Art from Archives: The Archival Trend in Contemporary Art and Culture

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Martyn Jolly


If the archival mode has been important over the last thirty years, it will only continue to become more important in the next thirty years. In the fifteen years since Lev Manovich wrote The Language of New Media, in which he identified the database with its operations of searching navigating and viewing as the new-media correlate to the novel and cinema with their operations of narrative storytelling, databases have only increased in scale, complexity and ubiquity — at an exponential rate, as is the case with all technologies. Archives are being uncovered or created at an unprecedented rate, digitized at an unprecedented rate and made searchable at an unprecedented rate. New ways of interrogating the archive, new ways of searching metadata and new ways of presenting iterations from the archive, such as more complex data visualizations, are being developed. At the same time photographs are manifesting themselves in a wider range of material substances — etched in stone or glass, printed on cloth or metal, projected on walls and buildings, and sliding along LED arrays or screens. But the story isn’t all about the seductions of new media. The more artists and historians work in this area, the more they realize that there are still troves and troves of objects and images, laid down in all their recalcitrant materiality by those who came before, just waiting to be rediscovered and reinvented.

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Archives, Memory and Place from the Canberra Perspective (PEER REVIEWED)


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