Elisabeth Subrin

The File Room was produced by artists and as such does not presume the role of a library, or an encyclopedia, in the traditional sense. Instead, the project proposes alternative methods for information collection, processing and distribution, to stimulate dialogue and debate around issues of censorship and archiving. Links to other electronic archives and databases internationally, as well as multiple accounts of the same "incident" and a wide range of contributors challenge the File Room visitor to make her or his own decisions about what constitutes an "accurate" account of a censored work of art or historical incident.

Research was directed by the particular interests of individual researchers with the aim of gathering a broad global and historical diversity, as well as including submissions mailed, faxed and e-mailed to Randolph Street Gallery from around the world. In the process, notions about the role and authority of the archivist, the researcher, the cataloguer, the author, were continuously challenged. In many instances, the most dominant experiences of censorship are by their form unclassifiable, such as the oppression of entire peoples, belief systems and philosophies? How does one classify whole generations of art that were not produced? How does one articulate the intellectual and artistic repression of "minor" voices throughout history? Should case submissions be placed on the World Wide Web server complete with typographical and factual "errors?" Isn't language itself a form of censorship? We were often overwhelmed, and predictably, found ourselves caught in the ironic position of risking censorship as we create a database for the account of it.

Obviously, objectivity was out of the question. As information flowed into Randolph Street from across the world, the different responses to our submission form confirmed the necessity for a fluid database, one that allowed for a range of interpretations as wide as the experiences that informed individual submissions. Categories such as "grounds for censorship" or "results of incident," or even "description of art work" are thus intended to leave room for incredibly divergent accounts and analysis. Certain critical cases may not yet be entered; other cases may have been submitted several times by different people. To some users, The File Room will seem deviant in its resistance to traditional systems of data collection; a shifting, seemingly "messy" record of cultural experience. But perhaps it is this deviance that allows other critical questions to emerge. With these initial 400 cases, The File Room invites you to add your own experiences, or share the information of another "author." In this form, The File Room seeks to present an alternative record of censored cultural expression and its global documentation.

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