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The Phantom Archives (2021-)

Developed alongside our (Lee Kai Chung + Shen Jun) research, The Phantom Archives initiative continuously archives sensuous and perceptual moments. The initiative departs from Lee’s artistic research series Displacement, also derives from our online archive that attempts to archive collective status in transitional times since 2020. The Phantom Archives publicises our encounters and ideas of our research to the best of our capacity, invites contributions and collaboration from friends, meanwhile conducts open calls for personal memories, stories and materials, hoping to include plural and reverberating voices. The archival index could be found at (designed by Oooo Studio), which will be further developed into dialogues, publications, collective walking tours and a physical project space. The first art book of this archive project, entitled No Misery, was published in 2022.

The phrasing of the Chinese title of The Phantom Archives, ‘虛無鄉’ (literal translation ‘voidness/nothingness’), is inspired by the Chinese translation of News From Nowhere (William Morris, 1890)[1], published by Shanghai Water Foam Bookstore in 1930. The original novel came out as a serial fiction on newspaper, gradually contouring a Utopian speculation from afar. From our perspective, this act of sending messages from nowhere makes faint noises of hope on the plane interface ought for the truth’. We borrow this phrase as a reminder of our initiative and mission.

Looking into the negative space of ‘historical truth’ and ‘professional archive’, The Phantom Archives pursues alternatives for the unarchivable and lived experiences, as our response to the sophisticated politics behind archive, history and publicness that are always our concern. Given the pattern of our work and life-living, The Phantom Archives is an ever-transiting, fragmented and archiving detour process, navigating the unspeakable histories and realities, the unsettled emotions and memories. Through researching, fieldwork, fictionalising, collaboration and open calls, we endeavour to give hints on perspectives in the interstices of institutional archive – performative memories, ambiguous narratives, identities in transition and entangled affect. We seek for an oblique path to the void of histories, letting go of polarisation between professional and amateur, objective and subjective, factual and fictional. In this sense, we expect the initiative creates its site of multi-temporalities intersecting past and present, here and there, whereby multiple possibilities reveal themselves. The perspective of The Phantom Archives also shifts from definitive ‘archive’ towards the processual ‘archiving’ as open, embodied movements. It concerns how abandoned lives in their own realities would find some sense of direction through seemingly soundless and powerless gestures.



[1] William Morris, News From Nowhere (虚无乡消息), trans. Lin Weiyin (Shanghai: Water Foam Bookshop, 1930).

The Phantom Archives