Public Archive Works

The research and curatorial project Archive Public set out from a dialogue between the curators on archival public art, in the context of relevant research activities and art acts at the Laboratory for Visual Arts in the Department of Architecture of theUniversity ofPatras. It aspires to the creation of a broader productive collaboration network triggered by two theoretical research assumptions and an open body of works which tries out archival interventions in the public space of Patras, an urban condition which is under ongoing transformation. The first phase of the work was realised with the support of C. Carathéodory basic research program at theUniversity ofPatras. This edited volume contains theoretical propositions and interventions which sum up the first phase of the research, supplementing the internet platform of the work. It is not so much a catalogue that documents a closed body of works and theoretical propositions, but an operative guide which seeks to activate an open archival process, to create a frame of discussion bearing on the research assumptions, to produce new works and correlations among the works. Let us see this twofold publication as a living archive which invites further uses.

Within the flexible limits of archival art today, Public Archive suggests a particular research: it assumes that archival practices play a decisive role in the constitution of a (political) public sphere and the production of ‘agonistic’ interventions in public spaces which contest the dominant hegemony and allow for different scenarios of human co-existence. We would like to see what strategies of instituting, participation and collectivity can be organised by archival dispositives in order to be able to intervene in the reproduction of knowledge and identity in social spaces of co-existence and conflict in the European city. We are interested in the use and critical evaluation of the archive as a key agent in the formation of identities and memory, and in the archive dispositive as an apparatus that contributes to the creation of engaged spectators. We investigate the potential of archival practices to produce new articulations of speech and act among persons, social groups, institutions, practices, subjects, physical and virtual spaces, rather than their potential to establish a framework of collection and classification in public space.

In the two introductory essays we advance two hypotheses on archival art. The first construes performative archiving as public art which intervenes in the processes of the common formation of the archive, and emphasizes the political field of act and speech performance. The synchronicity of performance creates spaces of public co-utterance, as a possibility to connect different public spheres at different stages of the archiving process, experimenting with alternative forms of participation and collective writing. The second one looks at the archive as a democratic instituting art practice, with an emphasis on public power as potentia. The archive is seen as an in-law articulating practice which creates the conditions for a radical public space and the production of dynamic collectivities. Greek artists were asked to work on proposals which are informed by these two theoretical hypotheses and are developed parallel to and in dialogue with the relevant discussions in the internet platform, focussing on the particular urban, social and cultural context of Patras.

Τhe geopolitical condition of Patras, as a crossing point of transitional migration, and a gate to Europe on an important migration route from Middle East, Asia Minor and Africa, reflects the particularities of the specific context. The aim is to connect it with akin localities in a discussion which takes into account anthropo-geographical parameters and issues of cultural geography. Open to a globally interconnected migration nexus from the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe as well as from Middle East andAsiasince the ’90s, Patras has lost its mono-cultural character, while its public space remains inert and fragmented. The recent and abrupt influx of a great number of immigrants in the centre of the city generates difference and conflict but also the possibility of constructing new localities, new challenges and hybrid points of reference for a radical public sphere. It is obvious that the dominant forms of memory in the city (museums, monuments, anniversaries) represent stable notions of social identity and they are not always in line with contemporary transformations and the conflictual dimensions of urban life. We have looked for proposals which respond to the present reality of the city, inventing hybrid processes for the production of identities and public sphere.

These assumptions and practices are framed by a series of theoretical essays written by contemporary thinkers who elaborate on particular issues of the archive in relation to the public sphere and theories of democracy, the notions of institution and instituting practice, interventions in the shifting urban condition, the philosophy and archaeology of media as well as the global flows of migration and media.

Oliver Marchart’s essay addresses the relationship between political art practices and the public sphere, engaging with notions of space which have been developed by urban studies and political theory. He analyses the ways in which the category of public art has been reformulated by theorists such as Rosalynd Deutsche, in the light of the theories of democracy advanced by Claude Lefort, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. These theories focus on the pursuit of radical democracy, a universality based on contingency and the struggle for hegemony.

