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The diasporic Gesture: The significance of new media technologies and embodiment in the archival art practices.

Artists approach the archive from a variety of critical and aesthetic perspectives, and their archival interventions are frequently concerned with meaning constructions, challenging or provoking change in a situation, and opening up possibilities for new meaning-making processes. Cultural archives, like diaspora, are migrating and being displaced from the physical and tangible world into the virtual, embodied, and digital realm. Technological advances resulting from what Hal Foster refers to as the "archival impulse" in contemporary art practices (Foster 2004), expressing an urge, an obsession to collect, arrange archival materials for their work through displaced information that requires (re)activation and (re)interpretation, in the creation of a new archive from fragmentary materials. Our memory has “gone rogue" in the age of digital media. Digital technology and social media platforms have created a "universal archive," which is a complex archival practice of preserving digital cultural memory. (De Kosnik 2016)

However, over the last ten years, there has been a growing interest in archival practice and scholarship in understanding the impact of digital technology and embodiment on how contemporary artists approach, create, and transform archives (Roms 2013). As memory spaces, archives play an important role in society's modes of remembering, and the scholarly, artistic and critical engagement with archives, whether as source, concept, or subject, have shed light on archival memory transmissions and reflected on the forms and functions of archives, subjectivities, identities, and knowledge they evoke and construct. The body is a memory repository, a place inscribed with our stories, cultural conditions, ancestry, and trauma (Bissell, Caruso Haviland 2018). In performance art practices, artists return to past gestures with a strong "will to archive" (Lepecki 2010), and through the appropriation and new formulation of archival materials, have pondered memory, time, history, and identity politics, using the archive as a medium to embrace the memory of the body as an archive. Throughout these investigations, emerging new archival technologies exacerbate an “Archive Fever”, requiring a rethinking of the archive in light of changes brought about by digital technology. (Derrida 1996). The expansion of data (memory) possibilities, storage sharing applications, and social media are fueling interest in memory practices, identity construction, and a plurality of new archival forms such as the “diasporic archive” (Giannachi 2016), and the “performative archive” (Røssaak 2016) adopting diverse strategies for memory transmission, transforming the archive to become an archive “about’' rather than archive “of”.

These ideas inform my Doctoral research inquiries which examine the role of embodiment and new media technologies in the development of emerging archival art practice methodologies in performance, visual art, and digital media. What role might new media technologies play in performance recording and documentation archives? In the temporal tension between the virtual and the real, the corporeal and the technological, how might embodied interactive technologies generate new representations of archive, movement, and transformative experiences? What are the possibilities\implications of opening up the somatic\performative and diasporic dimensions of archiving? My research about the 'diasporic gesture' investigates alternative and conceptual approaches to diaspora and diasporic aesthetics in order to address the dispersion of archival matter in our current digital culture and to consider the body as an archive.

The diasporic gesture would ultimately contribute both theoretically and practically in the knowledge of performance studies, archival art practices, and potentially provides a unique perspective on diasporic cultural preservation at the intersection of embodiment and digital technologies.

This practice-led research employs a mixed methodological framework, combining interdisciplinary collaborations, choreographic strategies, and performativity. I intend to foster a series of interdisciplinary performative collaborations with graduate researchers at York University as well as a variety of online diasporic communities. These collaborations will offer an embodied response to the material contained within the digital archive, inviting creative archival engagement with their own personal memories or experiences with the digital, through their bodies, by devising experiments with participatory forms of archiving.I plan to conduct in-person and online interviews with diasporic artists who work with historical and personal archives. I'm currently expanding my research and knowledge in new media applications for mixed reality archives, performance, documentation recording in live and mediated performances, including augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, motion tracking, and the development of embodied interactive technologies for archival art practices. I regard these contemporary media as potential tools, with corresponding methodologies, for using and delving deeper into these research inquiries. The research will result in written scholarship as well as the development of new media applications for archival art practice, participatory and immersive installation artworks. I am a first-year PhD student in the Visual Arts program at York University. My proposed doctoral project will extend upon my Master’s thesis research, that focused on how notions the liminal and diaspora influence creative practices, the performance archive, and processes of identity construction(Phelan 1993, Schneider). I looked into historical, theoretical, and methodological approaches to investigating the interrelations between performance and its documentation. (Auslander 2008, Massumi 2002) In 2019, the SSHRC awarded me a Graduate Scholarship to help support my research on the migration of gestures in historical dance archives (Noland & Ann Ness 2008). I investigated the role of embodiment and new creative technologies in generating immersive experiences, liveness and presence in archive reconstruction, mediated performances, and immersive installation.

One of my key motivations in this research is my engagement with archives as a medium for creative expression, and as a site of identity. Being born into a Moroccan, Judeo-Amazigh immigrant family has shaped my interest in themes of migration, movement, time, and space. I am fascinated by the transitory nature of gestures that have complex artistic, cultural, and personal registers.

  • Foster, H. Archival impulse. October, 110, 3–22. Gilliland, A. J., & Caswell, M. (2015). Records and their imaginaries: Imagining the impossible, making possible the imagined. Archival Science, (2004).

  • De Kosnik, Abigail, Rogue Archive: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England © 2016.

  • Roms, H,  Archiving legacies: Who cares for performance remains? In G. Borggreen, & R. Gade (Eds.), Performing archives/archives of performance (pp. 35–52). Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press (2013).

  • Bissell, Bill & Caruso Haviland, Linda, The Sentient archive: Bodies, performance, and memory. Wesleyan University Press, 2018.

  • Lepecki, A. Of the Presence of the Body: Essays on Dance and Performance Theory. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press (2004)..

  • Derrida, Jacques, Archive fever: A Freudian impression. University of Chicago Press (1996) Chicago, London. Translated by Eric Prenowitz.

  • Røssaak, E. (2016). The Performative Archive: New Conceptions of the Archive in Contemporary Theory, Art and New Media Practices. In H. Grace, A.C. Kit-Sze & W.K. Yuen (Eds.). Technovisuality: Cultural Re-enchantment and the Experience of Technology London • New York.

  •  Giannachi, Gabriella. Archive Everything: Mapping the Everyday. The MIT Press, 2016. Project MUSE p93.

  • Phelan, Peggy. Unmarked: the politics of performance. London: New York, Routledge (1993):146.

  • Schneider, R. (2011). Performing Remains Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. Taylor and Francis.

  • Auslander, P., & Auslander, P. (2008). Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (2nd ed.). Routledge.

  • Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Duke University Press, 2002. JSTOR.

  • Noland, Carrie & Ann Ness, Sally, Migrations of Gesture. University of Minnesota Press, 2008. JSTOR.

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