Local Positioning Systems: Identity in the Archive
Dore Bowen and Liena Vayzman
Where is your work located in the shifting terrain of the art world? How are your practice and its documentary traces found by the search engine of history? What sorts of identifying tags do you apply to position your practice: photographer, artist of color, community activist, gender, sustainability, LGBTQ, interdisciplinary artist, curator? How do you document, sort, and archive not only what you produce, but your professional identity as well?
Linking the quotidian tasks we do to negotiate a career path to larger aesthetic issues in photography, this hybrid workshop approaches the concept of identity in the archive in three ways: in terms of recent exhibitions, photo-based artistic practices, and professional development. Beginning with a look at some formative concepts and exhibitions that helped found the language for what Hal Foster calls the "archival impulse," we will lead a discussion that explores the strategies used by artists and curators to interrogate organization, structure, typology, and identity. Exhibitions and founding concepts discussed include Jacques Derrida's Archive Fever, the ICP exhibition of the same name, the WACK exhibition, Carl Linnaeus' classification system, and Arlette Farge's Le gout de l'archive. We will connect these founding concepts and exhibitions to international and local photo-based and media artists who employ an archival impulse in their worksuch as Christian Boltanski, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Annette Messager, Sophie Calle, Walid Raad, Nomi Talisman, Beth Lilly, Hasan Elahi, Paula Levine, and EG Crichton. Contemporary practitioners mine and create data archives, departing from the way earlier photographers, like the Bechers, categorized and typologized forms in the industrial landscape.
In this context, the presenters will explain their own work within this archival discourse. Dore Bowen will discuss two exhibitions she co-curated, "Not Given: Talking Of and Around Photographs of Arab Women" at SF Camerawork (2007)which interrogated how gender and racial identity is linked to individual photographs by way of keywords in the Arab Image Foundationand "Early Man on a Modern Road," a site-specific installation interrogating the narrative of human evolution at the Musée de Prehistoire des Gorges du Verdon (2009). Liena Vayzman will discuss her "Lemon Tree Project: Abundance and Decay," a photographic counter-archive of molding fruit portraits, and the curatorial projects "Chance Operations," and "Night Light," which she co-organized at the Climate Theater, SF, as well as her curatorial work at Artists Television Access, SF (2008-09), including Maria the Korean Bride's wedding performance series, focusing on interventions within and against the grain of archival authority.
We will then conduct a practical component linking these aesthetic and curatorial strategies to professional development. Participants will be guided to consider what they do every day when applying for jobs, professional opportunities, exhibitions, or grants their own archive-making -- as a way of forging artistic identity within the logic of larger archival systems. Reframing the artist statement and related professional development materials within the greater context of identity in the archive, the workshop will include a hands-on activity concerned with locating one's place in the art world. Thus, this workshop provides an opportunity to extrapolate the abstract idea of the archivewhich at first seems related to art productionto daily life and professional development.
The two hours of the workshop will be divided into presentation, discussion, and hands-on activity. Participants will gain insight into the intersections of archive and identity, particularly the ways their own professional development activities such as writing artist's statements or choosing language to name their practice position their work in a larger archival logic.