Saturday, 26 October 2013

thought for the day - on personal archives

the tree that dances © caroline fraser 2013
I am way behind as always

been to some fascinating talks and shows, and not had time to put thoughts down on 'paper'

The most thought provoking session was a talk by John Levett on his recent exhibition Retrospeculations with Nick Scammell , in which he explored the issue of personal archive at Goldsmith's College. Sadly the show is now over, so you won't be able to visit it. Mea culpa.

from Retrospeculations by John Levett

John and Nick described the exhibition thus

'A gathering of gatherings made over twenty years; an unfolding; a condensation (Freud) of tremendous fragments (Klee) – in this work, John Levett will respond to Green’s question by way of Blanchot’s proposal of a past to come, and in that spirit re-engineer, re-purpose and re-imagine his archive.
Mutations of connection and disconnection (Foster) are hoped for: new lines of interpretation, counter-archives within the archive. Gaps and absences will be taken as forms of evidence (Merewether) for this new prospective past (Demos) and the freedoms it may offer.'

Well,  I must be dense, because when I first read this I really couldn't make sense of it. But having been to the talk, and on re-reading, I realise that I am just being dense, because the show does exactly what it says on the tin; takes a personal archive and re-engineers it.
John talked about different ways of looking at a personal archive, and really got me thinking. He discussed eight different ways of looking at an archive:

  1. as  monument
  2. as obstacle
  3. as iceberg
  4. as gathering
  5. as entourage
  6. as promise
  7. as utopia
  8. as map

I am not going to recreate his lecture, as I could never do it justice, but will pick just one quote that resonated with me.

In describing archive as obstacle, he used this quote from Wright Morris , photographer and writer

'first we make these images to see clearly: then we see clearly only what we have made'

Wright Morris ; photographer and writer

Given that this blog is a personal archive of sorts, 

and if, as John also points out,

'gaps and absences will be taken as forms of evidence'   (Merewether)

then the waters are getting muddy indeed.

see here for an essay on his work from Nebraska.

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