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Archer, Michael (1997) Material culture: the object in British art of the 1980s and '90s. London: South Bank Centre

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'Material Culture' is a phrase used by anthropologists and archeologists to describe physical products of peoples under their scrutiny. The term suggests that culture is something tangible which can take material form. This book is the accompanying catalogue to the 'Material Culture' exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery in 1996. The exhibition included about seventy works of art that focused on independent objects.


Bacon, Julie (ed) (2008) Arkive City. Belfast: Interface University of Ulster

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Arkive City invites the reader on a journey through Kilmainham Gaol and Museum, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Live Art Archives, to the Imperial War Museum, Arnolfini art centre and the Stasi Archive, and others. The contributors to  map out important questions and shifts in interest that have arisen from the changing role of archiving in culture, and its relationship with the arts, through their work: curating exhibitions in museums, (de)constructing (art) history, running library and government archives, initiating archives in arts organisations, and shaping individual practice.


Baron, Jaimie (2013) The Archive Effect: Found Footage and the Audiovisual Experience of History, New York: Routledge

In The Archive Effect: Found Footage and the Audiovisual Experience of History, Baron analyses the way in which the meanings of archival documents are modified when they are placed in new texts and contexts, constructing the viewer’s relationship to the past they portray. Rethinking the notion of the archival document in terms of its reception and the experiences it generates, she explores the ‘archive effect’ as it is produced across the genres of documentary, mockumentary, experimental and fiction films. This engaging work discusses how, for better or for worse, the archive effect is mobilized to create new histories, alternative histories, and misreadings of history. The book covers a multitude of contemporary cultural artefacts including films like Zelig, Forrest Gump and JFK, mockumentaries such as The Blair Witch Project and Forgotten Silver, documentaries like Standard Operating Procedure and Grizzly Man, and videogames like Call of Duty: World at War. 


Burton, Antoinette (2006), Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press

Despite the importance of archives to the profession of history, very little has been written about actual encounters with them - about the effect that the researcher's race, gender, or class may have on her experience within them, or about the impact that archival surveillance, architecture, or bureaucracy might have on the histories that are ultimately written. This provocative collection initiates a vital conversation about how archives around the world are constructed, policed, manipulated, and experienced. It challenges the claims to objectivity associated with the traditional archive by telling stories that illuminate its power to shape the narratives which are to be "found" there. In Archive Stories, a number of the essays question what counts as an archive - and what counts as history - as they consider oral histories, cyberspace, fiction, and plans for streets and buildings that were never built, for histories that never materialized. 


Choinière, France (editor), (2015) Suzy Lake: Performing an Archive, Black Dog Publishing

This book presents Canadian artist Suzy Lake's recent series exploring the concept of self in both the portrait and artistic practice more generally, as well as ideas of ancestry, nostalgia and memory. In Suzy Lake: Performing an Archive, Lake, an essential figure in Canadian contemporary art with an international reputation, continues her exploration of questions around identity and social issues. Drawing on history and her own family chronicle , Lake bears witness to the urban, demographic and social development of Detroit, a city marked throughout the twentieth century by economic decline, racial tension and a startling crime rate. In a performative process, she visits the scene of various locations where her ancestors lived.


Chow, Ann, (2017), ‘Inspiration Drawn: Conversations around Archives' in Journeaux, J. and Gorrill, H. (editors), Drawing Conversations: Collective and Collaborative Drawing in Contemporary Practice, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing


This chapter explores the reinterpretation of archive collections by artists from various disciplines who use drawing as part of their creative practice. Chow reveals some of the varied stories and thematic ideas captured by artists who use archives. She considers the possibilities around the creative use of archives and the associated questions which arise from these forms of engagement from both artists' and archivists' perspectives. Among the questions she addresses is 'What form do contemporary drawing practices take when working in conjunction with archives?' The impact and legacy which comes out of these collaborations is considered, as is the role of the archivist and the implications for the archives in question as well as the wider profession. 


