Without Borders was a new, exciting, surprising, and slightly frightening experience for me. I say slightly frightening as archival research has only recently become part of my work. My presentation at Without Borders was new terrain in several ways: my first presentation on archival research, my first foray into theorizing about archival practice, and first time presenting at a conference that was not specifically film- or moving image-related. Beyond that, my talk *Contains Nudity: Experiencing the Erotic in the Queer Personal Archive deals primarily with the experience of archival arousal, specifically my own. I was a Cinema Studies student with limited archival experience speaking to a room of archival scholars or practitioners about how I was getting aroused in an archive. ‘A little frightened’ may have been a slight understatement.
Of course I had nothing to be afraid of. My panel, entitled Sources and held at the Bishopsgate Institute, was a showcase of diverse approaches, methodologies, art research and art practice. Theories of queer temporalities were discussed alongside recuperative collage practice, and the importance of affective links between queer scholars and archivists with their subjects was underlined across several presentations. Further, the reception to my research was warm and welcoming.
My presentation also afforded me the occasion for surprise, the type of happy accident that should be familiar to anyone who has spent hours poring over archival materials. As it turns out, the subject of my archive, a queer Canadian television producer named Mario Prizek, had donated only half of his archive to the University of Toronto (where I was undertaking my research). The other half was being stored at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, a mere 2 kilometres away. There was no mention of another half of the collection being stored elsewhere, and I’m not sure I would have found this out had I been approached by a CLGA volunteer after my panel at this conference more than 5000 kilometres away from both of our institutions. Even more curious, the collection appears to have been split right down the middle, with no rhyme or reason. In my talk I mentioned a set of negatives, seemingly taken with a telephoto lens, of men on balconies or through windows, as if Prizek had been photographing them without their knowledge. The CLGA, it turns out, has the developed prints. I’m looking forward to continuing my exploration of the other half of this archive this year, and am grateful to the ALMS Without Borders conference for this opportunity. My doctoral research will take me back to the archive this summer, and I will be heading into this challenge with excitement, eager for more happy accidents. I thank ALMS for putting on a conference that inspired so much conversation, exchange, and archival surprises.