As part of the Speculative Design Archive, the Dead Darlings collective organises an anonymous auction of a number of objects that have been put forward by archive creators themselves. Instead of money, stories - and the reasons why potential buyers would like to have the pieces - are traded. Each blow of the auctioneer's gavel confirms the variation in interpretations of the 'value' of archival pieces.
We are working towards an auction based on the model established by the Dead Darlings artists' collective. This auction will be dedicated, not be chance, to the darlings that have not survived the (self-)selection process, in accordance with the 'kill-your-darlings' principle. In this case, 'dead darlings' are objects from the archives of designers, collectives, schools, etc., that have been crucial to their development but nevertheless cannot be seen as part of their oeuvre. Choosing the form of an auction and gradually building up knowledge surrounding the artefacts makes it possible to demonstrate the diversity of archives, to illuminate questions for research and to open up new perspectives on how to present the material. Once the lots have been sold, they will remain part of the installation until the closing date. The decision to hold an auction is also based on the fact that many design archives seem to have no place within the formal infrastructure. They appear on the market, frequently become dispersed, and often end up being adopted by private collectors.
The general public is familiar with what goes on in public around an auction: advertisements, viewing days, a catalogue and the auctioneer's hammer as the ultimate arbiter. Behind the scenes, however, an auction also involves a long preparation process, during which the objects to be auctioned are found, selected, recorded and described, valued and finally presented. The form of an exhibition is perfectly suited to revealing the various steps in this process.
Prior to an auction, there are days on which the general public can bring in their ‘lots’, which are then valued and put on general display during viewing days. The final proceeds from our auctions will go to the parties who made items from their archives available, or will for example be earmarked, in consultation with those involved, for saving at-risk archives. Furthermore, the typology of the auction allows us to show the role played by knowledge – and therefore archiving – in the process of documentation, authentication, the writing of history and the determination of value. This process will be provided with specialist commentary for particular target groups (for example, educationalists or archivists) ‘in the space’, and students from universities or academies can contribute to the documentation and description process through internships or minor degree options.