Clifford, James (1988) The predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature and art. Cambridge: London: Harvard University Press

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The Predicament of Culture is a critical ethnography of the west in its changing relations with other societies. Analysing cultural practices such as anthropology, travel writing, collecting, and museum displays of tribal art, Clifford shows authoritative accounts of other ways of life to be contingent fictions, now actively contested in post-colonial contexts. His critique raises questions of global significance: who has authority to speak for any group’s identity and authenticity? What are the essential elements and boundaries of a culture? How do self and “the other” clash in the encounters of ethnography, travel, and modern interethnic relations? Throughout The Predicament of Culture he argues that culture is now less a site of origins and rooting than of translation and transplanting.


Clifford, James (1997) Routes: travel and translation in the late twentieth century. Cambridge, Mass; London: Harvard University Press


This book is the follow up to The Predicament of Culture in which Clifford takes the proper measure: a moving picture of a world that doesn't stand still, that reveals itself en route, in the airport lounge and the tourist parking lot as much as in the marketplace and the museum. In this collage of essays Clifford takes travel and its difficult companion translation, as openings into a complex modernity. Clifford's concern is with the struggles to displace stereotypes, to recognise divergent histories, to sustain 'postcolonial' and 'tribal' identities in the contexts of domination and globalization.


Coles, Alex (2000) Site-specificity: the ethnographic turn. London: Black Dog, 2000

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Since the work of Robert Smithson in the late 1960s, the notion of site specificity has been crucial to an understanding of contemporary art. Extending the debate, this book argues that the discipline of ethnography can enrich our conception of what site is. Commissioned essays, interviews and visual projects by ethnographers, artists and art critics reflect on this dialogue between art and ethnography, thereby creating a critical overview of the discourse.


Derrida, Jacques (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Translated by Eric Prenowitz. University of Chicago Press

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Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression is a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving, using Freudian psychoanalysis as the point of reference. This book explores what archives mean, contain and how they are constructed in relation to power, politics and technology. Archival fever can be interpreted as an irresistible impulse to preserve, search for origins, hidden truths and unwavering principles. However, neither the structure nor the researcher's approach to archives can be neutral. Derrida explains the Greek etymology of "archive", which connotes both "commencement" and "commandment" implying that authority is as much at stake as authenticity. As a magazine of civic record and social history the archive seem to be a public entity, in fact it is filled in with the personal, even intimate, artefacts of private lives.


Eccles,Tom and Ruf, Beatrix (2015), Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler, J R P Ringier

Since the late 1990s, artist Tony Oursler (born 1957) has amassed a vast personal archive of objects and ephemera relating to magic, the paranormal, film, television, phantasmagoria, pseudoscience and technology. For Oursler, the archive functions as an open visual resource, historical inquiry and--most intriguingly--a family history. One of the collection's many digressions records the friendship between the artist's grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler--a famous early 20th-century author and publisher--and magician and escapologist Harry Houdini, and a historic interaction with Arthur Conan Doyle, who, beyond his Sherlock Holmes series, was an important advocate for spiritualism and the paranormal. This publication features up to 1,500 objects from Oursler's collection, including photographs, prints, historic manuscripts, rare books, letters and objects. Additional topics include stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, the occult, color theory and UFOs.


Enwezor, Okwui (2008) Archive fever: uses of the document in contemporary art. Göttingen: Steidl

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This book takes its title from Jacques Derrida's book of the same name, which analyses the ambivalent notion of the archives in relation to authenticity and authority. Enwezor’s book gathers contemporary artists who share a fascination with photography and film as the quintessential media of the archive and use archival related materials in their art practice. Practitioners included in the book: Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Zoe Leonard, Ilan Lieberman, Walid Raad, Thomas Ruff, Anri Sala, Fazal Sheikh, Eyal Sivan, Lorna Simpson and Vivan Sundaram, among others.


