07 Dec


1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Symposium: Sea of Files? Decolonial Approaches to the Archive

NOTE! The symposium will also be broadcasted live on Facebook!

Welcome to a symposium and panel discussion that brings together a group of artists, scholars, and archivists to address the critical role of archives in postcolonial spaces and decolonial struggles.

As a contested site of power, ’the archive’ has long been a central subject in studies of coloniality — as an administrative technology of rule, but also as a system inscribing, containing and predicting frictions, attractions and aversions within colonial structures. Also, ‘the archive´ is a constantly relevant condition to address in current critical research and arts practices that engage with everything from analogue, historical archives to digital compilations of big data, as well as other archival phenomena.

The symposium is organized on the occasion of Dayanita Singh’s Hasselblad Award exhibition Sea of Files. Archives and archiving have been continuous points of interest, research, and reference in her photographic oeuvre.

Singh has been photographing archives in India since the early 2000s – from smaller offices and storages to large public archives. She stresses how in India, there’s no one single format for the archives. The exact location and function of each archive is less important in her photographs as she creates a synthesis of the enigmatic atmosphere and seductive materiality of the records. However, Singh’s heterogeneous work and methodology does prompt a reflection of administration and archives in post-colonial India.

This symposium is not about Singh’s work specifically but rather aims to facilitate a conversation that includes approaches from critical theory as well as artistic and archival practice, focusing on the archive in current decolonial and anti-colonial endeavors.


Karl-Magnus Johansson, archivist at the National Archives of Sweden
Hanni Kamaly, artist
Daniela Agostinho, assistent professor in digital design och information studies at Aarhus University
Cecilia Järdemar, artist and lecturer in photography at Konstfack
Nina Cramer, art historian at the University of Copenhagen
Louise Wolthers (moderator), researcher and curator at the Hasselblad Foundation

Time and date: Wednesday 7/12, at 1-4 PM
Location: Gothenburg City Library, Hörsalen (the auditorium), and online via Facebook Live:
Free entrence. The symposium will be held in English.


About the participants: 

NINA CRAMER is a PhD student at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen as part of the research group “The Art of Nordic Colonialism”, which examines the intersections of art history and colonial histories in the Nordic region. Her research focuses on contemporary African diasporic artistic practices connected to Denmark. She is also a member of the feminist collective Marronage.

DANIELA AGOSTINHO is a visual culture scholar and independent curator. She is assistant professor in the School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University. In her project Archival Encounters she works with artists and curators to develop artistic inquiries into the archives and legacies of Danish colonialism. Recent exhibitions include For Alberta and Victor, a collection of conjurings and opacities (solo show by La Vaughn Belle, ARIEL – Feminisms and the Aesthetics, Copenhagen, 2021); Chamber (solo show by Igor Jesus, Porto, 2020); and 13 Shots, solo show by Aimée Zito Lema (Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, 2018). Her latest publications include the co-edited books Uncertain Archives (MIT Press, 2021) and (W)archives: Archival Imaginaries, War and Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press 2020).

KARL-MAGNUS JOHANSSON is a senior archivist at the Swedish National Archives where he works with research and education. He is the editor of Communicating the Archive: Physical Migration (2013) and Inscription (2018) that explore the intersection between archival theory, contemporary art and media theory, and Filmens Göteborg: spår, erfarenheter och resultat från ett samverkande forskningsprojekt (2021), which presents the results from a film studies research project.

CECILIA JÄRDEMAR is a visual artist and researcher. She holds an MA and an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded PhD in Photography from the Royal College of Arts, London and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Konstfack. Järdemar´s work is often collaborative, and she is particularly interested in how collaborative artistic processes, with its diversity of voices, can uncover counter-histories and alternative narratives. The collective work has been shown in solo shows at Musée D’Art Contemporain in Kinshasa, The New Arts Exchange in Nottingham, Kalmar Konstmuseum and Gävle Konsthall, among others, and a monograph was published by Sailor Press in 2019. Currently Järdemar is running the Swedish Research Council-funded project Transforming the Encounter together with Congolese artist Freddy Tsimba.

HANNI KAMALY is an artist that lives in Stockholm and has studied at the Academy of Arts in Malmö, Lund University. She mainly works with video, sculpture, and performance. At the center of Kamaly’s investigations is the human body, understood as a projection surface for ideology and power structures. Through in-depth research in archives and collections, the artist follows traces of bodies that have been deprived of names and voices throughout history. Fragments from various forms of dehumanization in art history, regulatory agencies and ethnography are woven together in her works. Together they expose structures of patriarchal and colonial power, racism and nationalism that extend into the present.

LOUISE WOLTHERS, curator and researcher at the Hasselblad Foundation.

Image: File Museum, 2012.
© Dayanita Singh