On 1st March, CAS Associate Artists met with Ronda Gowland, and Alex Misick from John Hansard Gallery to discuss “the archive”. The group wanted to discuss what comes up when exploring archival practices, and how archiving is relevant to their individual and collective practice. As a studio group CAS Associates are in the early stages of developing CAS Chapters, an ongoing archive which serves as a way of recording and opening their art dialogue to new audiences and participants.
“When CAS first approached us to discuss Chapters ongoing archive, I thought immediately of the John Hansard exhibition Potential Ongoing Archive 2002.” said Ronda “Not just because of the literal title but because the exhibiting artists reflected on the notion of archive in many different ways.” For example, Ella Gibbs who regards the personal as being part of an archive and who invited visitors to contribute to the collection of material related to the Chinese Year of The Horse, and Barbara Stevini whose work was titled “I am archive”.
“An archive is a repository for the future, a starting point not an end point.” (Anna Harding, ‘Potential Ongoing Archive’ pg 51)
Artists read “Potential Ongoing Archive” by Anna Harding at their last Research Group meeting. “Each of us pulled something particularly pertinent from the essay in relation to our practices. First and foremost we need to understand, how does archiving relate to our own practice?” said Dawn Evans, leader of CAS R&D.
During Wednesday’s round table discussion, the following themes arose:
- A need for ongoing reclassification
- Preservation vs Evolution
- Subjectivity and purpose involved in building, navigating, and reading the archive
- What contributes to the experience of an archive
The following people were present:
Ronda Gowland (RG), Education Officer, John Hansard
David Dixon (DD), Lead Artist at CAS
Alex Misick (AM), Program Co-ordinator, John Hansard
Maija Liepins (ML), CAS R&D Leader
Dawn Evans (DE), CAS R&D Leader
Kimvi Nguyen (KV)
Laurence Rushby (LR)
Yonat Nitzan Green (YNG)
Chester Frampton (CF)
Fragments of discussion
“Much of my work is ephemeral. How do I record my work for future prosperity?” KV
“Archiving for future audiences is an optimistic act.” KV
I wonder how you would consider an archive if you weren’t feeling optimistic?
“Archiving is an act of looking – at the present, gathering for the future.” ML
“I think there is a close relationship between archiving and evaluating.” LR
“Chapters is going to be a (body of) work, not just paperwork” LR
“The structure of an archive is informed by its content”. LR
“Derrida talks about the archive not just as the physical space but also our mental space where we store memories.” DE
“I hope Chapters the ongoing archive will make visible the relationships and connections (mental, emotional and physical) between artists, and between archived material, as the dialogue develops.” ML
“Walter van Rijn has managed to digitise and visually represent past John Hansard exhibitions for the Time after Time project.” RG. Time after Time is an archive of past exhibitions. To what extent is an exhibition an archive?
“What do we do with this? – is a fundamental issue of archiving. There needs to be a purpose that involves processing, evaluating and reviewing” DD
“I am interested in how we can involve the audience in processing and evaluating the archive.” YNG
At The 2015 Laboratory of Dissent, artists filmed hours and hours of material on a slightly obsolete camera. There exists a stack of tapes which represent the possibility of watching the footage, but the tapes, and the quantity of unprocessed material is impractical. The idea of the tapes activate the imagination, they are full of promise, and latent potential.
“I have a hunch that there is always an element or quantity of latent potential within an archive.” ML
“Who archives your archive?” CF, Is there a problem of judgemental bias when it comes to archiving your own work?
Each Chapter of the the Chapters ongoing archive, will relate to a specific topic. As Chapters is an archive, each Chapter represents the potential for an ongoing dialogue.
“A Chapter in our archive is not necessarily about a chronology but the cornerstone themes and areas of focus.” Topics not time. DD.
Like, “Chapters in a book represent significant developments in the plot.” RG
“Underneath this discussion there is an implicit critique of the archive. It goes right to the heart of the archiving impulse and why an artist might want to engage in archiving. Stripped of the dust and stripped of of the romance, there is a potential for your Chapters project(s) to be interpreted or understood as something quite different to an archive.” AM. It will be interesting to see if the notion of Chapters being an archive is challenged. When and why.
According to Derrida in Archive Fever “There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory.” (quoted by Anna Harding, ‘Potential Ongoing Archive’ pg 52)
“What does an archive look like?” (when you imagine it) RG, What different representations of “archive” do we know?
“I was stripped of belongings and given a pencil. She sat me in front of a computer and I thought ‘but I accessed this at home!’” RG
LR said she had a similar experience when visiting an archive, and that there is a sensory aspect to the archive that CAS need to consider because “I think that’s the shock we had when we were sitting at a computer with a pencil.” To LR the archive should have a smell.
“We could have chosen to make a digital archive, but in devising the Chapters project we made a conscious choice to prioritise the creation of a physical experience. Not to exclude digital, but to highlight the value of tangible objects within a social landscape that includes digital.” ML
“When you know the stories, the stories are more important than the object” LR
“The whole purpose of an archive is to be used as a source of information by others.” DD
“An archive can be regarded as a catalytic entity.
There is an experiential level of engagement.
There is a catalytic level of engagement.” DD
When you access an archive there is a potential for ideas to germinate and action to be mobilized.
“Archives are always going to be subjective because of how they are put together.” RG
“Time increases the level of (potential) interference and deterioration (of archive materials)” DD
“Imagination, is important too” ML. Where information is missing, the material fires the imagination.
“The question about navigation of the archive is quite interesting.” AM. UAL devised three fictional brothers to guide visitors through the digital John Latham archive. Each brother approaches the information in different ways.
The archive is like those non-linear books where you had to make choices. “You can reread it over and over again and never get the same story.” LR
Chapter 1, Dissent explores “What is Dissent”
Evaluation will include, the questions: What dissent is present? “What dissent or break from convention is present? Dissent should offer alternatives whilst it is critiquing a thing.” DD
“You put yourself in a state of mind when you visit an archive.” LR
You may suddenly find yourself barred from access due to the eligibility conventions such as education or dress code in the case of The British Museum archive.
“Archives are like a mausoleum if you are looking backwards.” RG
Like the cemetery where the CAS Chapel studio is situated
“The archive is a celebration of lives lived.” CF