Unit 11: The Archive

Evan Roth, "Internet Cache Self Portrait: July 17, 2012"

Evan Roth, “Internet Cache Self Portrait: July 17, 2012″


How do we use curation to tell stories?


“The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.”
Douglas Huebler, 1969

We’re swimming in data. The relentless production of digital material has shifted us into a new condition where the foundation of graphic design — image and language — cannot exist without somehow touching (or being touched by) the internet. Massive archives, from digitized libraries to the quantified self, are part of the new landscape that artists and designers rely on for the production and communication of networked culture. In the face of this overwhelming accumulation of found stuff, curation is key. In this unit, we’ll look at how archives, collections and curation can be used to investigate memory, authorship and storytelling.

Learning Objectives
  1. Increase awareness and understanding for the changing nature of content as it relates to design and networked culture
  2. Learn to position yourself in relation to a specific archive of material and investigate its storytelling potential
  3. Learn to translate existing material into new work (design authorship)
  4. Learn to assemble, design and communicate ideas into stories using different kinds of media (publishing)
Studio 1: Surf / search

Search for an archive or collection. Look for existing photos, text messages, spam, novels, selfies, paintings, tweets, data, recipes, paint colors, stories, purple things, pyramidal things, dreams, code, books, artworks, status updates — anything. The only criteria is that the material interests you, and that you feel compelled to share it. Develop a point-of-view about the material.

  • What makes it a collection? If it already exists, what kind of audience does it already have? Or are you creating the collection?
  • If you’re searching online, spend at least two hours surfing the web, preferably more. Wander, explore and dig into parts of the web that reveal the unexpected. If you’re searching offline, be aware of how the found material does or does not engage with the network. Record your journey.
  • Is your collection ordered or disordered? is there a taxonomy?
  • Quantify the material — how big is it? how much memory? how many pages, images, items, authors?

Present your point-of-view and an in-depth analysis of your collection in one week. Include as many metrics as possible (quantity, taxonomy, authorship, timeline, etc.) and at least three concepts embedded in your collection that suggest larger stories.

Due Wednesday 9/16.

Studios 2 – 5:

Compile / document

You will document your collection in at least two different ways and present your documentation. Consider your options — do you print it out? photograph it? scan it? bind it? how else can you record it? How do different techniques of documentation and reproduction change the nature of the material?

Curate / translate

Curation *always* involves interpretation and translation. Edit your collection (in multiple ways) to shape a range of new meanings.

Storytelling / publish

Design a way to communicate and publish your work — make it public.

Studio 6: Final critique (Wednesday 9/30)

Suggested readings

Hito Steyerl, Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?
Clement Valla, The Universal Texture
Archives of Memory
Gerhard Richter’s “Atlas”: The Anomic Archive
Cornell University’s site devoted to Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas
Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Lecture slides

September 14 lecture (PDF)
September 21 lecture (PDF)



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