Federici, Francesco (2014) Cinema and Art as Archive, Form, Medium and Memory, Mimesis International

As Derrida stated in Archive Fever, nothing is less reliable or less clear than the word “archive.” Nevertheless, it is precisely within the semantic open-endedness of this notion that contemporary discursive practices of cinema and art have developed, thus reconfiguring the very idea of the archive. Federici discusses how the single disciplines involved in this broad field – film and art history, film and art theory, aesthetics, semiotics, philology, etc. – are now starting to investigate what the archive is not, or does not seem to be. In recent years, much attention has been focused on these ideas, revealing new “impulses”, “turns” and specific forms of art as well as highlighting how the notion of archive has gained importance on different interrelated levels across a broad range of disciplinary fields.


Foster, Hal (1996) The return of the real: the avant-garde at the end of the century. October books: Cambridge, London: MIT Press

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The return to real discusses the development of 20th century art and its connection to critical theory. Foster focuses on artists active after 1960, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Smithson, Barbara Kruger, Mike Kelley, and Cindy Sherman, among others. The book traces art movements and fashions in art from "art-as-text" in the 1970s, through "art-as-simulacrum" in the 1980s, to the present moment, when according to Foster the return to the real dominates, return to art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites.


Foucault, Michel (2002) The Archaeology of Knowledge. Routledge classics: London: Routledge

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Arguably his finest work, The Archaeology of Knowledge is a challenging but fantastically rewarding introduction to Foucault’s ideas. It is a methodological treatise that promotes the view that systems of thought and knowledge are governed by rules beyond those of grammar or logic. These define a system of conceptual possibilities that impose limits on what it is possible to think within any given area and historical time frame. ‘Discourses’ emerge and change according to a complex set of discursive and institutional relationships defined as much by breaks and abrupt transformations as by continuity.


Holly, Michael Ann and Smith, Marquart (eds.) (2008) What is research in the visual arts? : obsession, archive, encounter. Williamstown, Mass. : Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

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This series of thirteen essays focuses on the philosophical and practical issues facing those undertaking research in the visual arts. The authors explore the remarkable nature of art historians’ personal, political, aesthetic and creative curiosity and the process of doing research in the archive, library, studio, gallery, museum, and beyond. As such, the book considers the pleasures and dangers of researchers’ obsessions and encounters with the incoherence, chaos, and wonder that lie at the heart of searching for the not-yet-known. International contributors from academia, publishing, and the arts industries provide essays on two broad topics: encounters and obsessions, and the world and the archive. Particular studies include the researcher as collector of failed goods, archival obsessions and obsessive archives; research as obsession with the scent of history; and new words on cold cases.


Hooper-Greenhill, Eileen (1992) Museums and the shaping of knowledge. London: Routledge

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Of particular interest to museum professionals, Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge reviews past and present practices regarding the relationship between the context and interpretation of an object.

Drawing on numerous case studies, Hooper-Greenhill presents a critical survey of museums and their changing roles in the production and shaping of knowledge. She shows how, at a time when funding is becoming increasingly scarce and difficult questions are being asked about the justification of museums, they are once again organising their spaces and collections to present themselves as environments for experimental and self-directed learning.


Lebeter, Neil (2013) How to Let an Artist Rifle Through Your Archive: Bob & Roberta Smith, New Art Gallery, Walsall

This publication highlights an exciting new approach to working with contemporary art and archives. As artist in residence at The New Art Gallery Walsall, the artists Bob and Roberta Smith worked with archive curator Neil Lebeter to explore and reveal the Epstein Archive housed at the gallery. The archive contains important documents relating to the work of the 20th century sculptor Jacob Epstein and to the Garman Ryan Collection displayed at the gallery. The two year project reawakened the Archive, with the artist creating a huge body of over 20 works in response to it, a major exhibition, a permanent display and nearly 40 films. The book also explores the unique collaboration between the Smiths and the archive curator, demonstrating how the two professions can work together successfully.

