The Interference Archive (IA) has become an incredibly important community resource for those looking to make the connection between art and resistance. Grown far beyond any one person’s collection of social movement ephemera, it’s a place to find books, posters, zines, and most importantly, inspiration to wake up every day and fight.
We talked to Kevin Caplicki, artist and co-founder of the Archive, about its history and its goals.
What is the Interference Archive and when was it founded?
Interference Archive is an all volunteer-run exhibition, social center and archive of the cultural production of social movements. We collect and exhibit protest art made by grassroots movements in order to teach people about radical histories. It was founded by Dara Greenwald, Molly Fair, Josh MacPhee and me in 2010. We opened our doors to the public with the inaugural exhibit, Listening to the Sound of Our Own Revolt: Punk Feminisms and have since programmed hundred of events and over two dozen exhibitions on social movements.
Interference Archive is the result of the donation of time, labor, and financial support of our community mostly here in New York City, but also internationally. We have a strong support network in Brooklyn which is essential to our existence. Being located in NYC allows our collection and programming to be as broad as possible. Our location also gives us access to an international audience of people who visit NYC, so we don’t have to be provincial about what we collect or display. We get visitors from all over the world and many of them donate materials.
Where do you source your materials? Is it mostly donations from individual people, or do you also receive larger collections from organizations and institutions?
A majority of our collection was donated by founders Josh MacPhee and Dara Greenwald. Since we opened to the public, many organizers and participants of past struggles have brought materials they had been “hoarding” for years or sometimes decades. People visit or hear about us and realize Interference Archive can be a place where these items are appreciated and shared.
You’ve now hosted two Propaganda Parties at the Archive. What role do you see these playing in the ongoing resistance to Trumpism?
The propaganda parties are an attempt to create a social atmosphere for organizers and participants to network and trade materials for political protest. Space for people to congregate is a valuable resource in New York, and we realize that we can provide that space as well as a vast network of artists, cultural workers, and histories for people to learn about and plug into.
We also feel strongly about reclaiming the word “propaganda”—a word rooted in the verb “to propagate,” or spread ideas; in modern times this word has negative connotations, but we want to be clear that we all have a message to share. Our daily lives are saturated with supposedly “neutral” material that implicitly supports existing power structures, and we invite people to shake off this neutrality and lay claim to the things they want to stand for. It will take all different manners of action to resist “Trumpism,” and this is one way we can use our strengths as a group of archivists, cultural workers and organizers.
Outside of these Propaganda Parties, how do you use print to further the work that you do?
We publish a “document” for each of our exhibitions. These are a piece of ephemera made as an attempt to document the movements featured as well as a resource related to the issues we’ve dealt with in the exhibition. We have also produced posters, most of them screenprinted, for our exhibitions; this includes a print portfolio produced for the Armed By Design exhibition of print material produced by OSPAAAL (the Organisation of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America). This portfolio project produced multi-lingual posters in solidarity with contemporary struggles, very much inspired by the spirit of Cuban political posters featured in the exhibit.
We printers are used to hearing things like, “print is dead!” It never died, of course, but it has changed significantly over the past decade or so, and will likely endure more changes. How do you see the creation and distribution of printed ephemera changing in the short and long term?
This seems to be constantly changing. The more things go digital, the more it appears that people realize the importance of tactile printed objects. Print is incredibly alive in most regions of the world. The creation of printed objects will continue in conventional ways so long as the machinery is maintained. At the same time that digital memes are being shared across every social media platform, there is a resurgence of letterpress cards and posters. These technologies are centuries apart, and as long as the resources necessary to produce them are maintained—whether antique steel or optics and electricity—they will all be used.
How can people get involved with the Interference Archive?
We are an all-volunteer run organization and we are powered by people donating their time for to accomplish everything from staffing, cataloging, curating exhibitions, taking out the trash, and sweeping the floor. To get oriented, one can come in and shadow a staffer any day we’re open, join our cataloging parties to accession materials, join the audio working group and help produce our podcast, Audio Interference, and more. We are a project that thrives off of self-directed folks that want to work together. Folks interested in volunteering can email email@example.com. Interference Archive also covers most of its operational costs with donations from the community that believes in this work. Support the archive now at interferencearchive.org/
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