Archivist as Activist

Agit Disco is an archive project. It references the ‘domestic’ record collections both in physical form in our houses and flats and in our memories. The process of selection is a critical process of second distillation. The first process occurs as particular records, CDs and MP3s are bought or otherwise obtained from the mass of commercial commodities that will overall reflect systemic interests or construct a panapoly of material that is not conducive to challenging those interests or even thinking critically about them. From the ongoing investments in this collection the selectors further distill their Agit Disco playlist. Intellectual processes of review, comparison and evaluation bring into focus the themes and effects of this near heritage of listenings.

But then a collaborative and then communicative process happens. The playlist is produced as a real object, a ‘mix-tape’ that can be given, sent, heard by another. Or imagined as such. Itself finding its place in archives to be listened again later when the right moment arises, perhaps with others, at a real disco, party, after dinner session. And so the process generates proposals and statements which can be lost of amplified within the lifeworld, and it is important the tracks are liberated from systemic worlds of commodity and become part of another gift economy lost in the lifeworld. People are interested in any remix as much as a new tune, looking out for the unexpected but also for the reinforcement of mutual prosaic value agreements and grass-root canons. To re-evaluate how old sets have stood the trials and tribulations of time, and new, perhaps less forgiving and sympathetic contexts.

The collaboration is about attention and practical and technical support. I have a printer that can print on CD blanks plus a rudimentary skill with Photoshop, plus have used surplus money to buy CD blanks rather than cocaine or online poker. I show interest to people I know or meet, make a proposal that says if you do this work of selection I will respond with attention to your thought processes and contribute printer ink and my time to reify your intellectual judgements and put them out there. I get interesting stuff to listen to in return apart from the meta excitement of the project as a model.

The Agit Disco selection is not trying to be an academic and see from above or make generalisations across the populations or even see trends or make theses. The AD selector is responding to life self knowledges; it is the report of a participant where music is often part of the formation of an oppositional or radical self. Or even just the survival of the human spirit and hunger for freedom; that refuse to be silent to not contemplate a range of unpleasant aspects of human actions and systemic effects. Music not only expresses but is also an accompaniment within company to make such thoughts bearable.

Music is political through its ability to form alliances of like mindedness that can by-pass verbal discursive activity. By its way of forming part of identity and cultural affiliations. The collective process of attention and inattention and of kinaesthetic responses are alone enough to filter a provoke the development of particular trends. Urgent beats can respond to a sense of forwarding or moving collective energy, which underlies any challenge to the system. So Agit Disco selections can include music without lyrics but for a full undertanding of effects across cultures written annotations will probably be crucial.

The CD as a finite container in an boundary-less era with 10,000 MP3 tracks in a matchbox. Thinking requires boundaries, a limited field. Putting things into a box or cabinet is basic to collection and precedes the arrangement and sub-classification procedures that create the proposals or statements that we can serve up analysis or judgement. The CD as a cabinet of digital curiousities.

The AD project is knowingly full of contradictions. The question of personal intuition and memory versus the exemplary representatives of a field. Agit Disco throws up ‘canonic’ material but must be anti-canon and always look for that which falls to on the outside (of the canon hotel) or the wayside (of the path of Enlightenment). Some are made by those with expertise in an area of music but against a social hierarchy of experts. Differentiate the expertise of the enthusiast from the academic government advisors. The canonic is not to be equivalent to those who have gained market position. Dylan, Marley, Lennon,  had their moments of revolutionary incandescence but have been wrapped in so many layers of commodification that they might be hard to retrieve. Others like the Black Eyed Peas or Greenday work from within the pop pap outwards with reformist agendas. I’d like Agit Disco to include the local musician or group who touched a chord but never made it big. There are gems out there that need reclaiming.

Blog of Agit Disco stuff

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