08/10/2019 | Writer: Kaos GL

In the first session of the last day of the International Memory and History Conference, the queer archive was discussed.

What are we searching for in the archives, and why? Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The last day of the International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association continued with the title "Archive".

Remzi Altunpolat moderated the session. Altunpolat started their speech as, "When we say history and memory, we do not remember the past only for memories, but we remember to create a sense of continuity and that it can be a driving force for development from there. Can we see remembrance as a tool that will empower us to the future.”

Archives of the subordinates, archives of the state

Noting that the archive may also be a tool of power, Altınpolat said, "The state does not have a creative element in its archives, much like a tomb. However, the archives of the subordinates have a promise for the future, they are not tombs like the traditional state archives, it creates new areas of cooperation", and left the floor to Ezgi Sarıtaş for the speech titled "Queer historiography and the felt archives".

What do we searching for in the archives, and why?

Ezgi Saritaş began their speech with a passage from Zadie Smith's novel, Swing Time. Stating that they have been caught by the history archived in the dance steps of Smith, has asked the following questions to the audience for collective thinking:

"What is the archive? What makes something archival material? Who decides what to store in the archives, how? Why do we go to the archives? What do we look for in them and why? What do we do with what we find? And of course, what do our findings do to us?"

Sarıtaş, after the questions, mentioned the contribution of affectivity that archive produced to the perception of queer layers:

"Archives survive in our language, in our attitudes, in our contacts. But what makes these archives accessible and readable is our public affectivities. Queer archives produce not only information but also emotions. So the emotions that the archives produce are also what allows us to read the queer layers in those archives. In fact, encountering all archives and all kinds of archival material has similar emotional dimensions; and in fact, the archival fever that destroyed the archive itself comes out of this in a sense."

Digging a well with a needle

Serdar Soydan said that they have been interested in archives since 2004, and formed an emotional connection with the queers that they have encountered after starting to collect the forgotten works of the authors of the period in newspapers and magazines:

"I have an emotional connection with the archive because it's like digging a well with a needle. You take it out of a month of a year in a newspaper, you scan them page by page."

"When scanning the archive, the subjects of the story are always the writers of the story; we see that subject individuals are being objectified. For example, if someone is called a "passive homosexual killer," it's not usually the statement of the subject."

"We should not become identity hunters while doing scans. You shouldn't look through the perspective of today's definitions. In all these scans, we're missing a point that we need to be aware of: they may have defined their sexual identities in a fluid state for their whole lives. For example, looking from today, it would be wrong to define Kenan Çinili as 'trans male', who lived in Kurtuluş (Şisli, İstanbul) in the 1930s, and has been reported under many adjectives such as 'boy girl', 'mr. lady', which attracted the attention of newspapers."

“Sometimes remembrance comes with a photograph, sometimes with a moment”

Oktay İnce began their speech titled "If remembering is recalling an image" by talking about objects of remembrance. "When a person starts to live, they assemble a film that will last a lifetime," said İnce and continued as, "Memory is not something that can be built, sometimes remembering comes with a photograph and sometimes with a moment. We can't talk about construction, but we can talk about a pattern."

"History is something that can be shown, recorded today. However, the dominance of the words still prevails over memory studies. We took the streets in 2000 with cameras, we didn't know what to do with the images we took, we just thought this; Writing the history of social struggle with video. We thought, one day these images would take action in some way" İnce said, referring to the distinction between collectors and producers in archival work, and left the floor to Okan Thedimi.

Moving and archive

Okan Thedimi, under the title of “Collection of Lambdaİstanbul: Albeit through the time…” shared how did they crossroads with archiving.

"While there were no incoming calls to the consultation hotline, I became interested in the archive. We spent 3 days with Zeliş, we went through the archive with them in that time" said Thedimi and told about the changing locations of Lambdaistanbul, its spacelessness and the relocation of the archive.

After explaining how did they entrusted the archive of the Lamdaİstanbul to The Women’s Library, Thedimi shared their archive project with the guests. Thedimi ended their speech with images from the archive.

*Photography: Semih Varol / Kaos GL

**Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

Tags: arts and culture, life