Agata Siniarska Artistic Profile Research
“archiving as companionship”
The archives sharply outline the differences between evidence and history, between fact and
fiction, separating the truth from the lie. Telling the truth about history has both political and
material consequences. Archives are exclusionary collections, monuments to specific power
configurations. Stories and stories that are not considered 'noteworthy' are not archived, they have
no access to the archive. What is not in the archive does not exist. In this way, the colonies
established their right to new territories by arriving and bringing their archives with them, whose
purpose was to root newcomers in unknown land that did not belong to them, as well as
establishing sovereignty over the land, transforming the land into territory.
The archives have always been a place of policy-making, of creating formal narratives, a tool to
prioritise and privilege specific stories and people. The archives record, classify, locate, allow,
censor and mark. Archives are not a neutral tool, but a deliberate political action. All technologies
in the archives, such as passports, maps, documents confirming nationality and origin, and thus
the right or lack of right to a particular history, act as mechanisms to force a specific vision of the
world, a hierarchic world in which one has an inviolable, meticulously engraved place.
How do these documents connect, how are they separated from each other? What arrangement
are the numbers in the catalogue, hierarchies, collections, groups, subgroups? Is lying together on
a shelf already a community? Do the files lying next to each other talk to each other?
What are the ephemera carriers that extend archiving practices beyond the phallocentric emphasis
on visibility, sound recording and documentation? How do we bring new materials into the sphere
of archives, and thus a different aesthetic sensitivity, in order to create a new format, with new
attributes that are not reduced to the sum of the heterogeneous elements mobilised to create it?
Other archives, I will take this name for a moment (they are in motion, they are moving and they
follow the movement. This movement is not only 'for' movement, but also 'against' movement. This
movement resists the dominant systems of aesthetics and institutional classification. When we
meet other archives (we can also enter them, but other archives avoid military movements and
thinking), we build our own choreographies, our own relations between our knowledge, our
emotions, which we store in our bag full of stories, and various bodies (I will call them bodies with
these human and non-human, organic and inorganic bodies in mind, but also qualities and
movements of other archives).
Other archives are not isolated units, they are more oceanic whirlpools - each document is a
single, dynamic circular, dissolving in a complex, fluid circulation. They dissolve and flow in time
and space - body to body, to body, to body. The question 'what is' is never enough. 'How' is it like?
'Where' is it? 'When' is it? - are choreographies of their common relations. Every body in the
archive is a threshold, a transition between the past and the future. Other archives reject the
ontological division between 'thing' and 'transition', between 'body' and 'vector'.
The timeliness of other archives is a time of delay, duplicated time, duration, time of return. All this
time of thinking, which opens up the whole spectrum between the time saved and lost. I must
remember that my human time is simply one of many modes of temporality.
What are the carriers of other archives? Certainly the body. The body is both human and non-
human, organic and inorganic. The body stores deep memories that feed its cells like streams
whose sources are beyond our reach. The body has the form of a document - it records the effect
of a force field, it stores these forces in its physical, mental, somatic structures, which are subject
to change. Bodies and their movements speak without words.
The encounter between the bodies is often pertaining on the surface, on the skin. The skin is a
place of contact and communication. It is a place to record this dialogue. It is also a place of
borderline, between one story and another, yet fluid. I cannot cross certain boundaries, but I can
stretch them, move them. That is what a vigilant and sensitive encounter with another species is
about. Of course, my perspective always remains the human perspective, but saying that I
undermine the sense of the learning process. Meeting a new species opens my space to new
relationships and apparatuses with which I was not familiar before - of course, I continue to impose
my ways of thinking, but I try to keep them open enough to work well with those that offer unknown
worlds. Other archive are transcorporal, transcriptional, in constant transformation.
