Between order and disorder, finite and infinite, dispersal and arrangement, accumulation and categorization, memory and oblivion, useful and useless, a tension pulses in recent mutations of collecting and archiving. Should this ‘archive fever’ be seen as an archive inflation expanding the reign of commodification? Is a new form of archival time emerging? What do the nonconformist collecting and archiving practices adopted by contemporary artists say about the possibility of a different relationship to history, memory, and cultural heritage, that is, to the present and the future?
An obsessive preoccupation with the archive pervades the arts, criticism, and curatorial practice. In everyday life, digital data storage has turned contemporary users into potential archivists, taxonomists, and collectors, relying on cloud services and social media networks as storage places for the safekeeping, sharing, and manipulation of even the most intimate facts and images of their lives. But the same technologies inspire a widespread archive dysphoria: an exhaustive melancholic state that fuels the current efforts for ‘impossible archives’, that is, counter-archives which question the idea of an all-encompassing repository of personal and collective information and knowledge.
The conversation will focus on archives and collections in contemporary art and take its cue from two recent publications: Cristina Baldacci’s Impossible Archives: An Obsession of Contemporary Art (Italian edition, 2016) and Hilde van Gelder’s Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools/The Dockers’ Museum (2015).
Hilde Van Gelder is professor of modern and contemporary art history at the KU Leuven and co-director of the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography, Art and Visual Culture. She is editor of the Lieven Gevaert Series and of the online journal Image [&] Narrative. Her research focuses on how photographic and moving images can function as a driving force for societal change as well as for both re-legitimating and re-imagining fundamental rights. She has written numerous essays on a wide range of artists, and edited several books, including Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools/The Dockers’ Museum (2015).
Stephen Ellcock is a London-based online collector and curator of images, writer, editor, former musician, and bookseller who nowadays spends most of his time creating an ever-expanding, virtual museum on Facebook and Instagram. So far, his ongoing attempt at creating the ultimate social media ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ has attracted more than 180,000 Facebook followers and increasing media attention.
An ICI Berlin event, organized by Cristina Baldacci and Clara Masnatta
The event is part of the current ICI Focus ERRANS, in Time. Ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disiplines all-too quickly resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, or experiential plenitude. Can the heterogenous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability?
The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.