Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas
International Center of Photography
Was it Joseph Cornell’s dossiers on ballerinas and artists that first proposed the model of the archive as a creative storehouse, a vehicle for the ordering of chaotic fragments? Over the past 30 years, successive generations have taken wide-ranging approaches to archives, most of them (like Cornell) concentrating on photographic and filmic collections. Organized and written by renowned scholar and ICP Adjunct Curator Okwui Enwezor, and taking its title from Jacques Derrida’s book of the same name, “Archive Fever” gathers leading contemporary artists who use archival materials in the fabrication of their work. As Derrida notes, the Greek etymology of “archive” connotes both “commencement” and “commandment,” implying that authority is as much at stake as authenticity. For artists, of course, these imperatives provoke all kinds of exciting opportunities for eccentricity and falsification, and the works included herein take many forms, including physical archives arranged by bizarre cataloguing methods, imagined biographies of fictitious persons, collections of found and anonymous photographs, film versions of photographic albums, and photomontages composed from historical photographs. These images offer a wide-ranging subject matter but are linked by the artists’ shared meditation on photography and film as the quintessential media of the archive.
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