Creative Archive Summary of Understanding
To archive seems a very human response to situations. By this I mean it is common for people to want to collect things related to their past and experiences. For example, a lot of people spend time collecting photos from their experiences. In the past, this was more common through physical albums and printed photos. In more modern times it is online through social media platforms such as Instagram. There is a sense of nostalgia then when memories are brought up by viewing the photos. Maybe it is a fear of forgetting that drives us to do it.
What should an archive be?
- Curated to showcase an idea or narrative
- Linked to time
- Displayed creatively
What an archive isn’t
- A random collection
- An album of pictures
- A museum display
The idea I am focusing on is an archive of the use of spirals. I feel like this has been a constant motif throughout the course for me and I would like to tie all this thinking together. Taking a shape and exploring all the different relations to time and place it has. It has links to mythology, geometry, nature, land art, and astronomy as well as connotations to the model of time itself. I have an idea of how to present it as a spiral that you can explore by going back in time through how they have been used but also links between the arms to represent the connections.
- How in-depth is this archive going to be, my topic is quite broad so could end in lots of directions but that is part of the process.
Event and Intentions
The pivotal event I want to link it to is the carving of the Newgrange spirals, thought to be around 3200 BC. As far as I know, these are some of the earliest examples of spirals in art and so I want to archive back from here. Who made them? Who saw them? How did the idea of spirals get passed along to where we are now?
This is a short film that I found out about through the monthly film club and is available on Kanopy: https://ucreative.kanopy.com/video/bell-hooks-cultural-criticism-transformation
Gloria Jean Watkins, known as bell hooks, is an American academic and social activist. Cultural Criticism and Transformation is a 1997 two-part film that critiques stereotypical portrayals of race, gender and class in popular media and is a strong argument for the power of cultural criticism.
It is an interview-style film that is divided into two parts. Part One is on Cultural Criticism and Part Two is Doing Cultural Criticism. It was made in 1997, so a lot of the references appear quite old now, but the themes and ideas are sadly still relevant today.
Cinema and popular media are incredibly important to people. It is also a very powerful way of getting ideas to lots of people. At the start of the interview, bell hooks talks about her time educating people from different backgrounds. She speaks of how when teaching in Harlem, the students would have the same ability as those she taught in yale but often they lacked the belief to embrace their future. Students from Yale on the other hand had the expectation that they were the best students with bright futures ahead of them; they weren’t any more gifted, they just had the belief. Popular media has the ability to try and break some of these stereotypes. It can cover race, gender, culture, politics in a way that everyone can hear the same message.
There is power in representation. People often want to behave like the images they see don’t mean anything. Hollywood moves can bring the big ideas to people but it is an industry full of white male privilege and we can see that in subtle and not so subtle ways. There is a conscious manipulation of representations. For example, why are villains usually black or voiced by a black actor? However, it isn’t just race, bell hook talks about intersectionality and its importance.
We often want to think that films are magic and not true reflections on reality, but very intentional choices on the parts of the filmmaker are made about what kinds of images will make a certain impact. We can be deeply moved by a film but still have problems with certain representations.
One example she talks about is the film Smoke from 1995. The director cast a black actor in the role of the thief and always insists there was no reason behind it. However, the book that the movie is based on made no reference at all to the thief’s race. People often don’t want to believe there was any intention behind the casting.
Popular media can dictate to us the issues we are passionate about. One example given is Braveheart which was released in the 90s. Prior to its release nobody outside of Scotland really cared or even knew about Scottish independence, then they saw the film and a lot more people started passionately advocating for independence.
Be an Enlightened Witness
bell hooks asks us throughout to be what she calls an “enlightened witness”. To watch things and question what we are watching in terms of who is being represented and why. Why do we make certain remarks about women when they are performing but would never do the same about men? Why are certain races cast in certain roles? Are people being represented? Are stereotypes being perpetuated?