Saturday, May 1, 2010

Archives; A Panel Discussion at Whitechapel Gallery

A Panel Discussion: The Archive at the Whitechapel Gallery was chaired by Lisa Le Feuvre, an independent curator and writer. The discussions brought insights from Melanie Manchot, an artist who has worked with material from archives as instigation for her own work, from the gallery’s Archive Curator, Nayia Yiakoumaki, and from Marysia Lewandowska, an artist who is currently creating an online archive of recorded material from the 1980’s.
For her project Celebration (Cyprus Street) Melanie Manchot utilises the photographic archive at the Whitechapel Gallery for inspiration. She draws on traditions of group portraiture at public street parties, and her work explores individual and collective identity through photography and film.
The film is shown alongside a new series of photographs made with the residents and a display of archive footage of street parties, such as peace parties in 1919 and 1945. Celebration (Cyprus Street) is part of the Gallery’s Education Programme, which commissions artists and explores the relationships between the Gallery, public spaces and community.
Nayia Yiakoumaki has recently completed her Doctoral studies Curating the Archive: Archiving the Curator. Her insights into the formation, content and future of the Gallery's archives was fascinating.
Mayysia Lewandowska spoke about her creation of The Women’s Audio Archive which was established in 1985 when she moved from Warsaw to live and work in London. From an obsessive process of recording which marked the first engagement with cultural life in a new context and acted as a form navigational procedure performed for a personal use, she decided that the closed collection should be made publicly available. This involves negotiations with various authors securing the new terms of use open to all. The project consists of taped conversations with women involved in different aspects of cultural production as well as recordings public lectures and conferences between 1983-1990 in England, USA and Canada.
The archive is hosted at the Library and Archives of
Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College contains over 50 hours of material featuring amongst others Susan Hiller, Judy Chicago, Mary Kelly and Donald Judd. The movement from Private to Public domain of this archive has not been without its problems and the thorny issue of copyright has proved a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

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