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Monday 15.02.2010

RHA Presents Critique of Archival Reason

Jeremiah Day, The Books in Fred Hampton's Apartment, 2007
Light-jet print. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam

Featuring work by Herman Asselberghs, Jeremiah Day, Cecilia Gronberg (in collaboration with Jonas (J) Magnusson), Shoji Kato, Irene Kopelman, and Sean Snyder.
Curated by Henk Slager.
GradCAM, Dublin


Opening: February 18, 6 pm-8pm.
February 19 - March 13 2010 Mo - Tu: 11am-5pm, We-Sa: 11am-7pm
Su: 2 pm-5pm
Conference: Arts Research: Publics and Purposes. GradCAM-Dublin
February 15 - February 19 2010



Royal HIbernian Academy
15 Ely Place
Dublin 2

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The concept of archive naturally seems to evoke an image of control and survey. For example, in The Order of Things, Foucault has described the archive as a system introducing order, meaning, boundaries, coherence and reason into what is disparate, confused, and contingent. The archive is a product of the will to represent, the desire for surveyability and transparency while emerging in modernity as a rigid scopic regime where multiformity and diversity have been reduced to levels of equivalence.

Starting with Duchamp, visual artists have engaged in the epistemology of the archival order. Artists appropriated, interpreted, reconfigured and interrogated archival structures and archival materials aiming at deconstructing them as compulsive, taxonomic knowledge systems. Para-archives were developed as a demonstration of the impossibility of categorizing the contingent for the sake of representation and to demand attention for a non-hierarchic heterogeneity and an anomic form of knowledge production. Hal Foster argues that by focusing on unacknowledged and repressed qualities, artistic archives show the essence of the archive as 'found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private'.

This fold-like nature also appears characteristic for the manner in which currently, topical, research-based art practice relates to the concept of archive. In line with Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text, one could speak of transforming a noun into a verb, i.e. of a processual pleasure of archiving. Such an archiving is a rhizomatic activity and a 'becoming archive' where ultimately the will to connect what cannot be connected is decisive. New forms of display will emerge in connective mutations of entirely diverse registers. No longer is an archiving consciousness placed in the supportive narrative of a contextualizing infolab developed parallel to the exhibition. Rather a research-based practice knows how to present both constitutive segments in a fluent and integral manner. Such integral practices are the departure points for the exhibition Critique of Archival Reason.This is also a critique in the Kantian sense of an activity not determining apriori its criteria, but apostiori in a form of experimental and immanent research into decisive and separate faculties.

Exhibiting a book - inherently connotative of organization and order - appears to be one of the possible forms of presenting a critique of archival reason. A book functions as a montage table of imagination, and as a thinking machine, Cecilia Gronberg claims. Her telephone directory type work (in collaboration with Jonas (J) Magnusson) Reconnections: Transcription, Lists, Documents, Archives investigates the archive of the first Swedish telephone factory and interconnects conceptual art, Perec, archival aesthetics, French Maoism, record photography and Midsommarkransen's local history. Irene Kopelman's work Drawing Archive adopts a sculptural approach. The work shows that drawing - guaranteeing categorical, scientific knowledge in 19th-century archives - functions as an important method for artistic thinking in an artistic archive through a process of drawing differences. Installation work could engineer an exchange between the semiotic structure of the traditional archive and the imaginary connotation of the artistic archive, says Shoji Kato. Kato deploys literally the arthistorical opposition horizontal versus vertical. On the floor there is a scale-model-type representation of the economic infrastructure of a city; on the wall there is its painted, cartographic representation called Tie: Place and Symbols. Kato describes the emerging artistic process of thought fluctuating between the two pieces as an 'embodied potentiality of plurality'.

A critical focus on mass media's archival reason is demonstrated in various works. Mass media develop authentic forms of narrativity and fiction sometimes even based on an absolutely empty archive as Jeremiah Day's work Fred Hampton's Apartment shows. The singularity of the artist is absent in much documentary work. Therefore, in the form of narrative performances, Day pushes the artist back into the center. How should an artist relate to the role that ubiquitous digitization plays in producing a documentary practice? Sean Snyder's work Index addresses that question through various formats of storage-media-images from his physical archive. The images have been destroyed and digitized, thus outlining a selective topology of the materials of artistic research. Herman Asselberghs delves into the question of what would happen with archiving the first decade of the 21st century if the mass media would omit 9/11 as icon for that period. His i-pod presentation Black Box shows 2/15 - the day when 30 million people demonstrated against starting a preventive war in Iraq - as an iconomic reassessment of 9/11.

This exhibition accompanies the conference Arts Research: Publics and Purposes. GradCAM-Dublin, 15.2-19.2. Keynote Speakers: Anton Vidokle (17/2/10) and Ute Meta Bauer (19/2/10). More information:

This project is co-organised by the European Arts Research Network and GradCAM-Dublin with Centrifugal. This project is in part funded by the EC-EACEA Culture 2000–2007: 'Artist as Citizen' project. The project has been generously supported by the Mondriaan Foundation.