Maart, Brenton (2013) Imaginary Fact: Contemporary South African Art and the Archive, National Arts Festival, South Africa

Imaginary Fact - Contemporary South African Art and the Archive is the title of the catalogue that accompanied an exhibition housed in the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. In twentieth-century South Africa, visual art focused on political resistance and became a vehicle for insurgency against human rights abuses. After the advent of democracy, it shifted towards an exploration of issues of identity, with race and gender gaining prominence. Today, contemporary South Africa is witness to a further significant movement – a renewed and invigorating focus on how and why these histories continue to impact on the world today. To do this, contemporary artists have drawn on archival records in a variety of different ways in an attempt to make sense of present-day South Africa. 

Merewether, Charles (2006) The Archive: Documents of contemporary art. London: Whitechapel

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Published in Whitechapel’s Documents of Contemporary Art series, this book includes writings by Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, Hal Foster and many others, and essays on the archival practice of such artists as Gerhard Richter, Susan Hiller, Ilya Kabakov, Christian Boltanski, Renee Green, and The Atlas Group. It identifies as a defining feature of the modern era the significance given to the archive in all its documentary forms - official, collective or personal - as the means by which historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored and recovered. The collection considers the archive as a key site of enquiry in fields such as anthropology, critical theory, history, and especially recent art.

Ostoff, Simone (2009) Performing the Archive: The Transformation of the Archive in Contemporary Art from Repository of Documents to Art Medium, New York: Atropos

Instead of sanitizing and making complex artworks docile in terms of archival possibilities, this book suggests that we respond in kind to the archive-as-artwork, to "living" archives, and to re-enactments of history with their seamless connections between fiction and non-fiction. Among the concepts examined are Vilém Flusser's techno-imagination, Lygia Clark's and Hélio Oiticica's participatory aesthetics, and Paulo Bruscky's and Eduardo Kac's literal performances of the archive. Ostoff considers how the artists’ exploration of new ways of looking at the archive has eroded its former boundaries, stability, function, and meaning. She believes that, in view of this, we should be open to multiple interpretations of artworks and abandon our fantasy of mastery over representation.  

Pearce, Susan M. (1992) Museums, objects and collections: a cultural study: Leicester: Leicester University Press

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In this book, Susan Pearce explores the philosophies and cultural traditions that underlie museums, their collections and the objects that make them up. She probes the psychological and social reasons that people collect and identifies three modes of collecting: collecting as souvenirs, as fetishes, and as systematic assemblages. The study then considers how museum professionals set policies of collection management; acquire, study, and exhibit objects; and make meaning of the objects in their care. Pearce also explores the ideological relationship between museums and their collections and the intellectual and social relationships of museums to the public.

Puttnam, James (2009) Art and Artifact: The Museum as Medium, London: Thames and Hudson

From cabinets of curiosities to assemblages of found objects and imitations of museum displays, artists have often turned their attention to the ideas and systems traditionally embodied in the museum display, archiving, classification, storage and curatorship, which they have then appropriated, mimicked and reinterpreted in their own work. Citing a huge range of examples, James Putnam shows not only the ways in which artists have been influenced by museum systems and made their works into simulations of the museum, but also how they have questioned the role of museums, observed their practices, intervened in them and helped to redefine them.

Schaffner, Ingrid and Winzen, Matthias  (eds.) (1998). Deep storage: collecting, storing, and archiving in art. Munich, Prestel

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Many artists have discovered collecting and saving as an artistic expression and have made the storage of objects and information the subject of their work. This ranges from digital memory to rows and stacks of materials to shelves, packaging crates, installations, and entire areas filled with diverse objects stored systematically or in states of utter chaos. This publication documents the importance of collecting and packaging , storing and archiving as a contempoary artistic strategy. It lends insight into the process of creating art, which itself is a result of collecting experiences and materials, by using the work of 40 internationally celebrated artists as examples. In this book these archives of materilas become work of art themselves. The documentation and exhibition of these extreme departures from conventional forms of collection and recollection is a project in the avant-garde tradition. In accordance with its subject matter, this book is organized like a storage file of information, in which the broad spectrum of artistic contributions, essays and texts by 25 authors is presented alphabetically.


