– Autumn/Winter 2004

Gestures of Exhibiting

Beatrice von Bismarck

The issue of the archive has been a central element of art discourse throughout the 1990s. It resonated as much with the advanced possibilities of digital memory that touched upon diverse scientific and social areas as it did with contemporary discoveries in brain research and the dramatic growth of commemorative culture that marked the turn of the millennium.

In doing so, it gave a whole new impetus to the artistic possibilities of using and reimagining the archive itself. The art of the time addressed the function of memorials, the creation of application possibilities for image archives, the formations of collective and individual museums but also questions dealing less with the backward-looking, retrospective character of archives than their relevance for the present and future. The process-like, dynamic and flexible orientation of these artistic positions allowed for a handling of archives - an archival practice - that focused on the operative aspects of cultural archives such as collecting, preserving, classifying and mediating. They thus further developed the methods of institutional critique exemplified by Daniel Buren, Marcel Broodthaers, Hans Haacke and Michael Asher in the late 1960s, and shifted them away from an analysis of given conditions to the creation of parallel, alternative processes.1 That these methods are under consideration again in the middle of the first decade of 2000 is testimony to the highly topical discourses that the archive weaves together. At stake are issues that revolve around the status of the image, the implications of curatorial work, and,

  1. For a comprehensive treatment of current perspectives on archival practices, see Beatrice von Bismarck, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Diethelm Stoller and Ulf Wuggenig (eds.), Interarchive. Archivarische Praktiken und Handlungsräume im zeitgenössischen Kunstfeld/Archival Practices and Sites in the Contemporary Art Field, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2002

  2. On the development of curatorial practice since the late 1960s, see Beatrice von Bismarck, 'Curating', in Hubertus Butin (ed.), Dumonts Begriffslexikon zur zeitgenössischen Kunst, Cologne: Dumont, 2002, pp.56-59

  3. See Birgit Pelzer, 'Merkliche Übergänge: Die Arbeit von Louise Lawler', in Louise Lawler and Others (exh. cat.), Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 2004, p.19

  4. Allan McCollum and Other Artists: Lemon (1981); Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists: Baby Blue (1981)

  5. See Allan Sekula, 'Reading an Archive', in Brian Wallis (ed.), Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987, p.117

  6. Judith Butler, Excitable Speech. On the Politics of the Performative, New York: Routledge, 1997

  7. Renée Green, Between and Including (exh. cat.), Vienna: Secession Wien, 2001

  8. See Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics, London and New York: Routledge, 1995

  9. Joëlle Tuerlinckx, 'Anlagen: Das Projekt. Nach der Raumbesichtigung -Möglichkeiten, Unmöglichkeiten, Neuheiten - einige Anmerkungen zum Raum +Vorhaben', Documenta 11

  10. Frank Vande Veire, 'Something about How a Tuerlinckx Machine Traverses the Exhibition Machine', in M. Catherine de Zegher (ed.), Inside the Visible. An elliptical traverse of 20th century art. In, of and from the feminine, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, p.454

  11. Ibid., p.590

  12. Giorgio Agamben, 'Notes on Gesture', Means without End, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000, p.58

  13. G. Agamben, 'The Face', op. cit., p.94