Archive of Social Movements on the Move

Bini Adamczak

The Pinkus Archiv is one of the world’s largest archives for the history of international emancipation movements. Founded by the Marxist publishers and publicists Amalie and Theo Pinkus, the archive consists mainly of books, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Part of the collection is now housed in the Studienbibliothek zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung (Study Library on the History of the Workers’ Movement) in Zurich, while another part is on its way to the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA), part of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, after making a stopover in a storehouse in Berlin Lankwitz.

On the invitation of HKW, Bini Adamczak visited the archive to collect materials, between boxes and shelves, archival and pandemic regulations, in order to ask some questions about archives, social movements and their interfaces.

Archives attempt to establish and preserve order, which at the same time – through orders or cuts, indexing and new additions – constantly escapes them. Moreover, archives are never accessible in their entirety, at least from the size at which archiving becomes worthwhile. They always show themselves to visitors only in parts, edited according to convention and fashion, funding and interest, chance or whim. This is all the more true for an archive of movements that is also in the process of moving, an archive that archives interrupted departures waiting to be taken again. Remnants of revolts. What does preserve mean here? What does it mean to secure and insure, to lend and lattice? What does it mean to order and divide, to fragment, to fractionate? And, the other way around, what does it mean to need the archive? What need is there for preserved history? How can it be questioned and touched? What does it mean to remember?

Between the long shot and the pigeonhole, between index and division, there is still the option chosen here of cutting semi-arbitrary swaths, thematically as well as historically. They can also take the form of spirals. That sinking feeling? Beginnings and endings, breaks and repetitions spiraling into each other. The result is not relics of a finished history, but constellations of several historical epochs, which always form constellations with the present time.

The installation shows magazine covers of different years and allows a digital view into the publications.

Mixed media installation, 2022