C2O and Frontyard: hacking the archives to design community spaces in Surabaya and Sydney

Published date24 November 2019
Date24 November 2019
AuthorLuke Bacon,Kathleen Azali,Alexandra Lara Crosby,Benjamin Forster
C2O and Frontyard: hacking the
archives to design community
spaces in Surabaya and Sydney
Luke Bacon
Department of Design, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Kathleen Azali
C2O Library, Surabaya, Indonesia
Alexandra Lara Crosby
Department of Design, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and
Benjamin Forster
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Purpose The purpose of this study is to identify shared themes and concerns of two local and critical
archivesby comparing their design and day-to-day practice.
Design/methodology/approach Theactionresearchhasdrawnonthe experience of collaboration
between a Sydney-based community space (Frontyard) and the Surabaya-based co-working community
(C2O) over one year. Each space houses a small physical library of books, which is the focus of this
Findings Hacking has emerged as a key value of both archives. A hacking approach has shaped the
design of each space andthe organisation each archive. Hacking frames the analysisof each collection in this
Practical implications Pragmatic and political understandingof such archives have implications for
better quality and more authentic exchange between the communities that make use of these libraries in
Indonesiaand Australia.
Originality/value While some work on local criticalarchives has been done in Indonesia and Australia,
no research to date has made speciccomparisons with the aim of sharing knowledge.Because these archives
are often temporary and ephemeral, documenting the work that goes into them, and their practitioners
perspectives, is urgent, making possible shared knowledge that can inform the ways communities make
decisionsabout their own heritage.
Keywords Australia, Hacking, Repair, Indonesia, Libraries, Design, Critical archiving,
Practice-based research, Small libraries
Paper type Research paper
© Luke Bacon, Kathleen Azali, Alexandra Lara Crosby and Benjamin Forster. Published by Emerald
Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for
both commercial & non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication
and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/
Received15 February 2019
Revised2 April 2019
Accepted14 April 2019
GlobalKnowledge, Memory and
Vol.68 No. 8/9, 2019
pp. 712-727
EmeraldPublishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/GKMC-02-2019-0018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
This paper explores two local critical archives that are the result of community initiatives
challenging the dominant modes of practice in the mainstream and formal archive sector.
These archives live at two sister spaces: Frontyard (www.frontyardprojects.org/), a Not-
Only-Artist Run Initiative and exible spacefor practical skills-sharing on Cadigal-Wangal
land in Sydneys Inner Westsuburb of Marrickville (Australia); and C2O (https://c2o-library.
net/), a library and a community space that is also used for co-working and skills-sharingin
Surabayas city centreof Tegalsari (Indonesia).
These archives exist within complex ecologies distinct from ofcial archives and
government-run libraries. Public libraries in Australia, for example, are mostly owned and
run by local government, and often have a neutral, apolitical aesthetic, designed in a top-
downway (Manzini, 2014), with the aim to be inoffensive and risk-averse. Likewise in
Indonesia, public libraries are designedto be formal spaces, where impolite clothes such as
sandals and shorts are forbidden, thus excluding some of the most economically
marginalised of Indonesian society. In both these contexts, citizen initiatives, community
work and social innovation are vital to archive ecologies, which often develop without the
presence of the state, often even in oppositionto the perspectives of the state or other formal
institutions(Murtiand Fajar, 2014, p. 7).
Historically, formal archives in Indonesia were linked to national identity, but the Cold
War in Asia brought more repressive politicisation of information (Anderson,2013), heavy-
handed censorship and controlof public institutions. In Indonesia this situationfuelled both
the widespread distrust of government-runlibraries and archives, and at the same time, the
growth of (quasi-)public collections initiated by individuals and funded privately or
collectively (throughfamilies, friends, membership systems or a mix of grants)(Azali, 2017,
p. 194). C2O exists withinthis ecology of alternative, non-government librariesin Indonesia.
In Australia, Frontyard exists within an ecology of activist organisations, artist-run
spaces and public institutionsproviding an antidote(as Isabelle Stengers puts it) to ofcial
narratives of Australian arts. The organisation is imbued with DIY (do-it-yourself)
philosophy similar to independentspaces in Indonesia (Luvaas, 2013). However, the content
of the library is inherited from a government collection, creating a tension between the
history and the futureof this archive, which will be explored further in the paper.
The paper is structured in three parts: rstly, in the introductory section, we outline our
methodology and provide background to the two archives under discussion; secondly, we
introduce hacking as a key approach and value of both these archives, anda lens to frame
their design, drawing out its necessity as a way to understand critical local archives as
political projects; and thirdly,we point to concerns common to these two archives and ways
to share knowledge and practices. Because literature on critical archiving is vast, it is not
possible to cover it in depth in this paper[1], and we do not haveroom to contextualise C2O
and Frontyard within a global survey. We acknowledgehowever that they are two libraries
amongst the myriad of sister spaces.Often these are spaces of experimentation, where
new models of library service and public engagement can be test-piloted, or where core
values can be reassessed and reinvigorated(Mattern, 2012). In the interest of manageable
scope, we have focused on the relationship between literature on hacking and the national
contexts that shape C2O and Frontyard.
We position this project as practice-based research, where the practice takestwo forms: the
design of the two archives and a knowledge exchange project between Frontyard and C2O,
the spaces that house the archives. The authors of this paper include organisers, designers
C2O and

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