What is a Living Archive? Curating the Unruly Materiality of Contemporary Art

Gaps in our knowledge regarding the collection and long-term preservation of time-based contemporary art practices are recognised and reflected in recent years by research projects launched in the UK and internationally. These include Collecting the Performative and Performance at Tate, focusing on preserving new media and performance art in support of new institutional collections. Furthermore, oral history projects like What’s Welsh for performance? led by Professor Heike Roms at Aberystwyth University, brought a unique insight into the history of performance art in Wales, uncovering artists’ private archives and leading to their inclusion in exhibitions and collections. Most recently, the UK-wide ART360 initiative brought the preservation of ‘at at risk’ cultural heritage of independent contemporary artist’s archives by funding artists and estates to catalogue, organise and protect archives that are not, or not yet, in national collections.

In Scotland, time-based media art preservation projects (such as REWIND, REWIND Italia, Demarco Digital Archives European Women’s Video Art Collection and the Demarco Digital Archive), the partial acquisition of The Attic Archive, and the recent acquisition of Alastair MacLennan’s performance art archive made University of Dundee a new centre for collecting post-1970s ephemeral, multimodal, processual, and networked art practices. The research explores – from a curatorial perspective – what happens with materially or conceptually ‘unruly’ artists’ archives once they are part of institutional collections. 

  • Unruly Archives at DJCAD

    When we say ‘unruly archives’, we mean archives of contemporary art that don’t easily fit within existing institutional collections and can’t easily be maintained or curated by conventional means. The unruliness of these archives might be due to either artists’ ambiguous / critical relationship to institutional practices, or the artworks’ multi-modal, networked, processual and changeable nature. REWIND Archive The Demarco Digital Archive The Alastair MacLennan Archive The Attic Archive 

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  • Team

    Dr. Judit Bodor (Principal Investigator) Judit Bodor is a contemporary art curator, educator and researcher specialising in time-based art and site-specific curating. Her PhD, entitled ‘Exhibiting the Ivor Davies Archive of Destruction in Art’ was an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award between Aberystwyth University and National Museum Wales. Judit is currently a Lecturer and Baxter Fellow […]

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