Theoretical Seminar ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT

26th and 27th October 2023.

New dates: 23rd, 24th and 25th Octobre 2023.

Facultat de Geografia i Història of the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) – Aula Magna (Main Hall).

This seminar is part of the Study Sessions “ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT”, organised by La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, the research project Global Art Archive (GAA) of the Universitat de Barcelona (UB), from an idea of ARXIU/AM.

Muntadas, Working Diagram for “Artwork and Document”, 2023.

Contemporary modes of presenting art contemplate the joint exhibition of artistic productions – the artworks – and of those materials that contextualise them, whether they are the result of a previous formal or conceptual work, or of a subsequent analysis – the documents. A complex space opens up between creation and record, in which there are interesting frictions both for the artistic practice and for the institutional sphere of contemporary art.

Since the mid-twentieth century, artistic production has directed significant efforts to dissolve the radical distinction between artworks and documents. The experimentation of the 1960s and 1970s established processual and projectual modes of art making, in many cases ephemeral, as well as serial, participatory and archival methodologies. It also encouraged the production of artist publications and the proposition of art through the media. Discussions then arose about authorship and artistic purpose, about the exchange of the roles in the artistic field, and about the so-called dematerialisation of art, all of which affected the space between artistic creation and its documentation. Many of these discussions are still active today, and have become even more complicated with the multiplication of the artistic turns, such as the ethnographical, the educational, the archival or the documentary.

In institutional structures, as in museums and art centres, but also in their documentation centres and archives, as well as in instances of the art market, there is still a certain separation between artworks and documents. The former are part of the main collections, have a central visibility and, in general, a high market value. The latter are located in repositories and collections parallel to the main collections, and are acquired not only because of their lower cost, but also because of a certain inclination of the institutions to think of themselves not only as places of conservation and dissemination, but also of research. Despite this operational separation, however, museification strategies are increasingly contemplating the joint presence of both elements in exhibition spaces. Some institutions are even turning away from distinguishing between artworks and documents in their technical preservation processes. Likewise, exhibitions include not only art documentation, but also other extra-artistic materials that provide context.

The debate on the raison d’être of artworks and documents has spread to the whole field of art, affecting production, dissemination and conservation. In relation to this phenomenon, it is worth posing some questions that allow a critical analysis of the situation: At what point does a document become an artwork, and vice versa? Who has the agency to produce this transformation? What are the fetishisms that affect one element and the other? Is the artwork the final and unique result of the artistic practice, or can the document come to replace its auratic character? And, in this case, is the authorial accountability in the creative process the same? Do artistic and extra-artistic documentation function in the same way when they enter the regulated space of the art exhibition? Are museification and patrimonialisation the same for an artwork or for a document?

Faced with this set of questions, it is productive to open the debate on what artworks and documents are and what they represent. The research project Global Art Archive is organising a theoretical seminar, which will take place at the Facultat de Geografia i Història of the Universitat de Barcelona, as part of the Study Sessions “ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT”. The aim of this seminar is to identify different critical approaches that analyse the causes and consequences of these processes of distinction and intermingling of the two main significant elements of the artistic event. The Theoretical Seminar ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT will have two keynote lectures by Sven Spieker (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Wolfgang Ernst (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin). During the study sessions, the seminar will be accompanied by discussion meetings with professionals from the field of art, which will take place at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge.

The theoretical seminar will be divided into two panels, in relation to artistic production and the museification of artworks and documents. Proposals must be explicitly assigned to one of these panels, addressing one or more of the following topics:

  • Research papers that address the radical distinction – be it ontological, in terms of aims and purposes, in terms of meaning, on a processual and/or material level – between artworks and documents in the field of contemporary art.
  • Case studies and genealogies of critical practices and theories – artistic, museographic – that underline or question the open space between artworks and documents, especially in reference to how these elements are collected, catalogued, evaluated and assessed.
  • Theoretical or theoretical-practical studies on the role of new media and information and communication technologies that affect the categories of “artwork” and “document”, with regard to the production, museification and patrimonialization of contemporary art.
  • Analysis around concepts such as the “fetishism” of artworks and documents (T.W. Adorno, E.H. Carr), as well as other processes of “loss” and “recovery” of “aura” (W. Benjamin, B. Groys), of “remediation” (Bolter and Grusin) and the like.
  • Critical analysis of aspects of agency and authorship, as well as economic and patrimonial valuation, of artistic and institutional practices framed in the complex territory between artwork and document.
  • Research on museographic and exhibition devices, especially the most innovative and critical ones, that address the issues of dissemination and access to the artworks and the documents of contemporary art.

On the basis of the proposals received, we will consider the feasibility of producing a thematic issue of the journal Revista de Estudios Globales y Arte Contemporáneo (REG|AC) of the UB for the year 2025, coordinated by Prof. Anna Maria Guasch (UB) and the researcher Pablo Santa Olalla (Universidade Nova de Lisboa).


  1. Proposals are accepted for papers of maximum 25 minutes.
  2. The deadline for submission is 15 May 2023 inclusive.
  3. Submissions should consist of a title, an abstract of maximum 300 words, a short biography of the author(s), and a contact email address.
  4. Proposals should be sent as a single PDF attachment, with the subject “ARTWORK AND DOCUMENT”, to the following email address: obraydocumento@gmail.com.
  5. Proposals will be accepted in Spanish and English.
  6. No travel or accommodation stipends will be offered and, although priority will be given to face-to-face presentations, online presentations may also be considered. In this case, this should be indicated in the proposal.
  7. All abstracts will be reviewed by the scientific committee of the seminar, and the results will be communicated by mid-June 2023.
  8. For any other questions, please write to obraydocumento@gmail.com.


Scientific Committee: Anna Maria Guasch, Antoni Mercader, Antoni Muntadas, Andrea Nacach, Pablo Santa Olalla.
Organization: Global Art Archive (GAA), Universitat de Barcelona (UB).
Coordination of the theoretical seminar: Anna Maria Guasch, Pablo Santa Olalla.