Desiderata Archive

While this is the last project being presented here, it was the first fully realized (and ongoing) project I produced in the Department of Media Study.  In this way, we come full circle, concluding, as it were, at the beginning.  However, latent in this project are a string of interests that pervade my later work – in particular, an interest in direct engagement with urban conditions, with the integration of location-based digital media into our daily lives and with systems of mapping, and how these systems represent different approaches to the world, to space and to location.  Thus, I find it fitting to end where these interests began.

The goal of the Desiderata archive is to map urban landscapes through the types of detritus found in various regions and neighborhoods of cities throughout the world. As the title implies, these artifacts are to be understood within the mechanisms of desire that define the current culture of conspicuous consumption and the spectacular society that results.  Each artifact thus represents a momentary drive within a context of perpetual, if fleeting, desires, each one only temporarily satiated, before it is either replaced by a new one, or only insofar as it whets an appetite for newer, potentially better objects of a similar nature.

The archive thus becomes a catalogue of contemporary capitalist society. By focusing on remnants, it represents the ultimate condition towards which the processes of capitalist desire-manufacture eventually coalesce. The ephemerality of these processes is undermined by systems of collection and exhibition that frustrate the possibility of moving on to new desires by constantly emphasizing recently discarded desires of new ones.

The archive takes two forms – a physical collection and a digital database.  Physical remnants are to be photographed using an iPhone (or suitable smart-phone equivalent) in situ, providing the date, time and GPS coordinates of these objects at the time of discovery.  The detritus is then collected and embalmed in a manner similar to that used for biological organisms of interest.  Each object will stored in a specimen jar and set in resin for preservation.  It will be tagged alphabetically, by the first letter of the word that best describes it, and numerically, by its place in the collection. Finally, an image of the object, along with all of the relevant information will be displayed on the Desiderata Archive website.

This Desiderata database is searchable by the name and call number of the object, and includes a section for amateur archivalists, including links to supply stores and printable collection stickers, as well as a thorough description of the methodology to be used when collecting and displaying objects.  The hope is that, through participatory media, a fine-grained map of desiderata, which reveals the nuances of consumer culture throughout urban areas, will be developed and used for further research into the mechanisms of desire, place and identity.

Visit the Desiderata Archive here.

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