The Whole Life: An Archive Project

The collaborative research initiative, The Whole Life: An Archive Project, asks what archives can give to contemporary society? How are historical narratives translated into contemporary realities? Can complex historical processes and developments even be archived at all and thus be made useful for today?

At the core of the project is the close cooperation of archival institutions consisting of Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Pina Bausch Foundation, and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) in association with further partners. They develop a program of workshops and events over the course of four years (2018-2021). In each instance, the work of the participating institutions will provide prototypes for development of new forms of access and the contextualization of their collections. Together, the partners continue to cultivate model procedures and theoretical approaches to dealing with archives and rendering them visible.

The starting point for the first collective project was the transformation of the Archiv der Avantgarden (Archive of the Avant-gardes, AdA) of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, which will move to its new domicile at the historic Blockhaus in Dresden in 2021. This process triggered a reformulation of numerous classical questions about the status of archives, their institutional structures, and their holdings in relation to a specific local context. These numerous questions built the context for a one-week program and an exhibition on Archives and Reality (May 19–25, 2019) in Dresden at the Lipsiusbau, which was dedicated to the contemporary practices, methods, and conditions of archival institutions. The interdisciplinary, international Whole Life Academy for young researchers from different fields was inaugurated in this context and shaped the basis for ongoing research and reflection on archival positions, infrastructures, and materialities.

A second gathering of the participants of the Academy will take place in Berlin (April 18-23, 2021) in which the roles of counter-archives and marginalized or subversive archival methods are thought in relation to current social and political developments. The Academy will combine excursions, seminars, lectures, archival research, and presentations to form a nomadic curriculum, which connects theory, practice, and on-site research. In a concluding Congress in Berlin at HKW (April 22-25, 2021) the projects, institutions, and partners from the long-term initiative will be brought together along three core topics: the question of labor and the sociality of the archive, the interfaces of digitalization and the archival sphere, and the archives of the Anthropocene).