The limits of the archive

Sub-Project 2

Artistic techniques of re-presenting archival material” (Valeska Bührer)

The sub-project on “Artistic techniques of re-presenting archival material” focuses on new approaches to the concept of the archive in contemporary works of art.

In exemplary case studies, the project will examine current artistic re-presentations of archival materials that take archives, depots or collections as their subject, as well as the activity of archiving itself, using archival and documentary materials as a point of departure for artistic work processes. Engaging with the ontologies and norms of archives, as well as their spatial, temporal and social cross-sections, generates gaps that need to be rendered visible. In these artistic positions, archives are understood not in their finality but as sets of components with a special focus on the notion of the gap as the true essence of the archive and on the selection mechanisms that inscribe themselves on the archive as an institution. Rather than devising archives, they use an artistic re-presentation of archival materials to explore precisely this epistemic constitution of the archive.

The aim is to analyse artistic practices of re-presentation of archival material and to examine the ways contemporary art deals with the possibilities and limitations of archives. In this project, the archive figures less as a pure research source than as an exemplary subject for artistic research, becoming an epistemic laboratory in its capacity as a site of active production. The emphasis here is not only on the possibility of creating new order, but also on fundamental questions concerning the limits of the archive in terms of the criteria applied to selection, recording, systematization, access and presentation, as well as a critical engagement with the archive and its ordering systems as a site of representation.