The Magnus Hirschfeld Institute for Sexual Science (ISS) was founded in 1919 in Berlin as a communal, sexual, political, and emotional space for people of different genders and orientations. In 1933, the ISS was the target of an early Nazi raid, and the spectacular bonfire of its books and holdings began the horrific destruction of its idealist commitment to queer ways of being. In the wake of this violent destruction, the Magnus Hirschfeld Society now pursues the seemingly impossible task of recuperating the Institute, its history, its memory, its research, and its books. Utopian in vision, in their thirty years, the Society, a group of gay men and archivists, has met with limited but significant success in their “Archiv der Erinnerungen” (archive of remembrance) project.
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics hosts a conversation about archives in general and queer approaches to archives in particular with artists Dean Erdmann, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Carlos Motta, and scholar Shannon Mattern. Moderated by Christiane Paul, Chief Curator and Director of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design and also the curator of Dean Erdmann’s exhibition And, Apollo: A Laboratory, this conversation takes Erdmann’s work with archives, both their own family’s archive and that of the Magnus Hirschfeld Society’s, as a starting point for discussing artistic and queer approaches to individual and institutional archives or their absence. After an introduction to some key considerations on archives by New School professor Shannon Mattern, each artist presents their approaches to working with archives and queer reparative strategies.
Taken together their work points to a queer life that took place outside of institutionalized forms of history-making and offer queer interventions in the ways in which we can think about the making and re-shifting of narratives, especially as they intersect with the histories of race, colonialism, and illiberalism.
Dean Erdmann, artist, VLC Fellow
Shannon Mattern, Professor of Anthropology, The New School
Tiona Nekkia McClodden, artist
Carlos Motta, artist
Christiane Paul, Director and Chief Curator, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center and and Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum
This program is presented as part of Dean Erdmann’s exhibition And Apollo: A Laboratory organized by Christiane Paul (Director/Chief Curator, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center) and Eriola Pira (Curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics).