The characterization of historical absences and silences as toxics archives is provocative. I especially appreciate how the author uses imagined visualizations as a challenge to toxicity.
As an undergraduate I studied with Carlo Ginzburg whose work also examined silences in the archive and developed microhistory as a critical response (The Cheese and the Worms is one example).
The author's imaginative visualizations address our understanding of the past through creative, critical practice. Her work challenges and extends my understanding of toxic spaces.
No. Neither for Image #1 or Image #2. I find both these images thought-provoking and challenging. They are unsettling in the best critical sense.
Image #1 is a found image. It is centered and its perspective provides a sense of depth and excess, discipline and power. I think it is a terrific starting point to discussing absence.
Image #2: Is a created image, a composite and editing of two photos into one. I am uncertain if it successfully conveys what the author is intending. When I look at this image I question the scale and placement of Biddy Mason's portrait within the frame. Not that Biddy Mason should not be front and center, but I do not know how presence impacts my reading of the other photo. There is a foreground/background play at work that I struggle to process. The photo of the white pioneers is presented as a typical archived photograph. Biddy Mason's portrait is the spectral visualization that haunts the archive collection. The family may be represented archive, but their names, hopes, lives, impact on Los Angeles, are also seemingly absent from the archive. These are my questions provoked by my reading of this image.
The caption for Image #2 is fully realized.
The caption for Image #1 is brief and direct. It is dependent on the larger essay for full meaning. The caption raises questions for me. It presents the image as a starting point, an invitation to an archive. When I look at the image, I see florescent lighting, long, dark narrow aisles and an excess of boxes--closed, sorted, infused with meaning--to be investigated. Perhaps, for an archivist this is an idyllic place, but I sense a toxic environment present in this image. I realize a different, deeper, meaning of toxic is invoked in this essay, still I think it would support the analysis further if the starting place for our understanding of archive is also made more nuanced.
This analytic does not map directly to M. Azzara's essay but in addressing the questions I will reflect on her "Description" and images #1 (Archive Toxics 3) and #2 (Archive Toxics).
What is striking about the visualization #1 is the presentation of surfeit—all these cataloged containers of preservation that assure viewers our past is well-tended. M. Azzara's visualization calls attention to the absences of documentation of the lives of Black pioneers in early Los Angeles history. Her work examines these absences as a form of toxics.
Image #2 is M. Azzara's response to this toxicity by creating an superimposing the spectral presence of Biddy Mason in a photo of white settlers.
These visualizations advance ethnographic insight by revealing the silences in our histories and further suggest a way to counter silences through imaginative (productive) retellings while problematizing archives as toxic places.