There is no space without a story. If you see a landscape without a story, you do not know how to
look. Every landscape is written, from body to body. To say something, about a hundred different
muscles of the chest, neck, jaw, tongue and lips must work together. Every word or short phrase
that is physically pronounced is the result of a unique system of muscle movements. Stories are
complex physical actions. Stories large enough to accommodate the complexity of the world, and
open enough for new, amazing relationships. There is no difference between written and embodied
language, writing is an embodied act, acting is a discursive act. Oral transmission does not comply
with the rules of ownership, possession, dictated by the official archive. Official archives often
classify oral history as a primitive practice (a standard archive cannot read other records than its
own and is therefore primitive). We often hear that telling stories and working with stories is a
universal experience in all nations, cultures, societies. Unfortunately, most often we hear this
version from the dominant perspective, which assumes the right to tell the stories of the colonized
and oppressed, which have been reinterpreted, presented and told from a violent perspective.
Hence, our encounter with the archives cannot be one-way street - the archives influence our ways
of seeing the world, our perspectives, so it is important what and which dialogue we have with the
archives. Until the lions don't have their storytellers, the story of the hunt will always glorify the
hunter. Telling the lions' stories is not speaking for them, but listening to their stories, learning the
Scores are both verbal text, a collection of images and other types of documents - developed partly
as a new means of communication, usually between the choreographer and the dancers, enabling
reinterpretation of choreography, not dominated by the choreographer-author. It is a material that
does not impose the 'truth', but is open to play. For Anna Halprin, the score becomes a way of
sharing creativity and demystifying it so that everyone can participate in it. Lisa Nelson describes
the scores as tuning scores that are not documents but sets of shared agreements which provide a
communication and feedback system for an ensemble of players. Scores prepared with the
participation of all bodies open the archives to uncertainty, instability, jumping and vigilance.
Moving through the archive of scores, we have to be like a vigilant animal, always ready to play.
Standard archives assume that if performative practices are not passed on for documentation or
sound recordings, or otherwise become tangible, visible, habitable in an official archive, they will be
irretrievably lost, disappear. Dance always remains, but it remains different. A body dancing at the
moment of its performance produces a record in space, a 'live notation'. So how does dance
remain when there is no notation written down, when the dance does not conform to standard
documentation? It is important to distinguish between dance and its stage performance and dance
as a practice. Of course, a dance performed on stage may disappear. There are remains of many
outstanding choreographies which make it impossible to recreate the entire performance. It is not
without reason that the Balanchine Foundation founded 'The Archive of Lost Choreography', which
tries to save the remains of specific dance performances. What else is dance as a practice, as an
action, not an artefact. Dance as a practice does not disappear as long as it is practised and
developed, passed from body to body, from quality to quality. The act of disappearance of
individual dances is an objection to commodification, against the fetish of leaving an artefact, thus
dance is probably the most ecological practice of art. Dance as a practice does not find its purpose
in the final result of the produced work, but in the process of research (practice as research). Even
when the dance is presented on stage, it does not mean that the dance is finished, coherent, the
research continues. Dance interferes with the process of commodification and participation in the
system of economic exchange and thus interfere with capitalist exchange systems. The tendency
for dance to disappear also opposes the ideological imposition of a sanctioned version of dance
history and traditional historiography, which masks its own construction with relations of power and
domination of certain aesthetic tendencies.
Bioarchives. Since the beginning of mankind, the number of people born has exceeded 107 billion,
of which 7 billion live and the remaining 100 billion are dead - the land on which we live has a
humic basis. Decaying bodies affect the chemical composition of the earth, water and air, and over
time they become part of fossils. Organic remains are a connecting element, mixing species and
supporting symbiotic relations between organisms. The human body, in this case, has no other
status in the decomposition process. Decomposition knows no hierarchy or boundaries. Soil
systems deal with dead bodies in exactly the same way as with any other form of organic
substance, storing its history and assigning it to a new community. The earth therefore has a
documentary function. From layer to layer, from body to body, it is an archive of incarnate history
from which the human subject cannot escape.
Other archives do not reject one format in favour of another, one look in favour of another, one
point in space, one way of time. Other archives are the whole spectrum of situations and
circulation. All forms of archiving are necessary, it only depends on how they are used, what
relationships they build. The aim of such an archive is at the same time to open up to symbolic
meanings, metaphors, visions, images, experiences, cognitive processes that integrate the
emotions and values that "cultivate" the imagination, preparing it to blur the boundaries between
science, art and politics.
