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Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art

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.

Archive fever and the Gilead novels of Marilynne Robinson
Daniel Robert King

Previous scholarship on Marilynne Robinson's fiction has drawn attention to the significance of homes and home-spaces for her characters, and to the importance of truth and truth-telling in her work. 1 Yet, so far, these two important strands of criticism have not come together. Through its close examination of the houses and home-spaces that Robinson depicts in her novels, this essay seeks to bridge that gap. To do so, I deploy three Derridean terms, ‘archive fever’, ‘logocentrism’, and

in Marilynne Robinson
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Sara Callahan

addressee of Derrida's ‘Archive Fever’: Yerushalmi was supposed to deliver a lecture at the same conference where Derrida gave his talk, but he fell ill and someone else delivered his talk. In the subsequently published text Yerushalmi identified four ‘basic observations’ that are recognisable in much writing about archives at the turn of the twenty-first century, and the preferably naïve nature of the archive is Yerushalmi's first point. 26 The other three archival observations he offers are, in brief: dust – ideally the

in Art + Archive
Sara Callahan

material. Enwezor contrasted his exhibition's focus with the standard view of the archive as a ‘dim, musty place’, and argued instead that it is in its other sense, as an ‘active, regulatory discursive system’, that the archive has engaged the attention of so many contemporary artists. 60 Archive Fever , Enwezor explained, ‘explores the ways in which artists have appropriated, interpreted, reconfigured, and interrogated archival structures and archival materials’. 61

in Art + Archive
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Writing American sexual histories

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.

Constance Duncombe

. 38 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’, in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader , ed. P. Williams and L. Chrisman (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993), p. 75; Maggio, ‘“Can the subaltern be heard?”’, p. 425; Sandhya Shetty and Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, ‘Post-colonialism's archive fever’, Diacritics 30 (2000), p. 25. 39 Said, Orientalism

in Representation, recognition and respect in world politics
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Barry Reay

institution or private holding but generated through evidentiary remains from recent US history (Chapter 8); and Amos Badertscher’s intensely intimate, lifetime photographic dossier on Baltimore’s sexual cultures, ranging from the 1960s to the 2000s (Chapter 9). The sexual histories in this book are those where pornography and sexual research are indistinguishable; where art and pornography intersect; and where today’s personal obsession becomes tomorrow’s archive. Notes 1 A. Burton, ‘Introduction: archive fever, archive stories’, in A. Burton (ed.), Archive Stories: Facts

in Sex in the archives
Mnemotechnics and the ghost of ‘the folk’
Sas Mays

that such an activity is, in Archive Fever, a matter of the archive. More precisely, it is a matter of consignation – the taxonomic gathering of signs inscribed on a substrate – and a matter of exegesis – the interpretation of the signs by an archon, a figure of judgement and normative law.3 The injunction of the spectre is thus an issue of the archive, because it asks us to reconsider a tradition that must necessarily be remembered by forms of inscription, in texts and documents collected, sorted, and maintained (and dispersed, disordered, and destroyed) in archival

in The machine and the ghost
Modernity and malevolence in Tribal India
Andrew Willford

belied ‘the totality itch’ ( 1991 , 1998 , 2001 ) of ‘true believers.’ Indeed, in revisiting his earlier work, he began to place more emphasis on the resonance of true belief as compared to his earlier and largely instrumentalist analysis of the political. In this sense, his work had an unlikely echo in Derrida’s Archive Fever ( 1995 ), an influential text that revisited Freud, and explicitly linked an

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
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A must-have accessory of the moment?
Sara Callahan

’. 5 Four years later, star curator Okwui Enwezor gathered a number of predominantly photographic artworks into a thematic exhibition around the notion of archive fever , a phrase borrowed from a text by philosopher Jacques Derrida. 6 Foster and Enwezor were the best-known champions of the archive as a contemporary tendency in the art field, but they were far from alone. Prior to, and certainly following, their archival deliberations many others weighed in, and in the first two decades of the

in Art + Archive