, and has been frequently referenced in subsequent texts on archive art. John Tagg, another photography theorist, suggested in 2012 that he himself, Sekula and other writers with an interest in the archive as a political apparatus were part of a different ‘archival mode’ than those who took on the topic in the 1990s and 2000s. 2 The terminology was similar, but, as noted, Tagg claimed that by the later date the archive had become little more than a ‘must-have accessory of the moment’. 3
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.
historical lineage with a new grounding in a network of evaluative references within art institutions. This meshing between the (poststructuralist) notion of the archive and the understanding of how art is defined as art is an indication that although influenced by the broader archival turn in the humanities, the archive means and does something quite different in the field of art than it does when it circulates in, say, literature or philosophy. This also means that the broad focus of this book – the archive art phenomenon – is a useful raster through which to
of presentism within and outside the art field. This is followed by a consideration of the archive art phenomenon as indicative of a compensatory interest in history: i.e. that it is precisely the loss of historical grounding that makes the intense focus on history, constructed and material, of particular interest to artists at the end of the twentieth century. I then discuss the notion of ‘contemporary’ in contemporary art, and the related terminology of ‘turns’ in twenty-first-century art writing. I argue that this very vocabulary – ‘contemporary’ art and
practice known as institutional critique is often presented as a precursor to archive art; several of the artists identified as contemporary practitioners of institutional critique are also considered exemplary of archive art. 3 It might seem that archive art is a new label for what has been around for several decades, a kind of ‘institutional critique 2.0’. 4 Although it is clear that the two share a great deal, rather than considering archive art as derivative of
structural (immaterial) archive. Continuing the argument that began in Chapter 3 , I argue that the long 1960s operates both as a material and as a structural-immaterial archive in artworks in the 1990s and early 2000s, and this double function helps explain the usefulness and persistence of the concept of the archive in art writing and practice at this time. Digital anxieties The phenomenon of archive art emerged roughly at the same time that the shift from analogue to digital media was experienced by a wide segment of the
The emergence, consolidation and cementation of the archive art phenomenon accompanied another development in the artworld: the increasing power and presence of the curator, and the theorisation of curating as a concept. Similar to the use of terms and concepts relating to the archive, there has been a substantial inflation in the use of the terminology of curating, as well as an expansion of the term's meaning. What once indicated a clearly delineated function – caring for art objects and artefacts – is now frequently used to refer to any
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
the connections between them increasingly difficult to untangle. This chapter considers this entanglement as it relates to the archive art phenomenon. I argue that the association between art and research not only profoundly affects what both research and art come to mean in the early decades of the twenty-first century, but also that this association is informed by, and makes sense of, the theorisation of the archive in contemporary art and in other disciplines at that time. The artist as… The general ‘the artist as
terms such as ‘archive theory’, ‘archival theory’ and ‘theories of the archive’ to refer to a range of different writing about archives. 3 The stated assumption of these texts is that there has been an intensifying interest in the archive in the humanities, and that this interest is grounded in, and develops, the writing on archives by different philosophers, historians and cultural theorists. By anchoring the archive art phenomenon in this broader cultural interest in archives, the current chapter