The WhatsApp Common Archive

Arnika Ahldag Mudar Al-Khufash Ioannis Andronikidis Eva Bentcheva Barbara Cousin Patricia Couvet Gulzat Egemberdieva Ann Harezlak Johanna Heide Sooyoung Leam
View in map


[1]Where do archives and life stories meet? There are many facets to this question. To begin, one should take a broader look beyond the objects and documentation in any given archive, and the consider the myriad of people, encounters and exchanges which have transpired around it. Yet, as we live and work increasingly in the digital realm, the desire to locate the human elements beneath archives seems evermore challenging. As part of the workshop ‘Life Stories and Archives’, the participants and organisers developed a virtual ‘common archive’ of their own. This took the form of a conversational thread on WhatsApp. Here, they addressed some of the most pertinent questions arising out of their discussions on life stories and archives: Why do we feel a need to organise our ‘junk’? How does movement affect archiving and can an archive become nomadic? Why do we feel a need to archive trauma, and who is left out in the process? These are just some of the questions surfacing from a much larger, shared interest in how people’s biographies, personal preferences, kinships, networks and political struggles fuel the need to collect. And who knows, perhaps within the spaces of this virtual ‘common archive’, a new meeting of life stories will begin to form…

This contribution is published in the framework of the Whole Life Academy as part of the workshop “Life Stories and Archives”.

  1. This contribution is published as the workshop findings of “Life Stories and Archives”. The workshop was convened by Arnika Ahldag, Eva Bentcheva, Gulzat Egemberdieva, and Ann Harezlak and took place online from October 2021 – March 2022 as part of the Whole Life Academy Berlin. 

Connected Material

Paula Montesios und Eduardo Molinari speak about their artistic practices and how they are related to archives. Together they reflect about counter-archiving, para-archiving and un-archiving and how this includes experiences with and appearances of sensorial encounters with the past.

Epistolary narrative, dialogism, intertextuality, speculative narrative — we imagine this text to be letters between the two of us across different temporalities, making use of a speculative and fragmented narrative in line with the themes we explore in our work: archiving the unarchivable, emotions, memories, and other human conditions within the horizon of extinction.

The legacy of anti-colonial leader and Pan-Africanist revolutionary Amílcar Cabral (1924-1973) still calls for cultural readings, and not strictly political ones. Contemporary art, so-called “artistic research” and critical theory will benefit from a cross-disciplinary approach which puts Cabral as relevant to art or which turns Cabral’s many contributions into tools.

This video interweaves the mobility of defiance against national-colonial borders and the collection of gossips by Southeast Asian migrants in Berlin.

The video explores the encounter (digital and analogue) between the body and the archive.

These images were taken in the frame of The Whole Life Academy. Laura Fiorio accompanied the project as a photographer from the beginning in 2019 and developed her own approach of documenting archival sites and methods.

Interrogating the archive of “green” extractivism is not just about uncovering access to knowledge, legal knowledge, for example, that can help expose (ecological and economic) crime and that can thus be a starting point for empowering true alternatives and thus alternative ways of living and organizing economic processes. It is also about creating a resonant space for shared thinking and reflection.

Accumulation and multiplication of images is an accumulation of the hidden histories behind them. How do we recover these invisible histories?

CLEPTOCRAZIA is an art and science festival curated by Valeria D’Ambrosio at Villa Romana in Florence. The project aims to disseminate knowledge on the roots of the environmental crisis through a cycle of lectures, screenings and performances with the contribution of international artists and scientists.

The Perverted Archival Image workshop centered on and tentacled off from Studio Baalbeck. The workshop participants created an audio montage of recordings to accompany some of the visual archive material.