The Whole Life Academy Berlin

The current situation of global social and political unrest is strongly connected to archival practices. In recording, storing and sharing lived experience, data and knowledge, the present is captured within a constellation of complex historical and contemporary social choreographies and sensual protocols. The Whole Life Academy Berlin rehearses collaborative forms of knowledge production in archives, taking up urgent questions on decolonizing archives and objects and unfolding marginalized narrations.

What strategies of commoning, collectivity and solidarity can archives offer in the face of health, economic, natural and political crises? How can local narratives, archival objects and biographies contained within archives be made legible today? How do current human and non-human relations shape the ways in which archives are built and function?

Embedded in an international long-term research process, the Academy will develop a nomadic curriculum in ten online workshops from October 2021 to February 2022.

The first edition of The Whole Life Academy took place in Dresden in May 2019.

#1: Archive for the Eleventh Hour

With Ollie George, Ekaterina Golovko, Edi Danartono Winarni

How is a singular tale of history disarticulated? Imagined as a gathering of bodies, narratives and alternative (pre)positions, this workshop seeks to think through the “immaterial archive” and perform its im/possible conception. Participants will weave a collective tale of the “unarchivable” via the interrelations of the subject and object, guided by positions of decolonial thinking that situate themselves in the collections of objects and narratives outside the hegemonic form(s) of Western knowledge production.

#2: Archiving Club Cultures from Late Socialism through the Era of Social Distancing

With Megan Hoetger, Carlos Kong

Looking through the lens of DEFA’s little known Disco Films, the workshop takes up the turbulent case of Berlin as a model for thinking about how cities and their nightlife architectures are themselves archives of these layered histories. DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft) was the state-owned film studio of the German Democratic Republic. Guiding questions are: What does archival research mean in an embodied relation to history? How can the past imagined futures be archived that club cultures have brought into being? How can this be done even in the pandemic situation as the futures of the dance floor become harder to imagine? The workshop positions participants as archaeologists of the party, exploring how the contested lives and present remains of Berlin’s club cultures might be uncovered and archived.

#3: Desktop Shortcuts

With Geli Mademli, Jacob Moe, Marie Schamboeck

How is knowledge situated in a fluid metropolis with a complex history of division, segregation, and uprootedness? Conceptualizing the desktop as the interface of the real and the virtual and as an open space for renegotiating standardized perceptions of archiving, this workshop aims at developing a self-reflective “shortcut” to a methodology for exploring small and large schemes of knowledge production and their visual articulations.

#4: Archival Burnout in the Age of Vulnerability: [Disobedient] Commons and their Dilemmas, Speculations, Emotions

With Özge Çelikaslan, Naz Cuguoğlu

Humankind lives in the catastrophic moments of a historical rebellion: “The Earth is rebelling against the world, and the agents of planet Earth are floods, fires, and most of all critters” (Franco “Bifo” Berardi). How can the age of vulnerability be envisioned: as the end of human history or by embracing and caring for each other? In this workshop, participants will visit archive commons who exist as temporary autonomous zones to create spaces for studying together. They will discuss and think together about their materiality in the context of collectivity, connectivity, transversality but also in the sense of isolation and extinction.

#5: Life Stories and Archives

With Arnika Ahldag, Eva Bentcheva, Gulzat Egemberdieva, Ann Harezlak

This workshop explores the multifaceted relationship between biography and archives. It looks beyond subjective collecting strategies and connoisseurship, and asks: how are biographies mirrored in archives? By situating “biography” on the spectrum between the state, institutions, and individual drives, it examines the archive-builder as activist, facilitator, gatekeeper and diplomat in transnational, postcolonial and non-Western archives.

#6: The Perverted Archival Image

With Ayman Nahle, Siska

Focusing on the archives of Studio Baalbeck – what could be thought of as a national film heritage of Lebanon – the workshop focuses on outlining and exploring the intermingled economies that shape and surround cultural production in general and the film industry in specific. How do the specific geopolitics of a region unfold through the labor of individuals and institutions? How can archival work – through research and reconstruction – draw out the intricacies of local and global economic, political, and personal structures?

#7: (Adjustment to) Non-Linear Timelines

With Marina Valle Noronha, Viktorija Šiaulytė

In this workshop, Spiralism, a literary movement that emerged in Haiti in the 1960s, will guide participants in a survival search for freedom and imagined realities within archives. By taking the spiral notion further, they will challenge the conventional “cartesian” straight line approach to objects (and their narratives) in institutions and propose cross-chronological perspectives to the acts of archiving, collecting, and curating through conceptual infographics, e.g. in form of illustrations, physical installation, text, audio, 3D, digital files.

#8: An Archive of Escape Fantasies

With Viola Hildebrand-Schat, Paul Wiersbinski

The workshop is invested in questioning how notions of a “pure” nature, immortality and space travel have always been a fantasy in Western science and art to escape and alter a flawed existence instead of accepting its limits. Participants will attempt to create their own archive on escape fantasies, both through theory and practice and several excursions to local Berlin artists and locations.

#9: Un-/Learning Archives in the Age of The Sixth Extinction

With Priyanka Basu, Steve Rowell

This workshop will deal with archives as related to overlapping sites of nature/culture, climate change, deep time and the built environment. Is the archive a viable repository of potential regenerative material for the future? Can it be an input in a positive feedback system of mutually assured destruction – an irrational fear response in the face of loss that condemns that which is not-yet-dead to the already-past?

#10: The Hedonistic Archive

With Daniela Duca, Ingrid Kraus, Ksenia Jakobson, Ting Tsou, Julian Volz, Marlena von Wedel

Throughout the workshop participants will delve into queer visual culture in post-Soviet Russia, addressing the synergies between queerness, cultural presentation and the visualization of self-archiving methods. They will also excavate potential educational strategies exercised by the New Academy, a group that was active in Leningrad in the 1980s and 90s. Can a hedonistic approach to archives be an alternative to a dully systematic and positivist approach, especially when it comes to practices which render the life-art opposition irrelevant?