Hazel Meyer Non-archival Archive (Muscle Panic), vues d'installation, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, 2020. Photos : Don Hall, permission de Dunlop Art Gallery

Deep Riffing in Hazel Meyer’s Non-archival Archive

Robin Alex McDonald
Hazel Meyer’s Non-archival Archive (Muscle Panic) (2018–21) presents a photographic collection of “noteworthy moments in sporting cultures,” and meticulously displays the images by clipping them to green metal scaffolding. Often shown in the ever-evolving installation Muscle Panic (2014 – ongoing), alongside an assembled scaffold that holds pennants, jerseys, pom poms, and mesh bags filled with oranges, Non-archival Archive constitutes both an architecture of display and an “archive of feelings.” Ann Cvetkovich defines an archive of feelings as an “exploration of cultural texts as repositories of feelings and emotions”1 1 - Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003) — an apt description for the tenderness, delight, and curiosity with which Meyer selects the athletes, teams, events, and moments represented in her work. With no particular collecting mandate or archival strategy guiding the selection process, the images and moments that make up Non-archival Archive have been chosen through a methodology of desiring, in which Meyer’s own interests in queerness, protest, aesthetics, intimacy, and emotion come to the fore.

Like Meyer’s collecting process, my writing method is guided by my own queer sensibilities, my familiarity with Meyer’s larger art practice, and my amateur interest in critical sports scholarship — a field in which I have no formal training beyond an alien curiosity. In the text that follows, I attempt to channel Meyer’s attentive care by devoting time and focus to three images from Non-archival Archive. Inspired by Wayne Koestenbaum’s column in Cabinet magazine, I engage each image via a method of “deep riffing,” taking each as a prompt for part-theoretical, part-academic, and part-creative musings on the visual cultures of sport, the representation of athletes’ bodies in the media, and the histories and affects that haunt athletic spaces and archives.2 2 - Wayne Koestenbaum’s column “Legend, appeared in several issues of Cabinet magazine between 2010 and 2015, accessible online. Using the image’s imposed parameters, “deep riffing” aims to spark imagination through limitation by encouraging ideas to bounce around like a ball in a squash court, their frenetic energies amplified through focus and restraint.

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This article also appears in the issue 103 - Sportification

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