Gerald Rauning explores the importance of the transition from institutional critique to aninstituting practice which seeks to take part in the art of governmentality. He discusses questions of participation, self-organisation and archival production in relation to particular political art practices which are being developed in association with global or local social movements. In this perspective, art finds ways to escape its teleological closure in the dominant formations of the contemporary globalised condition.

In her essay, Saskia Sassen refers to the shifting meaning of the urban condition through the processes of globalisation and digitisation; she discusses the turn towards the politicisation of urban space in terrain vagues and in what she terms “global street”, where the notion and experience of locality is being repositioned in global networks. In this context, collective art practices through network media can create public space, constituting alternative “counter-globalities”.

Arjun Appadurai suggests that we see the archive as a practice of intervention that is opposed to the humanist ideology of the trace, but also as a collective project which carries the capacity to aspire as it can constitute an alternative site for identity and memory production outside the panoptic surveillance realm of the state archive. The ‘active, interventionist and open-ended collective building’ of electronic archives can contribute, according to the author, to the formation of a ‘new and heterogeneous sociology’ of ‘translocal’ communities which establish relations of identity and imagination in a global condition of media and migration flows. In this sense, the ‘living’ internet archive constitutes ‘diasporic public spheres.’

Boris Groys calls into question the stability of the cultural archive, seeking the conditions for the production of the New in the distinctions and the displacements of value between the valuable space inside the archive and the profane space outside. Groys relates the archive to the phenomenology of media and he develops the theory of the submedial space of the archive, where the media-carrier, situated behind the archival surface, remains opaque, invisible to the spectator, creating thus an ontological ‘regime of suspicion.’

Wolfgang Ernst criticises the generalised metaphoric use of the archive as memory and cultural accumulation, shifting attention to its functional and institutional order as it is shaped in the epistemologically different culture of digital media. Extending Foucault’s archaeological epistemology to the analysis of the hidden sites of power (arcana imperii) in internet archival infrastructures, he describes, from a media archaeology perspective, the paradigm shift as the archive changes from archival space to archival time, from storage mnemotechnics to active transmission.

Yannis Chorianopoulos’ essay offers a brief outline of the socio-geography of the city of Patraswhich provided the conceptual point of departure for the production of artworks in a broader network of relevant localities in the European territory.

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Archive Public
A research art project.

Within the flexible limits of archival art today, Archive Public practices archival art as intervention in public space, questioning the dominant hegemony and allowing for possibilities of solidarity actions. It aspires to the creation of a broader productive collaboration network triggered by two theoretical research assumptions and an open body of works which tries out archival interventions in conflicting urban situations, in Patras and other european cities.

The first phase of the work developed theoretical propositions and art projects in Patras, Greece. It was realized with the support of the C. Carathéodory research program at the University of Patras. An edited volume, Archive Public. Performing Archives in Public Art. Τοpical Interpositions, documents this first phase of the project, and is available from Cube Art Editions.

The book includes theoretical hypotheses on archival practice in contemporary art, art works that were specifically created for the project, as well as an anthology of essays by contemporary thinkers who elaborate on particular issues of the archive in relation to the public sphere and theories of democracy, the notions of institution and instituting practice, interventions in the shifting urban condition, the philosophy and archaeology of media as well as the global flows of migration and media. Interventions focus on the urban and social condition of Patras, as it is influenced by a translocal dynamics which produces interrelations with other localities.

Participating artists: Yota Ioannidou, Maria Konti, Gregorios Pharmakis, Lina Theodorou, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Vangelis Vlahos and Nayia Yiakoumaki.
Texts by Arjun Appadurai, Ioannis Chorianopoulos, Wolfgang Ernst, Boris Groys, Elpida Karaba, Panos Kouros, Oliver Marchart, Gerald Raunig and Saskia Sassen.

This multiuser weblog has been set as a working, exhibition and archival platform for the participants, to actuate different forms of collaboration. We plan to bring together theoreticians and practitioners from different cities and localities who are working on similar issues of archiving and intervention in the public sphere. We are seeking projects and theoretical works relevant to the Archive Public topics, as well as feedback texts responding to the art projects as they develop.

To submit a text or a project, please write at archivepublic{at}upatras{dot}gr

Panos Kouros-Elpida Karaba

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