How to navigate the Menaka-Archive:
“Performance in a strict ontological sense is nonreproductive.” (Peggy Phelan, Unmarked, The Politics of Performance, London 1993, S. 148)
Recently (October 2019), three significant collections have been identified and recorded for the Menaka Archive: the estate of the “Internationale Konzertdirektion Ernst Krauss” in the Allard Pierson Theater Collection of the University of Amsterdam; the estate of Sakhawat Hussein Khan in the family archive of the Khan family in Calcutta; and a large part of the German press review on the Menaka performances of 1936, which is documented in the local theaters, city and state archives of the respective venues. Of particular value are in addition individual finds of sound recordings and moving images of the ballet and its accompanying ensemble, such as the audio recording of a performance at the Hamburg Volksoper on June 26, 1936 or the only known film footage of the Menaka Ballet in the German feature film production “The Tiger of Eschnapur” (1937, directed by Richard Eichberg).
Up until now, mainly such artefacts have been registered in the Menaka Archive’s database, that have been produced in the immediate context of the performances. These finds are to be regarded as objects of a “performance archive”. The photographs, newspaper reports, program books, sound and film recordings recorded in the Menaka Archive are only a substitute for a gap left over by the performances themselves.
„Whose memories, traditions and claims to history disappear if performance practices lack the staying power to transmit vital knowledge?“ (Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas; Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003, P.5.)
Users have access to a number of different interfaces through which the finds can be searched and displayed. However, these interfaces are not only respective search-categories, but they also convey different substantive, research-relevant perspectives on the documents. Depending on how documents are assigned to the topographic context of the tour or to the biographical background of the artists, they each gain new significance. In this regard, the archive-interface can only make offers among many possible navigations. The finds unfold their complex references only on individual search paths through the archive.
Locations: The Menaka tour unfolded as a media event in time and space. An interactive map illustrates the topography of the tour, reconstructs the individual stations and highlights the gaps in the documentation. Selected locations point to particularly striking finds. For users who want to get a quick overview of the archive inventory, the map view offers an intuitive access to the material.
Press Reviews: From January 1936 onward, announcements, preliminary reports and reviews of the performances of the Menaka Ballet appeared in the local and national newspapers along the venues of the tour in Europe. The overall view of these texts forms a separate archive of the aesthetic and political discourse in which Menaka’s dance performances were embedded. In the category “Press Reviews”, the entire findings of the press review are accessible, transcribed and searchable by keywords and in full text.
Individuals: Behind the dancers and musicians in Menaka’s company are biographies that have remained largely unknown. The finds from the European tour give these artists from India a face and outline their contribution to the dance modernity between India and Europe. A number of documents in the Menaka archive come from the private estates of the artists. Wherever these finds can not be assigned to individual performances, they are listed according to their authors.
Performances: From 1936-38, the Menaka Ballet gave about 750 performances in Europe. Only some of them are well documented. The most of the performances leave gaps in the reconstruction of the complete tour-event. In turn, only the whole spectrum of the finds outlines the contours of individual dance performances. Along this dual character of the historical documents, most of the finds are organised in the Menaka Archive. Wherever documents can be unequivocally assigned to a single location and date of performance -they make the backbone of the Menaka archive-order.
Journal: Archive practices require caring, active participation in the artwork and blur the boundaries between art, science and archives. In order to do justice to the complex referential properties of the Menaka archive documents, the online representation of the Menaka archive offers an interface that links the recorded documents with current research into the cultural-historical context of the performances. These contributions include essays on current discourse topics, field research and event reports, object biographies, and artistic and documentary discussions on the items in the Menaka Archive.