Micol Assaël, Meteorological and High Voltage Research Center, Istra, near Moscow.

Archival Practices

An archive is a discursive site. Historical data is generated, highlighted or disappears through methods of sorting and storing archival materials. It is a place of production where the human relationship to the past becomes visible and where the present can inscribe itself into a society’s future. Just as we preserve the past, [that is how] we will want to behave and change in the future.
Within the thematic field of Archival Practices, artistic working methods are explored that help the archive, as a place of lost or suppressed historical information, to gain new visibility and physical presence. These methods deal with processes of structuring archives and focus on repressed and undivided experiences, so-called “counter-memories”. Since the 2010s, the term “difficult knowledge” has also been circulating in art and cultural theory; it refers to inadequate, absent and questionable representations of past events in archives. By means of these archival practices in art, forgotten or little-discussed events can be acknowledged retroactively. Research questions are: Which archives are addressed by artists in their work? What criteria do artists themselves use to construct archival structures? How do they include “difficult knowledge” and structural absences in their work?

Ebeling, Knut, and Stephan Günzel, eds. Archivologie. Theorien des Archivs in Philosophie, Medien und Künsten. Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2009.

Foster, Hal. “An Archival Impulse.” In October, Vol. 110, Autumn 2004, 3–22.

Knopf, Eva, Sophie Lembcke, and Mara Recklies, eds. Archive dekolonialisieren. Mediale und epistemische Transformationen in Kunst, Design und Film. Bielefeld: transcript, 2018.

Lehrer, Erica, Cynthia E. Milton, and Monica Eileen Patterson, eds. Curating Difficult Pasts. Violent Pasts in Public Places. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Tali, Margaret. Absence and Difficult Knowledge in Contemporary Art. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2017.