Nicolas Bourriaud on ‘Archive’

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About Archive

Now the world has been mapped by satellites, and nowhere is unknown, artists are exploring history as a new terra incognita. Artists mine both their own archives and those of institutions or organisations, connecting chains of ideas. They remix, re-present and re-enact, using the past as part of an understanding of the present. ‘With Nathaniel Mellors, Olivia Plender, Ruth Ewan or Spartacus Chetwynd, references to the past are co-ordinated according to a system of cognitive logic. To understand the present means carrying out a kind of rough-and-ready archaeological investigation of world culture, which proceeds just as well through re-enactments as through the presentation of artefacts – or again, through the technique of mixing. For example, Ewan installs a giant accordion from an Italian museum; it plays old revolutionary songs to accompany the reproduction of archival documents. Chetwynd, in the same work, can scramble Milton, Marx and Sesame Street; one of the constant features of her oeuvre is a playful use of forms not considered as relics of the past but as living tools that we need to grasp in order to create new narratives. In a similar way, Peter Coffin extracts the narrative potential of existing works of art by employing an audiovisual setup that parasitically appropriates their meaning and puts them to work as fictional characters.’ Nicolas Bourriaud, Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Tate Publishing, 2009 (p14).