History and memory: the contemporary artist as archivist

Deborah Schultz, Reader in Art History, Regent’s University London, schultzd@regents.ac.uk

Sian Vaughan, Reader in Research Practice, Birmingham City University, sian.vaughan@bcu.ac.uk

How is the past remembered? And how is the past represented in the present? In recent years, the representation of memory has become a prevalent point of discussion across disciplines, addressed extensively within the public and the private domain, in politics as well as in relation to questions of identity and belonging.

While specific events are often the focus, artists also examine the processes of remembering, memorialising and forgetting. Within this wider framework of history and memory, archives have become of particular interest in highlighting the structures that shape material remains of the past in the present. From Fiona Tan to Dayanita Singh, Goshka Macuga, Rosângela Rennó, Walid Raad, Thomas Ruff, and many more, numerous contemporary artists investigate archives as a means of rethinking the past in the present.

Taking as its starting points several significant essays from the first decade of the 21st century – Hal Foster, ‘The Archival Impulse’ and Mark Godfrey, ‘The Artist as Historian’ as well as Ewa Domanska, ‘Material Presence of the Past’ – this session addresses more recent theories on the artist as archivist. How have artists in the last decade explored new ways of thinking about archives? What kinds of practices and strategies are artists using to do so? And what theories are most productive in discussing their work?

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

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