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Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art
Author: Sara Callahan

Art + archive: Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art examines the meaning and function of the notion of the archive in art writing and artistic practices c. 1995–2015. The book takes on one of the most persistent buzzwords in the international artworld, adding nuance and context to a much-discussed but under-analysed topic.

The study’s first part outlines key texts about archive art, the interdisciplinary theories these build on, and the specific meaning the archive comes to have when it is brought into the artworld. The second part examines the archive art phenomenon in relation to materiality, research, critique, curating and temporality. Instead of approaching the archive as an already defined conceptual tool for analysing art, the book rethinks the so-called archival turn, showing how the archive is used to point to, theorise and make sense of a number of different conditions and concerns deemed to be urgent and important at the turn of the twenty-first century. These include the far-reaching implications of technological changes; the prevalence of different forms of critique of normative structures; changes to the view of the art object; and the increasing academicisation of artistic practices. This book shows that the archive is adaptable and elastic, but that it is also loaded with a great deal of theoretical baggage. It clarifies why, how and with what consequences the archive is referenced and mobilised by contemporary artists and art writers.

Sara Callahan

prominent writers in the field of photography theory, art history, critique and media theory such as Geoffrey Batchen, Benjamin Buchloh, Sheryl Conkelton, Geert Lovink, Stefan Iglhaut and Susan Buck-Morss. In Schaffner's essay, storage was the main focus, and the archive was directly tied to the physical space of the museum. 8 She argued that ‘[a]nxiety and dust provoke the archiving impulse. In the museum – the mausoleum most artists still aim to enter through their work – the recesses of the storeroom simultaneously

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

. 2 The book included a translation of Hal Foster's ‘An Archival Impulse’, in which Foster used the phrase ‘artist-as-archivist’ several times. 3 Foster had also used this pattern in the title of an earlier well-known essay, ‘The Artist as Ethnographer?’, published for the first time in 1995. 4 In this text Foster argued that elements from anthropology and ethnography were used in ways that represented a ‘paradigm’ or ‘turn’ in the current

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

. 3 Bal, Travelling Concepts in the Humanities ; Mannes-Abbott, ‘This is Tomorrow’, p. 118. Mannes-Abbot writes that ‘the archival impulse often seems to have spread like a virus of referential ricochets’. 4 Breakell, ‘Perspectives’; Eliassen, ‘The Archives of Michel Foucault’, p. 29. See the epigraphs in the Introduction, where I quote these more extensively

in Art + Archive
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Histories, documents, archives
Declan Long

and questioning the archive itself’.16 127 128 Ghost-haunted land Graham is right to recognise this ambition as crucial to the art of Northern Ireland during this decade  –​ a substantial body of work testing the conditions of history-​making just as it also seeks to query conventions and expectations of art-​making in a context of aftermath and regeneration We should be careful, nonetheless, of connecting these archival proclivities too particularly to the specifics of the Northern Ireland situation. An ‘archival impulse’, as it has been termed by Hal Foster, is

in Ghost-haunted land
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A must-have accessory of the moment?
Sara Callahan

consistent: it is not quite an –ism ( archivism ?, archivalism ?), but a loose grouping of artworks and artistic practices are variously referred to as archive art , archival art , art of the archive or some variation thereof. One of the most frequently referenced texts proclaiming an archival trend among artists was critic and scholar Hal Foster's 2004 essay ‘An Archival Impulse’, which characterised this kind of artistic practice as ‘an idiosyncratic probing into particular figures, objects, and events in modern art, philosophy, and history

in Art + Archive
Sara Callahan

artworks. These kinds of works are now part of a canon of conceptual artworks and their supposed anti-form is incorporated into the aesthetic repertoire of mainstream art production, as seen in many of the works and practices included in the archive art category of contemporary art. The interest in the 1960s and 1970s has been noted by many critics and art historians. In ‘An Archival Impulse’ Hal Foster mentioned that several archival artists have a special interest in Robert Smithson's work, and Foster characterised this as a particularly archival

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

these earlier critiques of the institution of art, in part because they were effectively co-opted and taken up as mainstream. 21 Hal Foster, in a text written almost a decade before ‘An Archival Impulse’, fervently defended the neo-avant-garde against Bürger's dismissal. 22 Foster claimed that instead of being a failed, ineffective mimicking of the historical avant-garde, the artistic practices of the neo-avant-garde could in fact be seen to fulfil and complete the

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

precisely the editor's role as the first and most critical reader that he emphasised; the curator was compared to an active reader who affects the final form of the text. 68 Within archive theory and texts on archive art, the archive is often described as a connector between different elements, enabling or enforcing a particular kind of cross-reading – for example when Hal Foster referred to the archival impulse as ‘a will to connect’. 69

in Art + Archive
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Reckless people
Dominic Johnson

a future through the discrete terms given by a title and by documentation. If known at all to those who do not know Farquhar personally, it is by her legend. This is the case for much of Farquhar’s work, which continues to be fleeting, incidental, resistant to archival impulses and incorrigible in its durations and settings. A further performance of extremity of the 1970s, John Duncan’s Scare (1976) stages the inflammatory nature of reckless performance as both explosive and inflammatory. A written statement by the artist (exhibited as part of the work) reads

in Unlimited action