20 July 2016

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The archive

While everyone else on this island appears to be either on holiday in the rest of Europe or splashing about in a lido, I am finishing a long-overdue paper on media archaeology. Specifically, I am writing up a series of workshops I was involved in at Cube Cinema. I am a volunteer there and last June, Cube volunteers, James Dixon, Thomas Kador and I started working on what a contemporary archaeology of a cinema might look like.

The collaborative project emerged out of the Cube’s purchase of its building and plans to reconfigure the interior spaces. The renovation is driving in part by regulatory pressures around health and safety and access and also to open up the Cube even more to its community. However, the planned renovations have also generated anxieties about loss: of character, of patina, of an undefined magic of place that produces the community. By engaging in a range of archaeological practices, from the conventionally photogrammetric to practices of observation and performance that aimed to respond to the cinema as an affective space, we felt that we could intervene in that melancholy to think more expansively and creatively about our heritage.

I’m writing this as a collective piece for an edited volume on media archaeology, which is a form of media studies inspired by the techno-discursive writings of people like Friedrich Kittler, Avital Ronell, Cornelia VismannWolfgang Ernst, Bernhard Siegert and Jussi Parikka, among others. So, in this chapter we’re using different archaeological methods to explore questions of ‘media archaeology’ within a cinema and arts space. And when I say we’re writing this collectively by that I mean because I’ve not been able to do this in a timely fashion I’m writing it, putting everyone else’s names on it and sending it round to everyone for comment/ok.

We looked at the building in its landscape context, we listened to its sound environment, we explored textures and texts, we recorded materials, we photographed junk and writing on the wall. We framed the ebb and flow of things through the space and transformed event into image. We thought about conducting chemical analyses of soot in order to design our own paints. We enjoyed ourselves and experienced this place anew.

The auditorium

The auditorium

ProjectionRoom

The projection room

And it’s now 8.10am so I better hoof it to the office to get cracking for a couple of hours before MA dissertation supervisions from 11-1 and then graduation in the heat this afternoon. This is why my teeth clench when colleagues in other sectors say to me that it must be so relaxing now that the students have gone. Unfortunately, it just means that now I have a little bit of time to do the main part of my job until the teaching planning cycle hits full swing in September.

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