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.
This review article charts the general direction of scholarship in James Baldwin
studies between the years 2015 and 2016, reflecting on important scholarly
events and publications of the period and identifying notable trends in
criticism. While these years witnessed a continuing interest in the relationship
of Baldwin’s work to other authors and art forms as well as his
transnational literary imagination, noted in previous scholarly reviews, three
newly emergent trends are notable: an increased attention to Baldwin in journals
primarily devoted to the study of literatures in English, a new wave of
multidisciplinary studies of Baldwin, and a burgeoning archival turn in Baldwin
material sense, after the so-called archivalturn has long since
turned, the meaning of the word archive has become overstretched, and
we have reached the point when it is conceivable ‘to construct an archive
of archive studies’.2 The role of digitisation and the Internet means that
archival material can be accessed from a computer almost anywhere, and
the Internet itself can become an archive, or rather innumerable archives,
including YouTube, ‘the world’s default media archive’ of 1.2 billion
videos.3 Thus, by 2011, ‘The Archive’ was already one of Sherry Turkle
scholars who fit the persona established
by the archivalturn.11 Bancroft et al. did the same, briefly outpacing
their academic counterparts in the 1870s and 1880s. Bancroft’s company
and the early academic profession engaged in a similar project, with each
enterprise working to demonstrate that it could address the economic
and cultural challenges of the increasingly onerous expectations of the
discipline, amplifying the virtues and diminishing the vices associated with
the persona of the archival historian.12
The very different infrastructures these intellectual
previously been framed within the category of institutional critique was now framed in terms of archive art or as part of an archivalturn in contemporary art. One way of putting it is that the notion of the archive begins to overshadow, or absorb, institutional critique as an interpretative frame. To state it in those terms is, however, somewhat misleading. As argued throughout this book, the archival notion is not just an empty label tagged on to an existing artwork or category of artworks; rather, the terminology, concepts and broad notions used to analyse and
this time it could be assumed that these would inevitably be read with ‘critical awareness’.
Although not connecting this to the notion of the archive, Kalb's next observation neatly sums up one of the characteristics of many of the works and practices frequently described as representing an archivalturn in art: ‘It is a measure of the changing perceptions of art between 1979 and 1999 that appropriation could come to be viewed by the second of these dates as a means of creating art that was both evocative and
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.
In 2001 a panel with the title ‘Following the ArchivalTurn: Photography, the Museum and the Archive’ convened at the College Art Association conference in Chicago. The following year, a special issue of the journal Visual Resources presented essays based on some of the papers in the panel, along with a seven-page introduction by artist, curator and researcher Cheryl Simon. In her introductory essay, Simon outlined what she considered to be the ‘archivalturn’, its theoretical grounding, its changes over time, and its current form within contemporary art and
poststructuralism, it was no longer possible to understand an archive merely as a site housing historical documents; it was now also a structure worth investigating in its own right. The so-called ‘archivalturn’ thus involved a shift from the archive-as-source towards the archive-as-subject .
Scholars as well as artists increasingly viewed the archive with both suspicion and fascination: as a system of knowledge it was routinely criticised for being oppressive, supporting existing power structures and cementing exclusionary
, as well as romantic material notions of archival research. The tension between the different parts of these pairings is often treated as productive and interesting when the notion of the archive moves from different humanities disciplines into an art context.
Archival science versus the archivalturn in the humanities
Scholars from within the field of archival science have pointedly noted the omission of references to writing from their own discipline in the flood of publications that theorise the archive as part of the