1. SAVE THE DATE! Study Sessions “After the Archive: Artwork and Document”
2. After the Archive: Artwork and Document [Statement]
Pablo Santa Olalla




ARXIU/AM is working on the organisation of the Study Sessions “AFTER THE ARCHIVE: ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT”, in collaboration with La Virreina Centre de la Imatge and the research project Global Art Archive (GAA, Universitat de Barcelona).

These Study Sessions, which will be held on 23, 24 and 25 October 2023, aim to open the debate on what works of art and art documents are and what they represent today.

Stay tuned and save the date!


Since the mid-twentieth century, diverse theoretical and practical approaches have addressed the complex relationship between art and the archive. One of the consequences is that today there is a certain entanglement between what is understood by artworks and by art documents. The Study Sessions AFTER THE ARCHIVE: ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT are intended as a space for debate and reflection on the distinction between these elements.

The experimentation of the 1960s and 1970s established conceptual and processual ways of doing, serial methodologies, the publishing of artist publications and the sending of proposals by mail. Discussions then arose about authorship and artistic agency at the moment of creation, about the exchange of roles in the artistic field, and about the supposed dematerialization of art; discussions that have a bearing on the link between artistic creation and documentation.

Many of these questions remained open in the following decades, in which the artistic installation,1 first, and the new digital media,2 later, generated a framework in which the document became increasingly relevant in the field of art. The multiplication of the artistic turns, and the extension of research-based art practices, just increased the visibility of those elements that are parallel to the artworks.

Today, a complex space is opening up between research, creation and registering, in which frictions of interest both for production and for the institutional sphere take place. The modes of presentation of art contemplate the joint exhibition of artistic productions – the artworks –, and of those materials that accompany them – the documents. Museums, art centers, galleries, and the people who work there, pay increasing attention to the documentary artistic heritage.3

In exhibition spaces it is increasingly common to find traces of the processes of creation, elements that provide context and even evidence of curatorial or historiographic artistic research, often under a certain archival fever that leads organizers to exhibit everything they have found.4 Sometimes, one can even visit documentary exhibitions in which the artworks function as mere subtexts or annotations within sets of documents. The excess of documentary information on view can saturate the visiting public.

The extension of archival procedures affects the production and dissemination, but also the conservation of art. The apparent indifferentiation between artworks and documents has led to an increase in the value of the latter, in an economic, aesthetic, conceptual and historiographic sense. It is not difficult to find collectors of documents related to contemporary art. And in this sense, in parallel to the causes and consequences of this higher valuation, it is necessary to question the value of use and access by the public.

Muntadas, Artwork/Document Diagram, 2023.

In art production, many contemporary artists make use of projectual, participatory and research methodologies involving fields beyond the artistic one. In their working processes, the documentary condition is very important. They make up archives and other accumulations of information and objects, the filtering and preparation of which can result in works of art. Sometimes, however, such collections replace the artworks, appropriating their finalist and auratic character.5 The role of the artist is reduced to just the act of collecting.

The Study Sessions AFTER THE ARCHIVE: ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT seek to open the debate on what artworks and documents are and what they represent today. The Faculty of Geography and History of the University of Barcelona is hosting a seminar on the subject. And at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge a series of working tables will be held. Both meetings are framed within the discussions on art and the archive that have been taking place since the mid-twentieth century, but they a different stance. From different approaches, contributed by professionals with different roles in the field of art, the aim is to analyze the distinction between the two main significant elements of the artistic activity.

1 Boris Groys, “The Topology of Contemporary Art”, in Antinomies of Art and Culture (Duke University Press, 2008), p. 74.

2 Lev Manovich, “New Media: a User’s Guide”, 1999. Available in: <http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/new-media-a-user-s-guide>.

3 Mela Dávila Freire, “(Hacer) explotar el archivo. La fricción entre patrimonio artístico y documental en la institución artística contemporánea”, en Revista de Occidente, febrero 2013, n.º 381, p. 38.

4 Claire Bishop, “Information Overload”, in Artforum, April 2023, vol. 61, n.º 8. Available in: <https://www.artforum.com/print/202304/claire-bishop-on-the-superabundance-of-research-based-art-90274>.

5 Boris Groys, Art Power (MIT Press, 2008), p. 64.

[ ESP ]
DOCUMENTOS Y ACTIVIDADES es un boletín de ARXIU/AM. Presenta recursos documentales y conceptuales destacados en la asociación-archivo, siempre en su idioma original. También las actividades más relevantes. Si deseas recibirlo, escríbenos a arxiu@arxiumuntadas.org o apúntate en el formulario que encontrarás aquí. ¡Muchas gracias!

[ CAT ]
DOCUMENTS I ACTIVITATS és un butlletí d'ARXIU/AM. Presenta recursos documentals i conceptuals destacats en l'associació-arxiu, sempre en el seu idioma original. També les activitats més rellevants. Si desitges rebre-ho, escriu-nos a arxiu@arxiumuntadas.org o apuntat amb el formulari que trobaràs aqui. Moltes gràcies!

[ ENG ]
DOCUMENTS AND ACTIVITIES is the newsletter of ARXIU/AM. It presents documentary and conceptual resources highlighted in the association-archive, always in its original language. Also the most relevant activities. If you wish to receive it, please write to arxiu@arxiumuntadas.org or fill the form that you will find here. Thank you very much!