cropped photo of a figure wearing full leather gear and holding a whip, from an October 1984 event flyer

A Project by the 2022 Barbican Young Archivists


As a Collective in the Creative Learning Programme, we have had the opportunity to meet artists, educators, curators and archivists across the Barbican and the Bishopsgate Institute and beyond, in order to discuss the history, the nature, and the role of the archive, as well as exploring and interrogating the presence and/ or absence of queer bodies and narratives within the archive.

During these conversations, we shared stories and ideas about what the archive means to each of us - about the power, good and bad, the archive has historically held over our personal and community histories.

From the basis of these discussions, we have explored new ways in which we may conceptualise, and engage with, the archive. As a Collective, we agreed on the importance of perceiving the archive as ever-expanding yet embodied; that is to say, we celebrate the positioning of our bodies, both in terms of our material corporeality, and in terms of our senses - of touch, smell, of joy and pain - as archival practice.

This praxis, we proposed, would give us the ability and the right to influence and exert control over the archive - to reconstruct and represent queer narratives, and their intersection with other identities, such as race and religion.

Therefore, we invite you to enjoy, and to engage with, these responses. We have prepared a series of audio interventions into each of our favourite objects: we discuss why and how these objects speak to, and move us; what stories each photo, notebook and outfit gesture towards; and how the presence of each object might go some way towards addressing our definition of the archive.