Interference Archive explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in public exhibitions, a study and social center, talks, screenings, publications, workshops, and an online presence. The archive consists of many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, T-shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials. Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation. We consider the use of our collection to be a way of preserving and honoring histories and material culture that is often marginalized in mainstream institutions. As an archive from below, we are a collectively run space that is people powered, with open stacks and accessibility for all. We work in collaboration with like-minded projects, and encourage critical as well as creative engagement with our own histories and current struggles.
The archive is all-volunteer and relies on the help of many people.We currently organize the labor of running the project into working groups: Administration, Cataloging, Born Digital, Education, Fundrraising, and and evolving series of ad-hoc curatoral groups for each exhibition.
Interference Archive was founded by Kevin Caplicki, Molly Fair, Dara Greenwald, and Josh MacPhee. Our initial collection grew out of the personal accumulation of Dara and Josh, who amassed an extensive collection of materials including books, prints, music, moving images, and ephemera through their involvement in social movements, DIY and punk, and political art projects over the past 25 years. Together with Molly and Kevin’s skills, knowledge, and commitment, they envisioned turning these personal collections into a public archive, with open-access to materials for the communities who created them, and with archival work conducted by movement participants with firsthand knowledge of its historical context. We realized their vision with the helping hands and dedication of our friends, families, and communities, and in December 2011, Interference Archive opened its doors. Since we opened, we have already come a long way toward developing an autonomous space and archive unlike any other in New York City. Collectively, we’ve built an impressive repository of social movement history from below. We’ve created a social center within which to study, process, debate, use, and produce work that reflects people’s struggles around the globe, past and present. And we’ve grown faster than we could have imagined!
Here are some highlights from our first three years:
An open-access, open-stack archive of cultural ephemera produced by and for social movements worldwide.
Over a dozen exhibitions, including the Persistence of Dreams, a retrospective of work by Sublevarte Collectivo from Mexico City; Radioactivity! Anti-nuclear Movements from Three Mile Island to Fukushima; Àvenir (an installation by the Montreal-based design collective Ècole de la Montagne Rouge, active in the Quebec student strike of 2012); Strike Then, Strike Now: an Exhibition and Event Series about Work Stoppages; Serve the People: The Asian American Movement in New York; Self-Determination Inside/Out: Prison Movements Transforming Society, We Are Who We Archive (A Focus on Recent Donors and Acquisitions in 2014); We Won’t Move: Tenants Organizing in New York City; and if a song could be freedom. . . Organized Sounds of Resistance.
Over a half dozen publications: exhibition catalogs for RadioActivity!, Serve the People, The Persistence of Dreams, Self-Determination Inside/Out, Documents from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, We Won’t Move, and a 7″ record to coincide with if a song could be freedom. . . Organized Sounds of Resistance.
Over fifty talks and workshops, including the history of anti-war posters and graphics by archivist Carol Wells; a May Day poster critique and design charrette with Occuprint; a look at a punk- and anarchist-inspired UK football club by Bristol Radical History Group’s Roger Wilson; a presentation by Egyptian designer and activist Ganzeer; and dozens of programs related to our exhibitions.
Film screenings in conjunction with our exhibits as well as movies such as Maggots and Men, Land of Destiny, and the premiere of The Days of the Commune.
A number of significant donations to the collection, including over 300 political protest buttons from Eleanor Bader, hundreds of posters from African and Latin American movements and solidarity organizations from Alexis De Veaux, twenty years worth of anarchist posters from the Bound Together Bookstore in San Francisco, ephemera from European squatters movements from Alan W. Moore, a large selection of anti-nuclear and peace posters from John Miller, and a beautiful collection of Cuban posters from Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey which were originally collected by his father Carlos Vega.
The work at Interference Archive is done in the spirit and memory of Dara Greenwald, who we lost to cancer in 2012. Her ideas and energy continue to inspire us today.