bak.ma - an online open video archive - was created to host and share visual records taken during the Gezi Park protests by the Videoccupy video collective, founded during the resistance by people with different experiences and backgrounds. Even though the Videoccupy was disbanded after the resistance ended, the bak.ma and Gezi archive were launched on an online platform in 2014. Since 2015, bak.ma activists have continued to expand the platform by gathering various other visual archives of collectives, unions as well as individuals. Consequently, it has turned into an archive collective that has been active for the last 6 years.e
Individual experience and expertise of the archive collective's members directly influenced 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 protests, the need to revisit the history of social movements has become more pronounced. The team members explain why the bak.ma archive handles a variety of social problems: “Even though social movements that oppose the system may seem irregular, they relate to each other in terms of their demands for rights. For example, a labor movement should be understood in its relations to urban movements and analyzed in terms of their peak moments in history. To understand Gezi, it is important to make connections between current social movements and 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. This will bring different marginalized 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 relational memory.”
bak.ma is a collective that aims to become the digital media archive of freedom struggles in Turkey and abroad. bak.ma's online archive features video recordings taken during social movements, protests, press conferences such as the Tekel resistance, Gezi Park protests, the Hewsel Resistance, May 1 celebration, January 19th gatherings, March 8th Walks, Pride Walks, the Boğaziçi Resistance and so on. The platform also has videos of political movements from Melbourne to Hamburg, and from Belgrade to Athens. 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 the content according to date, location, keyword and video titles. bak.ma uses an open-source archive software called 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. Envisioning bak.ma as an anonymous space, the team utilizes designs and techniques that let every user download all the content of the archive in low resolution.
The creators of bak.ma believe that archives should be considered as mediators that have a variety of functions, helping us communicate with each other and making connections with social movements. In doing so, archives can function as platforms that generate new ideas and invoke emotions not only about the past, but also the present and the future. bak.ma is a space for new forms of relationalities, inspirations and emotions that emerge out of encounters with the images on the platform. Thus, It is not just a simple repository hat stores recordings. The team says that bak.ma “can be defined as ‘the archive of life that has been unknowingly captured’ with reference to Dziga Vertov and Ulus Baker or ‘an archive of events’ with reference to Maurizzio Lazzarato. The first refers to a simple archive of the daily life, whereas the second refers to 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.
 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.
 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.
 Hrant Dink was shot to death in front of the former offices of Agos on January 19, 2007
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.
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 to sustain 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 that the team wants to achieve. 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.