Spieker, Sven (2008). The big archive: art from bureaucracy. Cambridge, Mass. ; London, MIT

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This book investigates the archive as an overarching motif in twentieth century art, showing that the avant-garde used the archive as a laboratory for experimental enquiries into the nature of vision and its relation to time. It examines the work of Dadaists, Constructivist, Surrealists and the work of more contemporary artists like Susan Hiller, Gerhard Richter and Walid Raad. It considers archivally driven art in relation to changing media technologies (the typewriter, the telephone, the telegraph, film) and as an attack on the objectification of the historical process.

Taylor, Diane (2003) The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press 

In The Archive and the Repertoire Diana Taylor highlights the crucial role of performance in culture. She argues that performance must be taken seriously as a means of storing and transmitting knowledge. Taylor shows how the repertoire of embodied memory - conveyed in gestures, the spoken word, movement, dance, song, and other performances - offers alternative perspectives to those derived from the written archive and is particularly useful to a reconsideration of historical processes of transnational contact. She invites a re-mapping of the Americas based on traditions of embodied practice. Among the contemporary performances she considers are public demonstrations in Argentina over DNA and photographic identification of "the disappeared;" plays by Peru's leading theatre collective, Yuyachkani; performance artists Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pena's show Two Undiscovered Amerindians Visit...; astrological readings by Univision personality Walter Mercado; and Brazilian artist Denise Stoklos's Civil Disobedience

Thomas, David, Fowler, Simon and Johnson, Valerie, (2017) The Silence of the Archive, London: Facet Publishing

In recent years the popular media has reinforced the public image of the archive as the ultimate repository of facts and the hope of future generations for uncovering ‘what actually happened’. The reality is, however, that for all sorts of reasons the record may not have been preserved or survived in the archive. In fact, the record may never have even existed – its creation being as imagined as is its contents. And even if it does exist, it may be silent on the salient facts, or it may obfuscate or mislead by omitting important details.

The Silence of the Archive  draws attention to their many limitations. Silences or gaps in archives range from details of individuals’ lives to records of state oppression or intelligence operations. The book brings together ideas from a wide range of fields including contemporary history, family history research and Shakespearean studies. It describes why these silences exist, what the impact of them is and how researchers have responded to them.  It makes compelling reading for students of history, archives, librarianship and information studies, but it may also appeal to artists interested in exploring these gaps in a creative way. 


Vaknin, Judy,  Stuckey, Karyn and Lane, Victoria (eds), (2013) All this Stuff: Archiving the Artist, Libri Publishing: Faringdon

From their different viewpoints, fifteen leading artists, archivists and art historians reflect on the ways that artists and archivists deal with all the documentation of the creative process, and how artists manage and relate to their own archives. All This Stuff: Archiving the Artist provides artists with valuable insights into the archival process, addressing questions such as ‘What material should artists be keeping?’ and ‘What will happen to my material after it has been accepted by an archive?’ It also explores how an archivist or researcher can approach an artist’s archive in a non-traditional way. The experiences described by the different contributors will help to raise awareness among artists of the longer-term value of their archival material, and the unpredictable ways in which it may be recontextualised, explored and interpreted in the future.


van Alpen, Ernst (2014) Staging the Archive: Art and Photography in the Age of New Media, Reaktion Books: London

Since the 1960s, archival principles have increasingly been used by artists to inform, structure and shape their works. This includes practices that consist of archive construction, archaeological investigation, record keeping or the use of archived materials. Staging the Archive shows how artists read the concept of the archive against the grain, questioning not only what the archive is and can be, but what materials, images or ideas can be archived. Through a variety of media, methodologies and perspectives, the artists surveyed here also challenge the principles on which the notions of organization, evidence and documentation are built. Exploring the work of Marcel Duchamp, Christian Boltanski and Fiona Tan among others, Ernst van Alphen reveals how modern and contemporary artists have used and contested the notion of the archive to establish new relationships to history and information.