Bak.ma: Digital Media Archive of Political Movements

bak.ma stemmed from the idea of an online open archive that was proposed by the Videoccupy video collective founded during the Gezi resistance by people, who have different experiences and backgrounds. It was suggested to solve the problem of how to share the visuals they collected and produced during the resistance. Even though the Videoccupy was disbanded after the resistance, the bak.ma and Gezi archive were launched on an online platform in 2014. Since 2015, new content has been added to the bak.ma with new materials collected from the archives of collectives, unions, individuals that took part and collaborated in the process and with new records that were uploaded to the system. Consequently, it has turned into an archive collective that has been active for the last 5 or 6 years.

Subjective experiences of the members of the archive collective directly influence the making of bak.ma. The archive is made possible by the transfer of their theoretical and practical experiences in a variety of related fields such as politics, video action, video art, political documentary, and cinema.As bak.ma tried to create an archive of videos shot during the Gezi resistance, the need to go back in the history of social freedom movements has become more pronounced. The team members explain why the bak.ma archive is about a variety of social problems: “Even though social movements are irregular, they relate to each other in terms of their demands for rights. For example, a labor movement should be understood in the context of urban movements and analyzed in terms of their peak moments in history. To understand Gezi, it is important to make connections between the memory of an organized or a non-organized rights movement that asserted strong demands for rights and work such as the Tekel protest, which transformed the public space for a while, with contemporary movements. This will bring different minor narratives into the spotlight within the historical narrative and find parallels between social movements. That is to say, we believe that it is important to create a relational memory.”

Status
Ongoing
Date
2014
Owner
Form
Scope and Purpose

bak.ma is a collective that aims to become the digital media archive of freedom struggles in Turkey and elsewhere. bak.ma archive’s online archive features video shots from social movements, protests, press conferences, as well as daily life beginning from the 1960s onwards and ranging from the Tekel resistance[1], to Gezi Park protests[2], from May 1 celebrations to January 19th gatherings[3], from March 8 marches to Gay Prides.

Standing out as the digital media archive of Turkey’s opposition movements, bak.ma also features videos of political movements from Melbourne to Hamburg, and from Belgrade to Athens since last year. Their content includes visual records of related sociopolitical movements and freedom struggles that have been carried out from the 1960s onwards. The website software categorizes these according to date, location, keyword and video titles.

bak.ma uses an open-source archive software pan.do/ra. Users can download archive data, upload new data or make online changes to the uploaded content. They can also submit subtitles, tags, texts and other information. They can make online edits on new videos by using existing data. Envisioning bak.ma as an anonymous space, the team uses designs and techniques that let every user download all the content of the archive to their computers in low resolution.

The creators of bak.ma believe that we should think about and use archives as mediators that have functions, and as spaces that help us communicate with each other and with these events. As such, they see archives as platforms that are not only about the past, but also the present and future. bak.ma is a space for new relations, inspirations and emotions that emerge out of encounters with these images. It is not only a conservation space that stores these recordings. The team says that bak.ma “can be defined as ‘the archive of life that has been involuntarily caught up on’ with reference to Dziga Vertov and Ulus Baker or ‘an archive of events’ with reference to Maurizzio Lazzarato. The first entails an archive of daily life, whereas the second is an archive of public events.” In addition to this, to differentiate their experience from traditional and institutional archiving practice or state archive mentality, its creators define bak.ma as a “counter-archive.” Their manifest on the issue can be seen on bak.ma.

Defining their practice as “autonomous archiving”, the team published a book that brought together articles and thought pieces on the issue in 2016. The English edition of the book can be accessed on the website of the dpr-barcelona publishing house. Autonomous archiving is defined as a multi-centered archiving practice that does not maintain a hierarchy of labor, but organizes and frees labor, and is carried out by a collective structure. Most importantly, it is an archive of heterogonous communities. These groups include migrants, workers, feminists, queers, trans activists, anti-war activists, actors of urban movements, members of minority groups, human rights defenders, etc.

[1] Tekel workers, who would lose their jobs with the closing of Tekel factories, departed from several cities to march to Ankara on December 15, 2009. They protested for 78 days.

[2] Protests that started against the government’s plans to construct Military Barracks at the Gezi Park in Istanbul during the summer of 2013 spread to other cities later on.

[3] Hrant Dink was shot to death in front of the former offices of Agos on January 19, 2007

Impact

The impact of the archive changes with each user’s relation to it. For example, many protestors who use the archive and were part of the Gezi or Tekel resistances, say that it helped them learn about what happened in different locations simultaneously during the resistance or that watching these recordings after many years created a variety of emotions for them.

The experiences of researchers or those who need these recordings for other reasons are different from the above. For rights defenders, the content is also a documentation of rights violations, and for activists and researchers working in the field of counter forensics, such archives are important sources that document violence. Lastly, for users living abroad, these contents are very informative.

Many efforts have been inspired by bak.ma. bak.ma collaborates with institutions, individuals and collectives not only for commemoration efforts but also for the protection of the archive content and expanding it to new and creative works. Some of these include Seyr-i Sokak, Kaos GL, Pembe Hayat Queer Fest., sendika.org, Karahaber, Social History Institute in Amsterdam and Tactical Media organization, n.b.k. Berlin, Berlin Art University’s student collective Interflugs, Bombay based Pad.ma archive organization, 858.ma Tahrir archive.

Challenges

The team states that they have not faced any major obstacles or threats because of the archive’s political content until today. Their major obstacle is finding the necessary labor force that can continue their activities. The creation and expansion of the archive are based on volunteer work. Because the content is compiled, uploaded to the system and then edited by a few volunteers in a limited amount of time, it is not possible to complete every task. Moreover, each year, the team relies on themselves or goes to institutions they consider ethical to create the budget necessary for their technical costs and this poses a difficulty most of the time.