Artpool40Active Archives and Art Networks

International Conference of the Artpool Art Research Center

February 20–21, 2020 Museum of Fine Arts, Schickedanz Hall, Budapest

Agustina Andreoletti | Zdenka Badovinac | David Crowley | Katalin Cseh-Varga | Mela Dávila Freire | Lina Džuverović | Meghan Forbes | Daniel Grúň | Sarah Haylett | John Held | Roddy HunterJudit Bodor | Jasna JakšićTihana Puc | Klara Kemp-Welch | Kaja Kraner | Emese Kürti | Karolina Majewska-Güde | Lívia Páldi | Henar Rivière | Sven Spieker | Kristine Stiles | Katalin Timár | Tomasz Załuski | Elisabeth Zimmermann

Sarah Haylett [Biography]
Beyond an Archival Impulse: the artist-as-archivist at Tate


This paper will present the current discussions being held as part of the project Reshaping the Collectible,[3] about how Tate navigates archival artworks. It will use two artworks from Tate’s collection that embody György Galántai’s idea of the “active archive” to examine what both the contemporary art museum, and the archivist can learn from artistic interpretations of “the archive.”

In An Archival Impulse, Hal Foster has positioned the artist-as-archivist as a contemporary mode of artistic practice. As this practice evolved, it has blurred the boundaries between artwork, documentation and archive, and therefore the archival and museological methodologies used to define that which it produces. Beyond offering “critiques of representational totality and institutional integrity”[4], Foster made no reference to the perspective of institutional practice in exploring the artist-as-archivist. The museum archive, as a repository, is set apart from other institutional archives in both principle and practice; they are more likely to hold challenging, non-traditional material, and items that have no other place in the museum. Material moves through the collections as collecting practices evolve and the parameters of value change. As Tate’s archive turns fifty, a parallel artistic archive is entering the collection that is challenging even the museum archive.

Tania Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper #5 (2008) is a performance that generates a new archive at each presentation. Collected by the museum rather than the creator, this “active archive” questions Tate’s collecting boundaries and definitions. In her practice, Bruguera demonstrates an expansive understanding of archival theory and practice beyond an “archival impulse” that is challenging the contemporary art museum, and the archivist to expand their thinking.

Pawel Althamer’s Film (2000) was acquired as a performance. The acquisition also included the complete archive of the work and previous presentations, including documentation, drawings by the artist, storyboards and photographs. Film is different at each activation, and also generates a new archive each time. This archive remains alongside the work in the main collection, but Althamer explains that this material is not part of the work itself, further blurring institutional boundaries.

Archival practice is rooted, if not stuck, in the end of life mentality of archival material, by proxy, this has influenced museum practice. This paper asks: How can Tate be flexible enough to bend to the will of the artist, but engaged enough to negotiate and navigate the artistic appropriation of archival methodologies?

[3] Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum is a three-year multidisciplinary research project. It will look at how the museum can support artworks that challenge our established structures; artworks which unfold during their life, those which question the boundaries between the artwork, the archive, the record or didactic display. It seeks to get a better understanding of the artworks that rely on complex social or technological dependencies outside of the museum, to exist within it.

[4] Hal Foster: “An Archival Impulse”, October no. 110 (Fall 2004): 5.