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Digital Traces: #cirn2017 | Posted on NOVEMBER 8, 2017 | Categories Art, Art and archives, Conferences, Imagined archives, Research | Taking its theme as Art as Archive: Archive as Art & The Imagined Archive, the CIRN2017 Prato Conference proved fertile ground for exploring a range of ideas

Digital Traces: #cirn2017

Tom Denison, Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics, Monash University

Taking its theme as Art as Archive: Archive as Art & The Imagined Archive, the CIRN2017 Prato Conference proved fertile ground for exploring a range of ideas. A key element was the paracuratorial programme in which an exhibition, curated by Vince Dziekan and Nina Lewis, provided the basis for two workshops exploring archival futures: Vince Dziekan’s Futurescaping the Archive in collaboration with a number of local artists, and that by Nina Lewis, Bonny Djuric and Lily Hibberd, who used the work of The Imagined Archive, and in particular the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project, to explore co-production and the potential for art “to rebalance power relations embedded in archival structures”.

IMAG4331Steffano Pezzato at Centro Pecci

These themes featured heavily in the presentations of the two keynote speakers. Kathy Carbone started proceedings by surveying approaches to archives and archival content by artists working in fields such as dance, painting, photography, theatre and poetry, whereby the archive is used to provide a space for exploring not just issues around identity, memory and history but also the nature of the archive itself. Amalia Sabiescu dealt with similar themes, emphasising the ways in which “the interplay between art and archive becomes a performative space of past into present”, facilitating new forms of cultural production while creating new archival records.

IMAG4322Kathy Carbone – Art as Archive/Archive as Art

While only a sample of the contributed papers can be mentioned here, they explored these and more themes in depth. Several examined projects drawing on archival content for either source material or inspiration. Kate Ten Buuren, Adam Ridgeway and Shannon Faulkhead reported on the Sky Country exhibition and its engagement with Indigenous artists and youth to explore the importance of Indigenous Australian languages. Ann Chow of The National Archives (UK) discussed the In Our Minds project, in which artists drew on records related to mental health in order to open up “an exploratory dialogue between creative practitioners and archivists”. Taking an even more personal approach, Gabriela Sá worked with her father’s archives to explore the lacuna, or gaps inherent in archives, to explore the archive’s poetic potential, blurring boundaries between memory and oblivion, reality and fiction.

IMAG4325Nina Lewis and Bonny Djuric

Yet others reported on projects to archive or memorialise performance or ephemeral events, with Astrid von Rosen researching how dance can be better represented, and Paul Andrew documenting otherwise neglected artist-run projects active in Brisbane during the Bjelke-Petersen years with the ARI Remix Living Archive Project. The panel session at the Centro Pecci added a variation to this theme, focusing on MORE – the Museum of Refused and Unrealised Art Projects. The form and nature of archives was itself challenged by Anja Portin, reflecting on Walter Benjamin’s essayistic writing style as a form of archival practice, While Mama Alto and Sue McKemmish explored Cabaret, with its memorialisation of individual and collective lives through performance, as archive.

apilera (2).jpgAn arpillera

Reaction to the patriarchal nature of the archive was a continuing theme. Jane Connory presented her #afFEMation project, designed to raise the visibility of women who have made significant contributions to Australian graphic design since 1960, and to counter patriarchal perspectives of the past. Elsie Doolan spoke on arpilleras – narrative quilt squares created by Chilean women to document their experiences as a form of resistance to the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) – arguing that traditional definitions of archival records can act to exclude women’s voices. And women’s voices were given a more dramatic presence through the work of Angelika Strohmayer and Janis Meissner, of Newcastle University’s Open Lab, with their Partnership Quilt, in which a collaboratively created quilt became an audio archive of sex workers’ stories and experiences, activated by touching sensors embedded in small rosettes.

IMAG4350.jpgComposer Samantha Bertoldi performing on Day 2

In the end, it was a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of the process of creating art through critical interaction with archival traces of the past, to reflect on the nature and meaning of archives, to empower individuals and communities, and to envision future possibilities. The CIRN2017 conference proceedings will be available early next year. We look forward to building on these themes at #cirn2018.