Looking through a box from the NSU Archive, I found a marketing brochure about Turku: Turku Kesällä 1954. Åbo Sommaren 1954. Turku in Summer 1954). The 1954 summer session must have been in Turku. In the brochure is an advertisement for American Club cigarettes; it shows an enormous pack of cigarettes in front of a Manhattan skyline and the words: ‘today …tomorrow … always …’.
Setting aside the irony regarding what we know now (and probably did then) about cigarettes and longevity, I wondered why they sold cigarettes by appealing to a longing for immortality.
Immortality and origins are what we hope to find in archives. 1954 is the year I was born, this is why I was looking in that box, trying to find a way into the early history of NSU by linking my history with the organisation’s. My mother smoked Craven A, I wonder if she did so when she was pregnant with me. I’ve never thought about this before. Craven A was a woman’s kind of cigarette. Whenever we had to make something from clay at school, we’d make an ashtray. A tray for ash.
The Danish National Archive protects the NSU’s documents from physical degradation, theft and loss. Perhaps they even receive the same protection as major state documents; age affords a levelling. Each year we hold worried conversations about the future of NSU. We never know what will happen. But the past is taken care of.
Later, at home I randomly open Derrida’s Archive Fever (trans. Eric Prenowitz, 1996) and read on page 36 that the question of the archive is not a question of the past but is a question of the future: ‘the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come. Perhaps. Not tomorrow but in times to come, later on or perhaps never.’
The flight, flight, to Oslo in July next year is booked.
Dining with NSU in the 1950’s. Today we have more women but fewer bow ties.
We are four NSU artistic researchers – Per Roar, Camilla Graff Junior, Luisa Greenfield and Myna Trustram coming from the respective practices of choreography, performance art, film and writing and are based in Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin and Manchester.
For the 70th anniversary of NSU we combine in person meetings with monthly Skype discussions, collective and individual writing to build our presentation. Our October visit to the Danish National Archive to be in contact with historical NSU materials serves as the initial impulse to reflect on the function of the archive, our personal relationships to NSU and its archive as well as NSU’s value in broader terms.
Over the course of a year we will collectively build our piece from our various aesthetic orientations and research perspectives to create a living archive that extends beyond the NSU.