental frameworks define cataloguing processes, heritage policies between the preservation and dissemination of archival documents. All this affects the current role of the memory of environmentalism. Rethinking how to access archives or to develop cultural policies beyond the logics of mere material accumulation, how to address the energy costs required to guarantee the material conditions (temperature, humidity or digitization processes) for document preservation, or how to experiment with ways of disseminating materials and forms of historical production are also central to us.
  3. Providing examples of work with environmental archives from a multidisciplinary perspective. Be it through the activity of activist collectives or archivists concerned with environmental memory; from different academic branches, such as the history of toxics or visual culture; or through the practice of artists and curators committed to developing ways of recovering and making known the materials of environmental memory. The aim of this event is to share ways of working with and from the archive and to think collectively how to make visible the traces of ecological activism in its multiple historical, social, economic and environmental entanglements throughout history.

Funding: The organization can provide funding for a limited group of proposals. More information will be offered after the selection process.