Proposal for a roundtable at 98weeks/ Some archival questions following the March Meeting

98weeks has started a research on artistic and cultural magazines published in the Middle East from the 40s on. Above a scan from the Egyptian magazine, Kitabi. The first part of this research will be presented at the Bidoun Library, at 98weeks PS in April 2010.

Just got back from the March meeting in Sharjah, a useful 3 day event to map the work of associations and artists operating in the Middle East, and to link with nice people.
Many presentations converged around "the archive".

You had's web platform ( where to upload/ download digital footage, which, more than reflecting on the nature of the document, it's historical value and artistic reinterpretation, was entirely focused around the use of digital footage, ways of navigating the material and what could activate in terms of community. There is no distance separating the material's accessibility/ production/ distribution. The material posted online also does not refer to one specific field (art/ documentary), its categorization spanning from art to health and medicine to found footage. One can also choose to browse the material by year, author, director, date, duration...
Basically ,what has created is a living archive, archiving itself while it is being consumed. Rather than creating a visibility that relies on highlighting selecting and excluding material/ others, it creates a navigational mode where the user chooses what to select and how to select it.

It was interesting to think Okwui Enwezor's interpretation of the archive together with's. Here are some of the notes that I took during his talk:

not simply emblematic
archival modernity (critical transaction, new pictorial experience… against photographic trace) photo record (appearance of the statement as a unique event) unique: analogue of a substance. mechanical inscription. accurate description, ability. time and event, image and statement. world as image. archival record; archiving machine…a priory, archival object. making the archive visible (system..the machine itself..a priory archival. disjunction temporal event and the attempt to systematize these events into a body of knowledge. archival production… gigantic machine time, anthropological (family album, yahoo, my space, we live in an archival edge…) one of simultaneity , temporal gap, gradually been obliterated. thinking historically in the present. standard unity (witness the war…) new archival economy. organized form of representation (form) civilization can’t be described exhaustively.. within these rules…what we can say fragments, regions etc… ground the archive, is already impossible. against his archi consignation. (Derrida) gathering… archive as economy of signs…signals of trigger. Hans peter Feldman 1) mimic the archive 2) archive as media how to reconcile the archive the archive with the national ?

The archive is fragmentary, it is an apparatus which presupposes exclusion and control, etc. ect.
I agree.The problem is that his reading of the archive is curatorial in the sense that it relies on the curator (he even noted that the curator selects what he wished highlight from this material. He is the reader) The curator reads the archive through the artist's often individual practice, which becomes the repository of the archive, its activation and interpretation. Although Fiona Tan has an intricate extra national background, her use of footage will be use in a national pavilion, at the Venice Biennial, in a room with a comfortable gray carpet were visitors can sit and watch (interesting to compare with Aernout Mik's sitting display in the same pavillion). And this is fine. The problem resides more in that the use of that footage and what it can produce remains confined to the curator/ artist/ public relation and is read through this constellation, produces a discourse there, and most probably uniquely there.

There could be more to talk about but I want to throw out a couple of questions and try to gather soon at 98weeks Project Space around the question of the archive;

-Is there a difference in treatment, archiving mode, reading when the material being archive is historical?

-Can the archive be a fetish AND something else ?

-How to counter the value associated with historical archives and research ?

-What is the relation between the researcher's/ artist's reading, articulation and selection of the material and the material. Can the material's meaning be given through the gesture of collecting and gathering rather through a historical/curatorial reading?

-How do we deal with the question of copyright in relation to historical material, private collections, artist's interventions etc.

-What open source system can we think for the history of modern Lebanese art (for 98weeks, the story of modern magazines).

-How does the knowledge produced on the archive depend on its form and accessibility?

Please continue the list.