Thursday, 6 October 2016

Reflections on a lecture of discovery, elements of the archive.

This lecture was provided by Dr Juliet McDonald, whose PhD study was based on the act of drawing, but now Juliet is engaged with the study of the archive and in particular to contemporary art practice.

We opened the discussion with the simple question "what is an archive?"

Essentially, an archive as a repository of selected material retained for various reasons of posterity or as sources of historical research. Invariably, the archive holds material that is of value, and in this sense value is an emotional connection perhaps far more than a financial one. It is also of value in an esoteric sense.

Types of archives were also delineated, for example; electronic, digital, photographic, film, voice, recordings of sound, objects, museums, paper, library, index vehicle, retrieval, backup, all of these have "value" to someone. All of these are methods to save; it is a reference for the future. The most famous perhaps being Noah's Ark, the word archive is directly linked to the notion of 'ark'.

There is some sense of fragility surrounding the concept of an archive.

The contemporary artist and curator Caroline Christov Bakargiev talks about archives being a form of "composting," i.e., something new comes from the compost. It generates new life.
This notion seemed particularly poignant to me and my concepts of speculative realism and the works of Graham Harman, as he talks about the building of the new from the old and describes it in a single word of anamnesis.

Dr MacDonald then discussed her important thoughts towards how she has succeeded when working towards projects concerning archives. Juliet believes that the key to getting a good proposal for this sort of artistic engagement is to "drive up the value" of the archive itself. In other words, that good publicity helps to generate more revenues for the particular institution or body that you are proposing to work for, through raising additional funding via entry fees and licenses et cetera, so that the archive can continue to survive and flourish.

We then went on to look at the Journal of writing in creative practice. We investigated three articles in particular;
1) "Precious" by Tony Bates and Liz Garland.
2) "House within a House within a House" by Aneka Pettican and Spencer Roberts.
3) "The Archive of Unrealised Artefacts" by Lisa Stansbie.

All these articles were created by lecturers and senior lecturers of the University of Huddersfield and published in the Journal of Writing.

In the article House within a House within a House, the notion of this paper explores the artefacts of the 20th-century psychologist Sigmund Freud. Creating a narrative of Freud's ideas and thoughts, but reinterpreting them through the author's exploration, and by the use of technology including the Microsoft Xbox Connect with laser scanned mapping to create a new and virtual sense of the archive.

"The Archive of Unrealised Artefacts" was created by Lisa Stansbie, in which she used Google patents website (HTTP:// as a source of inspiration and design to create physical representations of ideas and patents perhaps created many decades in the past, to be realised.

This particular lecture and exercise provided an excellent example of the technique of academic reading.   In essence,  it is the behaviour of sitting in a group of say 4 to 6 people and reading out loud sections of an essay or paper to the group and then discussing various thoughts and outcomes of the activity to help generate and explore new ideas from the team. I found this to be particularly useful and will aim to continue to use this method.

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