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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.

Self-help and 1970s conceptual art
Lucy Bradnock

In this chapter Lucy Bradnock examines the confluence of self-help discourses and (post)conceptual art practices in 1970s Los Angeles. It takes as its prompt artworks that integrate autobiography and life narrative, and critical reviews that frequently framed such practices as therapy, setting them against the backdrop of the early 1970s rise in popular life-improvement literature and products, and practices. The chapter reads three works – Allen Ruppersberg’s documentary installation Where’s Al? (1972), Ilene Segalove’s video series The Mom Tapes (1974) and Eleanor Antin’s photo-series The Eight Temptations (1972) – in terms of the shared structural imperatives of conceptual art and self-help and the commercial logic that governs the self-schema as it is performed in public. As such, they represent an affectionate critique of conceptual practice and countercultural self-actualisation alike. In turn, the chapter asks how this new understanding of conceptual practice as life (improvement) work might alter our understanding of post-studio practice.

in Lifework
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Margaret Iversen

and post-conceptual art. Yet, rather than being treated as a specific genre, they are dispersed under several different rubrics as examples of the art of systems or series or as documents of performance. In his influential article, ‘Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions’ (1990), Benjamin Buchloh famously argued that conceptual artists were engaged in a project of negating the transcendental aspirations of traditional art by miming, ‘with

in Lifework