Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'll Show You

I had to think about performativity when listening to the talks on archives. Especially the ones about archiving music where pertinent, as it was clearly shown how these archives, by collecting things without use that would have been thrown away, in the action of collecting were creating a community of sorts. This was also true for the artwork that collected stories from female prisoners and drug users, which by exhibiting the stories was creating the voices. However, what was interesting is the boundaries that these examples showed, since these actions of archiving always seemed to focus on the underprivileged or obsolete. In these examples, what is actually done is that the archivists voice is detached from the things archived and he or she seems to be speaking for people or communities. This is most clear in the prisoner example, but even with the LPs, meaning is assigned to an object that the collectors felt very differently about than the original users.
The question is, what is actually being archived? In these cases I think it was not what was originally there but a interpretation phrased differently what was perceived to be originally there. However, I do not want to criticize this, since i think it is the only way to approach the subject and it manages to challenge our assumptions of archives and especially museums. By showing the position occupied by the collector and by the archive (in these cases a record label to enable consumption and an activist piece of art), these position are not assumed. Whereas a museum often in its definition has some kind of defining authority over its archives even when it allows its visitors to read the objects in different ways, these archives also reveal that was s archived is an act of choice.
The records collected did not aim to show the most popular LPs or even the ones most worth saving fro aesthetic reasons. They were the most eclectic and the ones most interesting to the collector. They were saved since they could find a niche and be marketed to a certain audience. What is preserved is not the original intention of the author, the original community they were made for or the context they were created in. What is being preserved is how they are read today.
Similarly, the voices exhibited in the artwork, were always shown to be deeply connected to the artist. She narrates the introduction and the conclusion and treats herself in the same way she treats her subjects, i.e. viewers can jump over her voice or jump to certain sections of her introduction that seem pertinent.
So what I think these examples managed to show is how performativity can be done for certain people as well and the limits and dangers in this.

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