CHOREOGRAPHY AS AN ARCHIVING TOOL
Choreography for me is a tool for reading, building, writing, creating, noticing and revealing
relationships. For me, this very broad definition is a way of thinking for other archives, focusing on
how individual elements interact with each other, and how and what the archives can activate in us,
in our perception of them.
Choreography reveals the system of movement. A moving body is not a spontaneous body, even if
it moves spontaneously in the street. The body always repeats movements, patterns already
known to it, thus revealing its education, social background, physical and political attitudes.
Choreography reveals ways of using the body, being in the body in time and space. Choreography
is a processional cartography, it is a moving architecture that is present in constantly changing
relationships and dialogues with other bodies.
Choreography deals not only with human bodies, non-human bodies and their movements, but
rather with an ever-changing set of relationships and qualities between them, mediated by spaces
and structures at many scales: from the human body to man-made climate change, from the
cellular scale of a single body to the territory of clusters of many bodies. Choreography multiplies
on many levels. When I look at a dancing body recording its choreography, I make another
choreography myself, where as a spectator I look at the dancing body on stage, and these two
choreographies are part of another choreography, social choreography and so on, up to planetary
Choreography is a process of constantly negotiated relations. The procedural category is still
neglected in the contemporary normative perspective, rejecting relational and situational links with
inhuman existence and the world. These relationships exist everywhere on our planet, many times
in places perceived as peripheral, in the dead zone of the Eurocentric perspective and discourse.
Speaking from Spivak: The globe is on our computers, but no one lives here. The human
experience of space happens with and through the body, hence the knowledge coming out of
choreography should not be limited to this medium alone, but should become a practice of writing a
common history in which humanity lives and shares space with different forms of existence, trying
to explore the entangled experience of social structures through movement, through performative,
bodily, movement-based and sensory strategies and processes. All bodies always exist in relation:
in relation to and through interaction with other bodies, opening our working methods and
perspectives to collective knowledge.
The choreographies suggest a reorientation of the practice towards the creation and modulation of
assemblages which associate materially heterogeneous types of human and non-human activities.
Choreography is a key area of politics and by challenging central categories such as rhythm,
strength, space, time, energy, dynamics and flow, it sheds light on the kinetic foundations of
What are the tasks of the archive today, at a time of extinction? What are archives in times of
extinction? What is extinction? What is this event? Climate, hydrological and anthropogenic
changes have occurred and are occurring in ecosystems around the world. One of the adverse,
progressive changes is the impoverishment of biodiversity. It is characterised by the slow
disappearance of individual animal populations and plants until they die out. This is not a problem
that belongs to distant continents, but a global problem, including Poland. Although all activities in
these areas have a strong impact on other parts of the globe, this is an overlooked topic, absent
from the Polish public debate. The extinction of species, their collective death is a kind of tangled
mass grave transformed in time, an event without a monument, without memory and social
awareness. The absence of the memory of disappearing individual species of flora and fauna is an
archive of silent stories, unnoticed traces, without a voice. The extinction is an abstract, measured,
pronounced, presented, told in different ways. However, with the abstractness of its description,
extinction is never a general event, it is always a phenomenon that requires ways of meeting and
understanding that transcend disciplines. The archive is in fact a death zone - a place where the
living and the dead meet and permeate.
The roles of people in extinction are very complex. There are many ways in which human
communities are affected and suffer from extinction - they are usually not present in political
discussion. Discussions take place somewhere else, outside the extinction zone, without relations
to extinction and the dying out. How can new relationships with species, with an extinction process,
taking into account biocultural complexities, revitalise and reconfigure the possibilities for reaction
and responsibility? How can we think of the history of mankind, written in books and these
unwritten stories of the landscape together? How to think of materiality and human stories as one,
without hierarchy of tools and information, in a world where we suffer from the lack of a common
world, where we have lost a common orientation, a common direction.
and crannies and little stories. If we do not do it, then who. If we do not do it now, then when.
Agata Siniarska works within a field of dance and choreography. She places her practice between
how we think about the world and how we move in it. It is a place where somatics and politics
intersect - a place where body perception meets social engagement - between somatic and
environmental landscapes, between human and non-human bodies.