Remediating the Archive: Sabrina Gschwandtner’s Film Quilts as Forms of Material Knowledge

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Lola Rémy


This article argues that the quilting works of Sabrina Gschwandtner, which sew archival 16 mm film strips into complex and colourful visual patterns, offer an understanding of film archives as embodied sites of historical, gendered, knowledge. As cinematic objects, Gschwandtner’s film quilts veer from and expand the conception of cinema as a projected medium, while the artisanal labour of sewing spatializes the process of editing, “lending [it] a concreteness” (Walley 2020, 327). The quilts, I argue, embody a form of archiveology, drawing on “archival material to produce knowledge about how history has been represented and how representations […]  are actually historical in themselves and have anthropological value” (Russell 2018, 22). The historical knowledge of these objects is no longer transmitted didactically and orally (as in the found footage documentaries she uses), but rather through the very materiality of the quilting process. Gschwandtner’s artisanal work mirrors the gendered labour of film editors, while reflecting on the historical significance of quilts as carriers of information transmitted in gendered and racialised circles. I contend that the film quilts are sensory vectors of archival knowledge. While offering crucial considerations on the disregard of American institutions (and archives) towards feminized artisanal labour, Gschwandtner’s work also remediates these archival materials, calling attention to their deterioration as slowly decaying, sensory objects. This remediation allows me to consider archives as sites of sensorial interactions and constantly evolving historical and embodied knowledge.

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