‘Archiving Contemporary Art: A Workshop’ held an atmosphere of energy and intrigue. Every speaker’s story was a true testament to the singular complexities of arranging a lifetime’s work. Archiving can be an emotional journey as much as a practical one – it is so important for us to be attuned to the human stories enveloped in the archive.
Whilst there were continuities in the subjects of talks; databases, storage and the need for an inventory, no artist, and indeed, no archivist is quite the same. Every object and every archive has a life of its own. Capturing and maintaining the integrity of the archive also means prioritising material to keep and digitise. When you’re immersed in your own work this can be near impossible. As the day’s talks underlined, the fresh eye of an archivist can illuminate materials and make them manageable.
We discovered hard drives in the form of futuristic orbs, that destruction registers are as important as inventories, and that databases have no limits. There are still many conversations to be had and continued, and much to be resolved:
How does the archivist capture the personal makeup of the archive whilst making its contents widely ‘understood’?
How do you archive for the future and for the living artist all at once?
Do we privilege certain media, such as written text or audio-visual material?
Is it okay to conceive narratives in the archive, so that these stories can be told and retold over time? (And these are just a few!)
Most striking of all is the absolute care and responsibility taken on by artists, archivists and beneficiaries in the protection of their materials. Talks revealed the time and thought dedicated to shaping artists’ archives, securing legacies and creating accessible, active resources – our knowledge banks of the future.
You can re-watch many of the talks from the day by visiting our events page here, which also includes photos and more information about our speakers.