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.
In 2004 librarian and scholar Marlene Manoff attempted to survey the then current discussions about archives in an article titled ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’.
In the opening passage of her essay, the author noted:
In the past decade historians, literary critics, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, political scientists, and others have wrestled with the meaning of the word
Archives, it seems, are everywhere, both in popular culture and academic discourse.
What isn't an archive these days? Where did it all begin, when will it end? In these memory-obsessed times – haunted by the demands of history, overwhelmed by the dizzying possibilities of new technologies – the archive presents itself as the ultimate horizon of experience. Ethically charged
Jean-Luc Godard tends to break up any pattern or configuration he gives
shape to in his films or whose shape he happens to encounter or discover as it is being formed or perceived through the lens of the camera
or at the editing table. The images and sounds in Histoire(s) du cinéma
(1988–98) are mostly fragments from other unities cut out from an original context and, even if recognisable, something new. Because these
elements are so particular, it makes it difficult to say what precisely they
represent or what they might signify beyond themselves. Their
Photographic archives and archival
We often hear people qualifying photographs as ‘vernacular’, ‘subversive’, ‘official’,
‘propagandistic’ or ‘political’. The use of such adjectives to classify photographs is
based on the institutionalisation of one particular mode of photography. Within this
framework, photography is approached as a productive practice led by individuals
who act as authors. The products these authors generate are conceived as signed
and sealed, and can be classified independently of the event in which they
A keyword search on the term archive and archival on the online sites of two prominent art magazines ( Artforum and Art Journal ) reveals relatively few references to these terms in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, growing slightly in the 1990s, only to rise sharply from around 2005 onwards with hundreds of hits each year. The increased frequency of references to the archive in these publications is an indication of a wider use of archival terminology in the art field in the early years of the twenty-first century – not only in art magazines
The archive has assumed a new significance in the history of sex, and this book visits a series of such archives, including the Kinsey Institute’s erotic art; gay masturbatory journals in the New York Public Library; the private archive of an amateur pornographer; and one man’s lifetime photographic dossier on Baltimore hustlers. The subject topics covered are wide-ranging: the art history of homoeroticism; casual sex before hooking-up; transgender; New York queer sex; masturbation; pornography; sex in the city. The duality indicated by the book’s title reflects its themes. It is an experiment in writing an American sexual history that refuses the confines of identity sexuality studies, spanning the spectrum of queer, trans, and the allegedly ‘normal’. What unites this project is a fascination with sex at the margins, refusing the classificatory frameworks of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and demonstrating gender and sexual indecision and flexibility. And the book is also an exploration of the role of the archive in such histories. The sex discussed is located both in the margins of the archives, what has been termed the counterarchive, but also, importantly, in the pockets of recorded desire located in the most traditional and respectable repositories. The sexual histories in this book are those where pornography and sexual research are indistinguishable; where personal obsession becomes tomorrow’s archive. The market is potentially extensive: those interested in American studies, sexuality studies, contemporary history, the history of sex, psychology, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, queer studies, trans studies, pornography studies, visual studies, museum studies, and media studies.
Sex in the archives: David Louis
Bowie’s New York diaries, 1978–93
There are some very queer diaries in the not always queer archives of the
Manuscripts and Archives Division in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Library of the New York Public Library. They are embargoed until 2068,
but I was granted special permission to consult them. I have trouble recalling what initially piqued my interest but it must have been the catalogue
entry: ‘David Louis Bowie Diaries 1978–1993 . . . Illustrated diaries of
the daily activities and sexual encounters of a Queens
the International Centre.
Ed, British citizen living in The Hague, interview, 2021
The Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC) is centrally located in The Hague's Archipelbuurt neighbourhood, with its wide avenues and beautiful late nineteenth-century buildings. Here, down a quiet side street and through a door flanked by roses, visitors are led into the bright and welcoming front room of the archive. This archetypically Dutch facade harbours a trove of
screenable condition. As an archivist at the British Film Institute,
I’ll try to explain what survives and why, and some of the really
awkward technical, preservation and access problems.
I must start with the nature of the collections relating
to this period of film history, how they came to be where they are, and
what was going on at that time in the international archiving world. The
1950s is a particularly