The institute for Inverted histories (also known as iIh) works at the intersections of art, design, politics, media, and cultural studies to produce objects and experiences that acknowledge and revel in mysteries among the material traces of history. Through humor, subversion, parafiction, gender-bending, and media archeology, iIh collects and reconfigures pieces of the historical media landscape. Projects and publications highlight contradictory traces left by deceptively familiar stories, making them unfamiliar through subversion, juxtaposition, or voracious collecting in the face of an artificially normalized curation of the past. The absurdity of the authority of a single voice or narrative is amplified, along with the necessity of fiction, skepticism and play in the landscape of history. The institute for Inverted histories was established in 2015 and is a collaboration between Rebecca Sittler and Anastasiia Raina.
Our newest publication: Seafaring Women, is available in a limited edition. You can purchase a copy of Seafaring Women here through Paypal.
Seafaring Women is a print object referencing a double broadsheet newspaper that includes stories transcribed from late 19th and early 20th century news archives describing the surprisingly large numbers of women found aboard battleships, submarines and passenger ships as sailor and stowaways. These were especially popular in British and American newspapers of the 1920s, alongside images and advertisements featuring gender-norm challenging “flappers”. Design elements include gender-remixed lithographs of pirates, courtesans, and sailors, remixed signal flags, and a collage of images of ships at sea known to contain these female sailors and stowaways. Additional publications can be seen at www.invertedhistories.com
The Museum of Seafaring Women (Stowaways)
Since 2013, my collaborator Anastasiia Raina and I have been collecting stories of female stowaways through online news archives, traces on microfilm, and contact with amateur historians. These stories and found images form a surprisingly large amount of evidence of female stowaways aboard battleships, submarines and ocean liners. Especially popular in British and American newspapers of the 1920s, stories of these stowaways often ran alongside advertisements featuring gender-norm challenging flappers, or were relegated to tabloid sections of the newspaper. Alternative histories are often plagued by rumor, innuendo, inconsistencies, and doubt. We responded by creating an “archive” that embraced these elements using pieces cobbled together through Internet searches, online image auctions, personal interviews, court transcripts, and narratives within seafaring communities.
Embracing gender fluidity, fantasies of transportation, and cultural subversion, the Museum of Seafaring Women (Stowaways) is an ideal fit for a public place where viewers are also moving between origins and destinations. The larger black and white photographs were all made on ships in the Los Angeles Harbor including the R.M.S. Queen Mary and the U.S.S. Iowa, and a large number of the transcribed stories involve Los Angeles, as many ships sailed through the port of L.A., or attracted female stowaways destined for Hollywood. Isolated sections of displays emphasize the strangeness and mutability of the constructed “museum” space, and its incomplete or productively ambiguous representation of history. The text beneath the image operates like a prominent footnote or index, but is ultimately unable to solidify a single, stable narrative. These multiple, varied, and incomplete narratives emphasize the subjectivity of human decisions governing historical narratives and emphasize the highly inefficient, sprawling and contradictory nature of historical archives and photographic narratives.
In progress, the experimental book, “Jackie Tar: Girl Stowaway,” focuses on missing evidence surrounding contradictory stories of a young woman who stowed away on the Battleship Arizona for five weeks in 1924, conflating rumors, archival traces, and substitutions for missing evidence surrounding “Jackie’s” motivations and identity, culled through online sources.