In the modern era, the archive—official or personal—has become the most significant means by which historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored, and recovered. The archive has thus emerged as a key site of inquiry in such fields as anthropology, critical theory, history, and, especially, recent art. Traces and testimonies of such events as World War II and ensuing conflicts, the emergence of the postcolonial era, and the fall of communism have each provoked a reconsideration of the authority given the archive—no longer viewed as a neutral, transparent site of record but as a contested subject and medium in itself.
This volume surveys the full diversity of our transformed theoretical and critical notions of the archive—as idea and as physical presence—from Freud's "mystic writing pad" to Derrida's "archive fever"; from Christian Boltanski's first autobiographical explorations of archival material in the 1960s to the practice of artists as various as Susan Hiller, Ilya Kabakov, Thomas Hirshhorn, Renée Green, and The Atlas Group in the present.
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About the Editor
Charles Merewether is an art historian and writer on contemporary and postwar art who has taught at universities in the United States, Central and South America, and Australia. Collections Curator at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles from 1994 to 2004, he is Artistic Director and Curator for the 2006 Sydney Biennale.
“The Archive is a collection of pivotal essays on the role of archives in modern art and history...The book's playful design employs pull quotes resembling children's lettering, street-art manifestos or eye exams. One such is from Walter Benjamin's essay, 'A Short History of Photography,' showing the inspirational potential of archival material: 'Utrillo painted his fascinating views of Paris not from life but from picture postcards.'”—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
“Contemporary art constantly requires the construction of new lineages, new histories, to render it critically intelligible. The idea of the archive is currently at the centre of such activities. This anthology offers an illuminating mix of texts, interlacing analysis with artists' writings...and a useful antidote to sentimentalizations of the past.”
—Peter Osborne, Director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University, and editor of Conceptual Art