Hospital Prison University Archive. An archive without a collection.

(This is a shorten version of the original manifesto written in 2017)

Hospital Prison University Archive is in the process of becoming. The core of the project is collective research and the development of forms of resistance and lines of flight. We are looking for weapons from all the unfinished revolutions. It is a complex journey we are initiating. It is an escape that, just like our name, will never be easy. The name Hospital Prison University Archive itself is a chain of words that refer to environments characterized by forces that estrange us. Environments that catch our bodies and shape them: care and control, empathy and violence, learning and discipline. Alienation can only be overcome by following alienation’s own movements. We live in a hostile environment filled with remnants of petrified institutions that we must get rid of. Self-institutions can be built.

An archive structures, it introduces an order within a particular area. The archive’s utopia is the complete and total collection, and with that a determination of the boundaries of the field. Everything is in place, but as we know, something is always left outside. In relation to this utopia, Hospital Prison University Archive has to be viewed as an anti-archive. The Archive is empty and there is no desire for fullness or order. There are no boundaries fencing off an outside. In this way, Hospital Prison University Archive is already an outside. It is a place where various publications, paintings, souvenirs, weapons, and other more or less well-defined cultural objects take temporary residence before the objects move on in their social life. Hospital Prison University Archive will not only look at small handheld objects, but also, for instance, an entire building. Perhaps an entire city.

As André Malraux explained, art history slipped “out of the hands of the expert” to become “a story of things that can be photographed.” The camera had created new conditions of representation. Malraux, though, was stuck in the colonial and property-obsessed past. He looted cultural objects from the jungle of Cambodia. The photograph was still not enough for Malraux. He ended up in prison. As did his surrealist colleague, author and ethnologist Michel Leiris. They still wanted things for their collections.

Even materials that in their original form were circulated as leaflets in public space, have been locked down in archives. This has happened, for example, to many of the publications from the counterculture of the 1960s that circulated freely in their time: booklets, posters, flyers, handouts, and other ephemeral material. The archive as institution is, in this way, often a means to prevent the free use of culture. What actually happens is that archives cherish their valuables, which can only be protected by preventing the objects in their collection from being reproduced and copied. I myself have been asked to delete pictures taken with my mobile at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, just as I have been stopped from using my camera at the British Library in London.

The word “archive” derives its meaning from ancient Greek and is related to the description of a “seat of government.” Intriguing, that something so closed and secluded as an archive, should be able to wield power and reign. An archive defines a limit for what should be preserved as culture and what should disappear and be washed out of the social memory. Consider the two feminist archives and libraries in London, the Women’s Library and the Feminist Library, that for the last ten years have struggled to survive. One of them found a new home, but the collection lost its uniqueness as it became diluted and absorbed into a university collection. The other has, to date, struggled to survive as an independent archive. Almost simultaneously, there was a bidding war between Bibliotheque nationale in France and Yale University in the US to buy the papers of the self-styled rebel Guy Debord. His papers were made national heritage in France and celebrities paid a fortune to attend fundraising dinners that could ensure that the archive remained in France. This is how cultural domination is maintained; some things become fetishised, other things are forgotten.

An archive always carries a social model in its stomach. In the stomach of the Hospital Prison University Archive is a dream of a different use of history and a different future. Various objects are visiting the archive, but no overall model of the world is presented. The material we work with is always already moving on, dispersed and distributed in a social body. Hospital Prison University Archive invites collective research and excavation of the different layers of the material culture of the nameless. It is a sort of archaeology of possible and impossible futures. Hospital Prison University Archive is an archive of social movements. We are attracted to the processes of collective campaigns, offensives, upheavals, and utterances, but also to a kind of social affect—movement. Movement as in “I am moved,” “I am touched.”

Hospital Prison University Archive is a myopic archive. We examine the objects that are passing through our field of attention with utmost scrutiny. As many details as possible will be wrenched out of the objects and their material nature. The objects will be looked at through a microscope, and the slightest differences will be examined. Perhaps these small variations involve nothing but a renewed gaze. But what if the objects themselves change through this process?
        The analysis in the Archive turns objects into something more and different than just a commodity with an exchange value or economic value; the analysis also turns the objects into something more than an object of use, a tool—they will also be considered as aesthetic objects in all their singularity.
        We regard all cultural objects as equal to works of art—a painting and a booklet, a woodcut and a vinyl record, a tool and a flyer. We collect Small Data, not Big Data. We will not search for abstract patterns in large amounts of data, but for specific differences in the material culture we are a part of.

Hospital Prison University Archive has no encyclopaedic dreams of fullness and completeness; there is no comprehensive naming or any refined comminution of categories. Actually, there are no categories. No complete series. We want to seek out the more obscure and deserted regions of human culture and pick up the shards of crushed uprisings. At the same time, we want to follow Rimbaud’s dictum about a deliberate confusion of the senses to make alien what is viewed as normal and obvious. We will look at any object as if we saw it for the first time. And we fiddle with an analytical method, introduced by Asger Jorn with his “comparative vandalism,” where difference equals meaning and variation characterises the language of the unique. Not identity, but a beauty that occurs in the chance encounter on an operating table between a sewing machine and an umbrella, or between everyday art and world art.

Hospital Prison University Archive is a combined archive and radio studio. The conversations around the objects that drift through our space are continuously recorded and broadcasted on the Hospital Prison University Radio. In this way, reflections on our social conditions and the conversations the objects provoke—which surround and flow through them—are made available to listen to in your kitchen or in your living room, when you are working on your computer or eating your lunch. Hospital Prison University Radio is online and transmits 24/7. Knowledge is a social relation and does not exist until we address each other.

København april 2017