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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

examples of archive or archival art, but also important aspects of post-war art in general. In this chapter I argue that the notion of the archive as it is theorised in a number of academic disciplines became attached to – and reinforced – the institutional understanding of art that developed around the mid-1960s, and, furthermore, that this connection between the archive as a notion and the institutional theory of art is an important reason why the archive became such a ubiquitous reference among artists and art writers at the turn of the twenty-first century

in Art + Archive
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A must-have accessory of the moment?
Sara Callahan

a productive short cut to theorise a new understanding of art in the post-war era, in large part because it makes visible the function of institutions, documents and discursive systems. The archive as a notion getting at structural determination is shown to overlap with the institutional theory of art, outlined by Arthur Danto in the mid-1960s and later developed by others. The increasingly complex understanding of the archive at the turn of the twenty-first century – the archive as both material and structure, both concrete abode and abstract law – is thus shown

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

related to a wider cross-disciplinary theorising of archives, I have argued that the ubiquity of the archive in art discourse must be connected to conditions very specific to contemporary art. One of this book's key propositions is that the notion of the archive comes to be intertwined with the structural underpinning of the post-war artworld. The notion of the archive formulated by Michel Foucault as ‘the law of what can be said’ could be seamlessly attached to the institutional theory of art, which had replaced the previous grounding of artworks in a teleological

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

light of the chapters that precede it, and to connect the specific issue of archival temporality to the different thematic clusters discussed previously. In Chapter 3 I proposed that the notion of the archive could be connected to the institutional theory of art, a connection that has particular consequences for temporality. If the structural archive as a set of laws or rules is conceptually similar to the notion of the institutional artworld determining an artwork's status as art, it is so in part because both elevate the focus on structures in the present over

in Art + Archive
Octavian Esanu

communications network of great efficiency,” and it manifests at points of “convergence of intellectual interests and high profits.”  10 The concept of the “artworld,” as part of the institutional theory of art, examines the work of art in light of a complex set of relations. Developed in the 1960s, within certain circles of analytical philosophy (from Arthur Danto to George Dickie, Richard Wollheim, and Ted Cohen), 11 the “artworld

in The postsocialist contemporary
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Sara Callahan

has argued that it is indeed not possible to fully separate the artist from the art institution since the institution is internalised and performed by artists – it is therefore, according to Fraser, not a question of the artist being inside or outside the institution, or even of being against the institution, since they essentially are that institution. 13 Fraser is referring here precisely to the institutional theory of art whereby art is understood to be institutionalised by definition; the institution is nothing

in Art + Archive