Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth


May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth , Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas’s research project, commissioned by TBA21, proposes a new reading of the radical potential and precarity of the moment, through its articulation in the surge of archival activity; the implosion of ‘the archive’ in the face of seemingly endless archival material and everyday archivists. 

The Internet is an immense and growing archive that opens the possibility for ordinary people to actively bear witness to the events happening around them, from the mundane to the seminal. Intentionally and unintentionally this unofficial, unorganized and under recognized archive both questions and subverts the logic of official archives that are always constituted through degrees of exclusion and repression.

In the contemporary moment the position of artists as archivists no longer seems as significant as it once was. “In fact it has never been more evident to us that everyone is an archivist of sorts, we could even argue that the activist- as-archivist has replaced the artist-as-archivist. It is this very possibility for everyone to be an archivist that is radically reshaping the archives to come. It is also profoundly reshaping concepts of the self.”

The research will critically reflect on how these transformations in the mediation of self, namely in the relation between the actual, digital and virtual, where people find themselves archiving everything from the seminal to the mundane as an ‘event’ inform new ways of being. Critically it will think through the implications of this omnipresence of archival activity itself. “The questions we want to pose are how will these new forms of the archive continue to reshape the ‘archivable’? And more pressingly how is our very sense of self, our imaginary impacted, intrinsically connected to and performed through this archival activity?”

Through looking at user generated material this project intends to reflect on the contemporary impulse to document, save and narrate the moment, and significantly the desire to publicly share this record (both uploaded material that bears witness to ones life and/or through the very act of collecting, (re)archiving and re-uploading material). Whilst perhaps this impulse is not entirely new, its ubiquity, the logic of both the digital and virtual form has radically shifted who has the power to record, to speak and to perform this archival activity. Suddenly we are faced with a living archive.

At the same time while the intersection between the digital and the virtual opens the possibilities of new democratized forms of bearing witness and spontaneously constituted archives, the excess of information, perpetually being replaced by newer information, produces an amnesia, an incomprehensibility where everything is in danger of being doomed to be lost and forgotten in the black hole of the web. Significantly it re-produces contemporary capitalism’s obsession with the ‘now’, the immediate, producing vast amounts of material only to render it obsolete the very next moment in a continuous stream of information. What’s even more, the very site of open exchange is also a site of surveillance, tracking and profiling.