Jencks Foundation Research Residency 2021/22

Marysia Lewandowska

Voicing the Archive

Considering the role of the archive as a tool helps to address the relationships between people, their ideas and things that survived the dispersal and fragmentation associated with the passage of time. The aim of my research residency must be in part to keep insisting on the relevance of what is present and what can be presented, to think about the present as a process of emergence captured in a distinct moment of attention. All of the primary sources – relating to Maggie Keswick Jencks both inside The Cosmic House and at Portrack in Scotland, which largely exist in an analogue form –bear indexical traces of the people involved. My encounter with them has been led by struggles to decipher the most intimate of marks: the steady or agitated lines of hand-writing, the pleasure of detailed drawings made during travels, diaries filled with names, lists and tasks, personal and professional letters, and pencil notes crowding many of the books’ margins. The value of those documents lies not only in what they record or reveal but more importantly in understanding the cultural and economic circumstances of the decades which produced them.

Having explored some of the most immediate sources related to family histories through photographs and personal meetings, I am now turning to a large collection of cassette tapes with recordings of interviews, lectures, seminars and conversations, which demonstrate both Charles Jencks’ and Maggie Keswick’s commitment to pursuing their own creative ambitions in the spirit of collaboration. While the collection is being digitised I’m proposing to activate knowledge and affect through listening and speaking. I will be inviting a number of women practitioners for a series of in-house seminars focussing on Voicing the Cosmic House. The archival context for pursuing this query involves the centrality of the sound(track) and voice to contemporary manifestations of political intimacy deployed through aural mediation. This is consistent with my desire to bring attention to the role women, and especially Maggie Keswick, played in the decision-making process which resulted in what has now become the house museum. It is the very legacy of how Charles and Maggie engaged others, first in designing the House, and then from 1983 turning it into an intellectual and artistic hub by liquidating the boundaries between privacy of a family home and a socially active meeting place, that will inform my response.

What happens when habitus - a populated space - has been transformed into a public space governed by the rules of ex-habare - an imperative to display which lies at the root of exhibition? Can the tactics associated with my residency create opportunities for the wider community to re-discover and re-arrange the internal “structures of feeling” in which archival research, artistic practice, conservation, maintenance and access will be given a chance to cross-pollinate?

(October 2021 - October 2022)

More information can be found on Marysia Lewandowska's website.