Archival Performances - 2012

Photographs, Documents, and Performance, variable size prints

(excerpt from, "An Artist and Anthropologist in the Nation's Art Museum." Click the title or here to download the pdf.)

Archival Performances functions as both scholarship and artwork. As an anthropologist who found myself more involved in archives and history than I ever thought I would be, I learned the significance of archival and historical representation. As a researcher and a teacher, I know how valuable it is to find materials on the topic I am writing or teaching about. I know the joy of finding original material to work with in analysis. While I try to theoretically reframe the archive, the fact is that archives still exist and they are helpful. We can think about reframing archives to the public sphere, or the digital sphere, but paper-based archives in institutions have existed for a long time and with a particular kind of weight. There is an archival authority in institutional archives. On a practical level, it is also difficult to maintain archives. While paper is still one of the most stable materials, the appropriate conditions for paper are difficult for the average person to maintain. In Miami, for instance, I can barely keep up with my own paper materials in a climate that is hot, humid, and sunny. Book jackets have faded from sun exposure. Drawings have browned and edges have curled. While still usable, if this kind of damage has happened in only a couple of years, I would not want this kind of fate for what I think are the significant papers of artists’ lives and careers. Numerous moves from Miami to Ann Arbor to DC and more to come I am sure, I have also sadly lost books or just misplaced them. Physical objects also take up space. Space that in cities is expensive and for me, at least, is always temporary. Placing materials in archives can help them live a longer life.

As an artwork, this piece, is my own performance in the archive. I am working to write artists into our future history in my dissertation. When I speak about artists in presentations I bring them to people’s attention. And, collecting and donating artists’ materials, enacts a performance in an actual archive. There are at least two parts to the artwork, the documentation and the performance. I worked to document each step of the process visually with the intention of one day exhibiting that documentation as an artwork. I scanned the artists’ materials, personal notes, and outgoing and returning envelopes. I donated all of the artists’ materials, and kept the personal notes and envelopes as physical traces of the project. I envision that when exhibited all of these materials would be shown together. A visual archive and documentation of this performance.