The expressive archive : defining a genre

Tennant, Carolyn
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Miller, Branda
Staniszewski, Mary Anne
Lusztig, Irene
Ruiz, Kathleen
Rouse, Rebecca
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Electronic arts
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How do artists employ the archive as a creative medium in the production of contemporary art? In the conventional sense, archives, and the related space of the museum function within an assumption that their collections are presented without bias, without fiction, as evidence. Today the archive is seen by artists as a nonlinear entity that de-territorializes and de-stabilizes the museum, gallery, and traditional exhibition venues. Based upon art historical research and my own artistic practice, I have developed a new framework for analyzing and producing archival art: it is what I call the Expressive Archive. In my dissertation I use the Expressive Archive as a method to analyze contemporary artists who work with archives. Additionally, I have employed the Expressive Archive as a genre in my practice-based research and the production of Meiko and The Grove, a series of works that include Medium: Between a Traveler and a Monument (2018), Meiko’s Knole (2019), and Berthe: Pig girl among the debs (2021).There has always been a tension between truth and fiction within the archive, and the Expressive Archive makes these concerns visible by intervening with a set of curatorial and artistic strategies. The Expressive Archive interrogates the institution of the archive, expanding the conflict between fact and fabrication, document, and forgery. It subverts taxonomies and other archival traditions, exposing the biases inherent in the traditional archive, and reveals the hand of the artist. As a genre, works using the Expressive Archive demonstrate the ways that the archive operates to reinforce power. With this unveiling, the Expressive Archive suggests a way to radically re-imagine the archive as an artistic practice.
August 2021
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of the Arts
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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