Artist 'meandered' through the archives at Heritage Quay

How would you approach the process of researching archive collections with the aim of creating new artworks inspired by them? When multi-media artist Poulomi Desai was awarded an 80-day residency at Heritage Quay, she chose to adopt a meandering approach to the corridors and rooms of the archives, one that she compares to travelling along the unfrequented roads of the Yorkshire Dales in her video piece Unmuted. Rather than tying herself to a particular theme, she immersed herself in the boxes, shelves and objects that she found there. She also engaged with visitors attending events at Heritage Quay, researchers following their own interests, and the staff and volunteers who worked with the collections. Among the pieces she produced were two silk sari artworks, one of which (on the right) was inspired by a series of cassette tape recordings that form part of the British Music Collection. 

Poulomi Desai with her saris at STEAM European Researchers Night at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 2017. Photo credit: Maddie Farris.

Poulomi Desai with her saris at STEAM European Researchers Night at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 2017. Photo credit: Maddie Farris.

Poulomi describes her time at Heritage Quay as providing 'unexpected and surprising opportunities artistically'. It gave her the opportunity to reflect on the ownership and control of remembering as she developed an understanding of the social and political context in which these particular collections developed. She was also attentive to the processes and paraphernalia  of archiving, alluding to both in the series of artworks she created in response to her encounters with the people and collections. You can find more details about them on the Usurp Art website.  

Other artists may adopt a more systematic approach, focusing on a particular theme. Which would you choose?