Architectural plans of a former house inspire the narrative structure of a new book by Kim Gurney, called Flipside: The inadvertent Archive, which takes the reader on a thematic journey from room to room as it follows the trail of specific archival artefacts lodged in the building’s attic.
Richter Huis, with a story of its own, is the long-term home of the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) and its predecessor body, since 1971. Its uncatalogued archival collection holds a vast array of documents, spanning more than five decades, which comprise the author’s source material – from exhibition information and correspondence to meeting minutes and financial records. In Flipside, Gurney follows the trail of very specific artefacts and where they might lead to assemble a multi-dimensional perspective on the invisible labour of curatorial work as well as the collective art of institution-building. The AVA Archive, dating roughly 25 years to either side of South Africa’s 1994 democratic transition, also offers a compelling lens on the politics and poetics of larger societal transformations, and the inevitable entanglements between (public) space, imagination and city futures.
A few years in the making, Flipside is independently researched through the CHR and written with the support of various institutional partners. It is published by iwalewabooks (Johannesburg, Lagos & Frankfurt), edited by Karen Press and iwalewabooks, and beautifully designed as an artefact to reflect its subject matter and research method. The non-linear storytelling is brimming with visual and textual quotations from the stacks to interrupt the author’s voice and offer a polyvocal bricolage.
Huda Tayob, a lecturer at University of Manchester, says: “In Gurney’s situating of these closely read selections and fugitive tangents, carefully reproduced to elicit an embodied and visual archival encounter, the reader is witness to the multi-dimensional dark-rooms of history in all its complexity and plurality.”
The physical book, in a limited edition, is available from both AVA and iwalewabooks; the publisher also offers an e-book version.