Queer Archiving

IMG_4312 IMG_4317campbell-ever-your-friend

Several pages of Polaroids from the album of photographs given to the Chazen Museum by the Andy Warhol Foundation are displayed here as they were presented in their archival sleeves. The plastic storage containers exceed their preservative function. The ordering logics of the four-pocket sleeves unfold new compositions. Their layouts juxtapose images in side by side and top to bottom combinations. Where pockets are left empty, the see-through possibilities produce unexpected mixtures. The layering of sleeves in the album organizes a palimpsest of associations that queers what we might otherwise consider to be stable and fixed within its individual frame.

Making a kind of archival adaptation of the chance-based surrealist game called cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse), the Polaroids of feminine busts stacked on top of close-up penis shots create strange bodies that defamiliarize and destabilize conventional constructions of gender and sex. These Polaroids are not simply preparatory studies for Warhol’s larger canvases. The queer archiving of the album’s configurations produces its own bodies, desires, and sensations.

Exhibited alongside these Polaroids is a selection of works from a series of Polaroid-scale lasercuts drawn from Anna Campbell’s book project Ever Your Friend (Issue Press, 2014). Campbell circulates images from the photographic collections of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY that could not otherwise be reproduced. No permission policy was in place at the time that they were acquired by the archive. By cutting out just the arms, hands, and objects they hold, we are prompted to summon the subjects for which they stand in by peering into the apertures of otherwise blank paper. In this incarnation, Campbell has even excised the photographic fragments present in her book to produce a hollow within a void. Appropriating and re-valuing the negative of injury and loss, Campbell’s archival gestures queer—and we might say “crip”—the body. The provocative fragmentations and visible losses convert what is considered to be lacking into not a block but a spur to desires that animate the archive.

The reforming and deforming compositional work of the archival sleeves of Andy Warhol Polaroids and the Campbell lasercuts that trace the holes in the archive prompt us to recognize that archiving can also be a marvelous practice of creative play. While archives might seem merely to store, classify, and protect their holdings, archival practices also hold out possibilities for desiring production that release the hold of dominant narratives that consign them to the storage locker of the past.


Queer Archiving, installation shot © 2015 Natalie Kirk

Queer Archiving, installation shot © 2015 Natalie Kirk