by Mashaal Gauhar

After making a mark on Pakistan’s dynamic art scene, London based art historian and curator Lavinia Filippi explored the power and process of archiving in Interstitial Zone. Held at the Showroom gallery in London, Lavinia curated the event along with Amanda Masha Caminals, Léa Herbeth and Rafael Barber Cortell.

Drawing on an array of disciplines and diverse cultural mores, Interstitial Zone invited people to come and listen to recorded conversations of artists, lawyers, archivists and psychologists in a thought provoking exploration of the importance, impact and ramifications of archiving, extending far beyond the art realm. This event included a performance by Italian artist Girolamo Marri.

Rather than putting all the interviews in writing, or disseminating the information on the Internet, the audience was invited to a table in the centre of the room to listen to a selection of interviews discussing the practical and abstract implications of the concept of accumulation. Crafting a multivocal narrative, this approach provided an interesting convergence point for knowledge and discovery in an age where issues surrounding isolation and alienation continue to loom large.

Recorded on individual iPods, each interview was placed in a separate box with a short narrative providing a background of the conversation. Lavinia explains, “We wanted to show how image, audio and text can be used to create new interpretations.”

Inspired by the work of French-Algerian philosopher Jacques Derrida, Lavinia discusses how the exhibition provided a unique space for multiple perspectives on the same subject matter, “Interstitial Zone provided a lot of information which can be interpreted in different ways. For everyone the same interview meant something different.”

The interdisciplinary approach embodied in Interstitial Zone investigated the wider concept of archive, particularly the cognitive aspect – the complex storehouse of memories and experiences of each individual and how the mind processes these.  Lavinia’s interview with psychotherapist Carla di Falco provides an insightful way of distilling recollections of the past. “It was interesting how we discussed archiving memories. She explained how she helps people live with their memories, even painful memories,” says Lavinia.

Transcending the traditional structure of the archive through the interweaving of distinct yet congruent ideas, Interstitial Zone was also inspired by Hans Ulrich Obrist who maintains that different disciplines are often interested in the same issues. Along with the more abstract and visionary interpretations, the event included discussions on the technique, logistics and technical aspects of the archiving process.

During her time in Pakistan, Lavinia was an active participant in South Asia’s vibrant art scene where she believes there is great potential to develop an entirely new discourse, “One of the most interesting things that emerged is how data is a Western obsession whereas in the East there is a different perception.”

Ongoing conflict in the region has led to the destruction of precious historical sites across South Asia and the Middle East including the Sasal Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 and more recently the threat to the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. This has made the task of safeguarding art, culture, history, the past acutely urgent.

However, Lavinia sees the lack of regulation as an opportunity for Pakistan. Since countries like Pakistan still remain unencumbered by a plethora of data preservation rules, the country has an invaluable opportunity to craft new preservation paradigms with regard to its rich cultural heritage. “Pakistan can develop a new and interesting way of developing data preservation as the West is currently restricted by rules regarding this. I believe that Pakistan adopt an innovative way of developing archiving processes.”

Lavinia says Pakistan has greatly influenced her curatorial approach and this was clearly evidenced in Interstitial Zone with the inclusion of the highly acclaimed Pakistani artist Naiza Khan. “In Pakistan, I felt that contemporary art was still giving an important message for example regarding gender, conflict – those realities are very interesting and are still developing.” She believes that the relatively recent emergence of Pakistanis contemporary art lends it an authenticity often missing in more developed markets. “It is a market that is still developing so the art is still pure and honest.”