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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Maja Daniels and the mystery nature of archives



Here's a short interview with Maja Daniels for the Activating the Archive symposium in Bristol on
May 5th



In 2012 Maja Daniels, photographer and sociologist began working in the Swedish region of Älvdalen inspired by the current generational shift, where negotiations and tensions between modern lifestyles and tradition - including the preservation of a strong cultural identity imbued with mysticism - represent an important contemporary struggle. Through making her own photographs of the region, and creatively appropriating parts of the archive of photographer Tenn Lars Persson (1878 –1938) within her work the community’s unique and mysterious eccentricity is reinforced. Steeped in both reality and myth, past and present, an imaginary tale influenced by language, mystery and local history quietly reveals itself through the resilience of the subjects, the strangeness of the events and the beauty of the land.



What has led you to working with archival material?

I often collaborate with my subjects but since this project is of a more personal nature, I searched for a different way of incorporating a collaborative element to the work. As I began working in the region and came across this archive, I immediately knew I wanted to engage with it since it has such a strong link to the same notions that had drawn me to and inspired me to begin working in the region in the first place (language, mystery and local history). I felt a deep connection to the work and an urge to initiate a dialogue with it.



How do you activate archives within your practice?

By creatively appropriating parts of the archive within my own work I bring new life to the work. It takes on a new shape and becomes part of a new story. Across time and language barriers my voice unites with the voice of someone who walked on the same grounds 100 years earlier. Steeped in both reality and myth, past and present, it is this dialogue that reinforces the community’s many mysteries and creates a distinct, timeless space within the work.



In a post-digital world, what role do physical archives play?

They create an anchored connection to a place or a time. They become something we can think with beyond the digital world. While they represent something very concrete and fixed, they are also mysterious and otherworldly. As they make us aware of our times and trajectories, hopefully, they can also expand our understanding not just of the past, but also of the future of digital and/or other processes and narratives.



Briefly, what can we expect from your talk?

You can expect to be surprised by how wild, strange and full of humour photographs taken 100 years ago can be. Also, you will see how seamlessly two distinct voices can merge into one story despite being 100 years apart.


Maja Daniels will be talking about all this and much more on Saturday 5th May at the Arnolfini in Bristol in this brilliant symposium on the archive with speakers including  Maja Daniels, Vicki Bennett, Francesca Seravalle Charbel Saad, Thomas Sauvin, Kensuke Koike, and Amak Mahmoodian.

It's a serious bargain at £25 for the day and takes place in the wonderful waterfront location of the Arnolfini, with fantastic food, drink and cake all available within a few minutes walk.

Buy your tickets for ICVL's Activating the Archive here.

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