For my presentation I chose to look at several artists that examine the ideas of the Anarchive, the archive and the library in their work and how that work has functioned in the discipline of art.
Zielinksi termed the AnArchive ‘the utopia, the non-place, which in an ongoing process reshapes and reinterprets the materials from which memories are made. Anarchives necessarily challenge, indeed provoke, the archive: otherwise, they would be devoid of meaning.’
The artist On Kawara’s explored this idea of the non-place that was able to then be reshaped through different contexts both during his lifetime, and after. Kawaras work was the deliberate and consistent chronicling of the daily processes that he found value in but was stripped of noted value other than that they existed to others by their time stamps, noted course on a map or with use of other basic technology at the time. These tracings bundled together and viewed in relationship to the fine-art industry, specifically contemporary art, they show analysis of intent.
Joselits proposes that art work must have a proposition. This proposition ‘functions like a score, which can generate a profusion of enunciations or remain without issue, as pure potential.’ This is the question that Kawara asks throughout his projects—the work itself behaving very much like a score, a basic tracking of his existence—what is an archive vs. AnArchive and letting the audience decide by how they engage with the work.
Registration of time throughout the work offers the audience an access point that is malleable. Collectors of his work pick paintings off significant dates in their lives, birthdays, anniversaries, a mnemonic tool that comes from a place of another person’s making. This ties the audience and artist together in a web that Candida Höfer investigates in her documentation of the collectors placement in his Today series date paintings.
Höfer, who looks at ideas of cultural identity and ownership through monuments in her work, travels to various collectors’ homes and looks at how these patrons put Kawara’s project into their space. As both a nod to the art, but also a critique of the ‘International style’ that Joselits discusses. Joselits looks at how the ‘elastic’ nature of international style is about ‘the enunciations made within this language in relation to particular places and times’. These ‘enunciations’ are the grooving of the work into collectors’ identities, the ownership now of a part of Kawara’s lifetime, a reification of time between Kawara and the owner of the work through their painting and its placement within their home, that hundreds of other people now also have in their homes.
The same addressing of ownership is seen in Höfer’s other projects of libraries, archives and museums, primarily in Western cultures. She examines the recognizability of the spaces and the monumentalism of the structures themselves. The scale of these spaces is overwhelming and vast, representations of the accumulation of information within the culture, but at the same time questioning what all the content is. The architecture is magnificent, but is also indicative to the elitism that comes with feeling both comfortable or uncomfortable being in the spaces that she shows.
Water Towers, Bernd and Hilla Becher
The Kunstakademie Düsseldorf is where Höfer studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher, well known for their work documenting the structures of industrialization in Germany in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Bernd has been quoted saying he photographed because he “was overcome with horror when I noticed that the world in which I was besotted was disappearing”. Their work was an investigation and fascination with the onset of new buildings that represent a different kind of visual world. Architecture represents to the person who doesn’t go in, or have access to the interior of a space or system is how most people interpret the content of interior material or action of a structure. This seems to be a large part of Höfers work, not just the architecture of the building, but also the architecture of the books themselves. Almost metaphorically, the books are the buildings and the structure of the building is the landscape that systemically allows for the books to be accessed, or not.
The idea of access to books being political is seen in the work of Marta Minujín in her project Parthenon of Books. The project, originally done in 1983 in her native Argentina, was a response to the collapse of the Argentinian military dictatorship. During the dictatorship there was a ban on books, primarily Marxist works and others that had references to political structures and philosophies. Once the dictatorship collapsed, Minujín gathered the banned books and placed them in a structure shaped as the Parthenon. The reference to the Parthenon, the Grecian temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and freedom, establishes a timeframe for the importance of the passing on of knowledge through literary channels. Three months after the project in Buenos Aires was built the structure was tipped and the public was given access to the books. Minujín recreated this project in the 2017 art fair Documenta where she requested banned books from around the world to be added to the structure, both speaking to the idea of global knowledge and the collective need for engagement in helping each other in different spaces to have access to knowledge and ideas, especially those that have been suppressed. After the show closed, these books were redistributed to the public.
All of these artists are playing with the ideas of either national, cultural or personal distribution of information. In doing so, they each look at how access to information is nested within the larger structures of access to libraries, archives, anarchives and technologies.