Beyoncé enjoys a specific kind of power few Black women ever attain, and it’s part of why Black women are among her most devoted fans. Here is a Black woman creating clear boundaries about how much of herself will be accessible to us. “You get this much and nothing more,” she seems to be saying. Her art exists for your consumption, but her body itself does not.“Black Madonna: Deciphering the Gospel of Beyoncé” by Cate Young for Bitch Magazine no. 77 (Winter 2018), p. 5.
Anytime she wants to remind herself of all that work—or almost anything else that’s ever happened in her life—all she has to do is walk down the hall. There, across from the narrow conference room in which you are interviewing her, is another long, narrow room that contains the official Beyoncé archive, a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her, starting with the very first frames taken of Destiny’s Child, the ’90s girl group she once fronted; every interview she’s ever done; every video of every show she’s ever performed; every diary entry she’s ever recorded while looking into the unblinking eye of her laptop.
Beyoncé’s inner sanctum also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a “visual director” Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005. In this footage, Beyoncé wears her hair up, down, with bangs, and without. In full makeup and makeup-free, she can be found shaking her famous ass onstage, lounging in her dressing room, singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” to Jay-Z over an intimate dinner, and rolling over sleepy-eyed in bed. This digital database, modeled loosely on NBC’s library, is a work in progress—the labeling, date-stamping, and cross-referencing has been under way for two years, and it’ll be several months before that process is complete. But already, blinking lights signal that the product that is Beyoncé is safe and sound and ready to be summoned— and monetized—at the push of a button.
And this room—she calls it her “crazy archive”—is a key part of that, she will explain, so, “you know, I can always say, ’I want that interview I did for GQ,’ and we can find it.” And indeed, she will be able to find it, because the room in which you are sitting is rigged with a camera and microphone that is capturing not just her every utterance but yours as well. These are the ground rules: Before you get to see Beyoncé, you must first agree to live forever in her archive, too.“Miss Millennium: Beyoncé” by Amy Wallace for GQ Magazine (January 10, 2013)
Perhaps the most important way that the Crazy Archive is different from yours and mine is that Beyoncé owns it. It’s not a surprise that that candid photos and dishy stories about celebrities have a monetary value. That’s not new. What is new is that our stories and images are also valuable. When we create our digital archives, knowingly or not, we’re creating intellectual property that has an exchange value. You post photos to Facebook, I want to look at them, and that desire creates a space that can be sold to someone trying to sell something to me. Your archive is valuable, but you’re not the one getting paid when it gets sold.“Beyoncé and the Crazy Archive” by Kevin Buist on Medium (February 13, 2013)