Archive: from the retrospective to the generative

#1.1 Georgia Spickett-Jones

The hypothesis – that the archive as artwork challenges the notion of history as a discourse based primarily upon chronology and documentation – no longer presupposes a stable and retroactive archive, but often a generative one. [1]

Traditionally, an archive is seen as a physical collection of documents, chronologically organized. These documents are mostly originals and have a historical, cultural or evidential factor, constituting what we perceive as ‘facts’. It only exists in relation to a space, as that is the physical manifestation of this entity – the arkheion [2]. With the evolution of media and the dissemination of information - culminating perhaps with the Internet – the traditional understanding of the archive, its components and the space that inhabits started changing significantly and used as means and medium for artistic practice. For the purposes of this essay it is significant to try and understand, not only what can be the status of an archive and of its contents, but also – and maybe more importantly – how can these contents’ authority changes in relation to its subjects. How do these systems of relations with the ‘so called’ factual information are manifested and subverted through the artistic practice? For that matter there is an analysis of Georgia Spickett-Jones’ work in order to better unpack these questions.


[1] Osthoff, S. (2009) ‘Performing the Archive: The Transformation of the Archive in Contemporary Art From Repository of Documents to Art Medium’, New York, Dresden: Atropos Press, p.12

[2] The archive’s material base or substratum, as defined by Derrida, a house, a domicile, an address, the residence of the superior magistrates, the archons, those who commanded. The citizens who thus held and signified political power were considered to possess the right to make or to represent the law. On account of their publicly recognized authority, it is at their home, in that place which is their house (private house, family house, or employee’s house), that official documents are filed. The archons are first of all the documents’ guardians.
(Derrida, J. (1997) ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics Vol. 21, No. 2)