The work of the archive is to categorise, classify, attribute and select. Archives are exclusive. What makes the archive such an attractive subject in art and social sciences, as we have increasingly observed in recent decades? The classical archive opens up the central question of how knowledge is classified via culture and history, how the past is recorded, which specific information is conveyed, and the efforts that are made to preserve knowledge and define it in continually new ways.
The artists featured in the exhibition make these procedures visible and take them as their starting point for questioning the conventions of the practice of archiving and developing different ideas of archiving. Here, the archive is understood as a place that opens up alternative narratives connected with the past and present. The archive is no longer a static construct; it becomes dynamic, an open structure, inviting us to break open established orders. It ensures that a given object can always be related to other objects; in contrast to a classical archive, no unequivocal classifications are made.
Georges Adéagbo and Stephan Köhler collect a variety of materials from different sources for their expansive installations: documents, photographs, books, paintings, objects. Everyday objects, art and artefacts are gathered together. The artwork “La colonisation Belge en Afrique noire”..! (2005/19), adapted for the setting in Leipzig, is concerned with the themes of colonialism and post-colonialism, the relationship between Europe and Africa, the representation of African art in an art system that is dominated by Western culture, and the mechanisms of the art industry. Art and cultural history are interwoven with political world history. Emphasis is placed on collecting practices and the museumisation of history. Their working method consists of a continuous process in which the individual elements of the installations are assembled to create a structure, fixed always on a temporary basis.
In “From Source to Poem” Rosa Barba shifts the focus from artworks into archival storage: Shot the film at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center of the Library of Congress in Culpeper, Virginia, and at an enormous solar power plant in the Mojave Desert in California, it juxtaposes images from the largest media archive worldwide with a study of rhythm and images of cultural production with those of industrial production. Like the temporal property of two things happening at the same time, “the interval determining the coincidence gate is adjustable”.
The 35 mm film exposes the preservation of cultural outputs, but also their digitisation for the future. A vast number of the archives’ holdings are sound material (audio recordings, wax discs, vinyl and LPs); a sonic memory which is recovered and mixed in the soundtrack as a mean to set in motion otherwise unlikely dialogues.
In a narrative and associative way, Andreas Grahl relates his own artistic work, set in STUDIO LO Leipzig 2019, to collecting activities from the 16th century. His installative arrangements are reminiscent of the forerunners of public collections, the so-called chambers of curiosities, or natural history collections from that period. Art and cultural history are thus interconnected with the artist’s own artistic position on many levels. For his installation in the exhibition, Andreas Grahl reconstructs his studio space in Leipzig, making it accessible to a wider public.
For her work Apokryphen (Apocrypha), Ricarda Roggan photographed objects and legacies belonging to well-known personalities, philosophers, writers and composers. Among these objects we find pencils and letter openers, or a rastral used for drawing staves. Our knowledge of who their owners were creates an auratic charge that we can hardly escape. Apocrypha are things that lead a shadowy existence, stand outside the centre of things, do not belong to the canon of legacies. In the collection and constellation Roggan has compiled, they form a community, each of them being one of many. Roggan is building a new archive; she questions not only the objects themselves, but also the process, the selection and the information content of things that are conserved.