VIS220: archive articles + reflections

image source: Archive 4 held at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Artists in the Archive: An Exploratory Study of the Artist-in-Residence Program at the City of Portland Archives & Records Center by Kathy Carbone (source)

I found this article inspiring. It opened up new avenues of thought in regards to my archival art project I hadn't considered before. One of which was the idea behind an archival artist in residence program - " open up the archives to people other than traditional users [historians, genealogists or folks mining items like photographs for use in other projects], to reach out to the community and to view the archives through a different lens." I hadn't considered that an artwork in response to archival materials could have a deeper purpose and be channeled back into the public, to raise awareness of current issues and history, that artists can be "ambassadors for the collections". Another point that stimulated was the idea that an artwork from archival material is a way of "talking back" the past, to understand it through the lens of today and create whole new understandings through that conversation.

I also hadn't contemplated the personal aspect of archival records, how it's possible to use them to connect with people who may still be living and thus shine new insights on archival materials they exist in. I had thought about the physicality of my artwork in response to the estate advertising posters - it's very important to me that they be reproduced as close to original size as possible. I remember standing before the poster of Pineapple Farms, Beerwah and being like "wow, that's so big. I had no idea it was so big.." It was a completely different experience and I want to replicate that. The materiality mentioned in the article also spoke to creating artworks that exist in similar forms to what is found in the archive itself eg. draws of file cards or string-wrapped, brown paper artist books. The physical aspect of the archives also sparked ideas around walking the streets mapped out in the estate maps from 1903 and seeing what it feels like, what jumps out, what I notice and using that direct experience to further inform my work.

Another big question I hadn't considered was what am I feeling looking at the archival records? And how can that feeling contribute to my work? I was coming at it from a heady place of commentary rather than my deeper beliefs. This feels safer because I don't want to offend people. I'm sitting with it still... can I use my archival inspired artworks to express thoughts I only ever say out loud in certain company and would it be cathartic for me personally to do this?

By far, the deeper question for me being a quiet activist, is how can this artwork be used to connect the "unbelievers" with the fringe dwellers instead of reinforce the separation and differences between their two views. There's a lot of emotion and anger in the world of activism, a lot of judgement and fist-raising and I'm not sure how I personally relate to that. On one hand, it seems necessary, it seems like some things are worth fighting for... on the other hand, if I fight, if I push my ideas on others, aren't I creating the exact same energy in the world? One of disconnection and domination instead of gratitude and shared humanity.

Carbone, K. (2015). Artists in the Archive: An Exploratory Study of the Artist-in-Residence Program at the City of Portland Archives & Records Center.


Small acts of resistance: teaching young and emerging artists sustainable preservation strategies for contemporary creative practice by Lisa Cianci

Reading this article was an opportunity to get clear on my attitudes in regards to the preservation and archiving (both digital and physical) of my work. I hadn't thought overly much about archiving my art beyond a preference to be surrounded by it - to blu tak it to walls or have pieces on shelves and see it every day. Artwork I don't want to display is generally artwork I don't want to keep and am happy to burn in the fireplace or chuck in the compost bin. I had considered digital archives though and started this blog from a desire to quickly and easily look back on my art studies journey. The perfectionist in me gets some play here too in that the digital space is easy to control and manipulate, file and manage. I wanted it to be complete with everything I create and experience throughout my degree and was a bit disappointed to realise that my earlier, first semester 2018 work had vanished relying only on the university system. Additional work here on this blog that could be good is installing a search box so past projects, articles and artist research are easy to find and perhaps paying more attention to searchable key words for search engine optimisation if there is something useful here other art students may find helpful.

I have considered loss of content and backups but am also surrendered to that possibility and experience little anxiety about it - this blogger blog is hosted by Google and if Google goes down... well, preserving my attempts at art-making will most likely be the least of my concerns :P All images on this blog are also in the cloud though, both in Google Photos and iCloud so can be accessed if required. I also have no anxiety about my work being used for other purposes without permission or intellectual property violations. If someone sees something worthy here that they want to "steal", all I can do is hope it brings more beauty to the world.

One point I disagree with in the article is the mention of students who don't freely engage with social media missing out networks and communities of practices that may support their journey and that lack of participation leads to greater anxieties about protecting one's work because it exists outside a culture of freely sharing. This is not my experience as someone who no longer engages in social media of any kind. I feel more present and alive to art in my community than I ever have before and I no longer take it for granted (which is so easy to do with the volume and rapidity of online artistic expression). I appreciate art in a deeper and more meaningful way because I'm not on social media or seeking to express myself in an environment seriously hampered and informed by the sheer vastness of the tidal waves of other people's opinions. I'm more connected with my own truth as an artist, there's more silence and space and deeper quality of attention. I'm not overwhelmed by choice but empowered to seek out beauty and seek out opportunities to create in the real world rather than in the pixelated one. Another interesting point raised is how our web-practices are shaping our social memory... for me, my feeling is that the internet is seriously affecting our short-term memory and ability to retain information and that our world is getting smaller because of it, not larger (although, haha I'm well aware of the irony of writing this while engaged in a distance education course which the internet makes possible. There are many amazing things here too of course.)

Finally, I hadn't really thought about how archiving practices of my own work could add meaning for me personally... an idea it sparked is to document visually my journey as a songwriter, to capture the moments in that creative endeavour that I take for granted and in this way, value it more. Also considering more deeply the materials I create with, many of my works are drawings on paper and paying more attention to the sturdiness and preservation of those materials might be useful. Especially as I start to create more art that I actually like and am proud of. Sure, I'm not doing anything with them now, but who's to say that will always be the case? There's an aspect here too of preserving the process and by faithful witnessing of the process behind the creation of a final work, for that work to gain meaning and value. The Museum of Contemporary Art archive was an additional useful resource of ideas around how finished art pieces may be displayed alongside archival documents, photographs and object to enrich the message and connection with the artist's process.

Cianci, L. (2017). Small acts of resistance: teaching young and emerging artists sustainable preservation strategies for contemporary creative practice. doi