Mala Kumar

Mala Kumar is a designer interested in humans, their stories, and the wayward desires of systems. She has a weakness for late-night bodega snacks and sad dance music.


Unstable Databases & Volatile Taxonomies

An interactive data gathering experience that draws from a series of found photographs to create a new reading of personal histories.

Unstable Databases and Volatile Taxonomies is an archival installation that looks at a found collection of unlabeled 35mm Kodachrome film slides taken by my grandfather in the 60s, and is centered around a finding aid that is calibrated to material of a more personal and intimate nature to draw out unexpected connections and ideas while providing multiple lenses through which to make sense of memory, human experience, and loss—while simultaneously questioning these systems of classification.

The installation explores the tension in the natural impulse to impose linear narratives over unstable and complex structures while concurrently providing a method for piecing together stories that live outside the scope of traditional archival institutions in order to map the histories that are buried in the footnotes.

Unstable Databases and Volatile Taxonomies is a multi-media creative inquiry into new archival practices that seeks to broaden our idea of what we understand as an “archive.” My intent for this project is ultimately to explore the power and possibility of archives, and for audiences to view archival practices as a framework for taking ownership of their histories, through the creation of repositories that can serve as guides for future generations and preserve our stories. The collection and preservation of personal artifacts – to become one’s own archivist – is a powerful method of reclaiming, preserving, and sharing our own narratives and the stories that live outside the scope of traditional archival institutions.