An Inventory of Traces: Rethinking public archives and collections beyond the nation/state

Isobel Harbison, Lecturer, Art Department, Goldsmiths,

Sara Greavu, Curator of Visual Arts, Project Arts Centre, Dublin,            

In the epigraph of Julietta Singh's No Archive Will Restore You, Antonio Gramsci wrote, ‘The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is “knowing thyself ” as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.... Therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory.’

Taking as its basis the current absence of a national museum for the collection and preservation of works of modern and contemporary art in Northern Ireland / the north of Ireland (NI), this session invites papers by participants and scholars considering processes, methodologies or architectures of collecting, archiving and conservation across global territories, and particularly within sites of historical geopolitical conflict and/or where constituents have complex and contested relationships to the state. The panel will ask how we might collect, classify and preserve art works, gestures and traces of historical and social importance that sit within a territory but beyond the current remit or sole paradigm of a national collection, or the institutions that are formed and informed by a singular state apparatus? How do we create inventories to accommodate the traces, within artworks, of complex historical processes? How do we build such inventories through and with the communities that have produced and shaped them? How do we provide both safe spaces for and access to archive materials vital to a territory’s cultural heritage within an unstable landscape of highly changeable political policies and agendas?

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly.



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