Feriancova, Petra: Archive and Collection 2012


A creation of archive is understood as an activity which preserves daily objects in terms of their impermanency. I would like to talk about the creation of archive motivated by inner need of every individual preserving things of daily use in order to find them a new purpose in future. This text is not, by far, about collection of trophies, victims nor winnings.

It is possible to archive anything even the things of daily use such as daily press, mails, posters, invitations or products with date of expiration.

Probably everyone can remember from our history not so long time ago that we used to keep plastic bags with interesting pattern or Coca-Cola cans etc., and not only because of childhood. The relationship between us and the things changes reflecting society, period we live in and also our social status. In the moment of archiving the collector changes original function of the object into whatever he or she wishes. The object can also represent a collector´s subjective time measurement or replace a particular time period that in the process of archiving becomes historical which projects collector´s own experience. It can transform utilitarian conversion of author´s moment into a work of art. The object by its new contextualization changes the sequentiality, writes history itself and also to its surrounding which are other objects around and they apply the same vice versa. Archiving as well as collecting are the activities controlled by passion, very often close to neurotic, compulsive and manic behavior balancing in the spectrum of several psychiatric diagnosis. The difference between psycho-pathology and creativity, if in this case there is any, is many times a matter of slightly perceivable nuances.

Hording is a type of diagnosis indicating accumulation. On one hand it refers to unsystematic accumulation caused by inability to throw away (maybe as compensation for fear of loss) or on the other hand systematic accumulation whose advanced form may be just archiving.

If we dig deeply into reading Asperger’s syndromes, we will surely be left with the feeling that this tiny little form of autism precisely describes a behavior of ideal archivist. For people with AS but also for neurotic ones (this type of people behaves with huge amount of passion) are characteristic strong moreover obsessive interests in one or several topics which they study in incredible details and they excel at them.  An importance for systems, orders and necessity for repetitive stereotype (caused by fear of change) and specifically detailed memory are the factors that play an essential role in their lives that predict them to work with archives and collections. They say, if a child with AS is asked to do something, make him or her put it in order first. In fact, a mental order is not similar to standard imagination about its form. Then, we will probably not be able to ignore the fact that archive in artistic world is often a result of diseases and defects mentioned above.

Archive and collection are both created retrospectively in its own abidance. The abidance is resistant to author’s “cleaning” (selecting). The importance of “survival” of archive may be considered as a masterpiece. Even without any further additional author’s interventions. However, the criteria of “only enduring” may lead us to hesitations about the value of art at all, but archive is an art. Anything can be called an art if it is created and considered so by its artist. An artist is free to make use of a coincident, circumstance, own passivity or laziness, as well as wide range of methods from appropriation, improvisation, postproduction to production out of author’s control. Archive is in constant change due to author’s choices whether it is with every new summarization or confrontation with public. The shape of work is formed by the moment fixed to its current state which is becoming for the present moment final. It is not easy to show the archive (it has been formed in its volume, shape and content that is no longer able to be shown). For instance, Tomáš Pospiszyl, a curator of current Július Koller´s exhibition in Prague, presents Koller´s archive dressed in white coat, with white gloves and with an assistant who continually displays in front of a group of maximum 10 people single pages from the box tematically organized, (e.g. archeology, cosmonautism, USSR etc.) It is interesting that Koller never showed his archive before, however, it played an important tool in his research covering wide diapason of his interests, but at the same time it was a part of Koller´s message, his letter. Whether it comes to archive selection or its access by differet specific way, confrontation with public is usually difficult. Basic purpose of archive is to preserve a message (even confidential) related to present but shown later.

The fact that approach to work of art is individual, archive plays more role of a author´s  self-realization. It can be considered as a diary. Yet, reading a diary with excitement does not happen very often, not even to an author himself. Even diaries are written with the purpose to be filed and not opened. (at least, as it is with archive, unless they bring all memories back into life. It is the same as if we are able to look at the pictures taken in the past without disgust. It is not by far because we have forgiven ourselves for what we looked like, but more that we are aware of our current situation realizing that it is even worse.)

Archiving or writing a diary comes from a long term repetitive need and it should capture dailiness. Even the most absolute form of archive is nothing more than author´s personal estimation and his or her choice of moments. The moments worth writing down, memories and the rest chosen to be forgotten. As of W. Benjamin’s confession about his book collection which meant for him the same as “..... as for Proust his buscuits or lime tea-  a key to the rain of returning memories.” Then collector or archivar becomes an individual executor of this activity, not because he would own valuable things which are already worth for their historical status, but for their contextualization in terms of subject, and to themselves. It is then absolutely natural to have conflict or lets say misunderstaning with viewers. The confllict is set by its different meaning to an author vs piece of art and each viewer vs his or her openmindness who is confronted with author’s personal evidence.

Relocation, re-selection or postproduction of an archive or a collection is just an author’s vision of a new organization of the world, universe or history. Walter Benjamin refers to     so-called historical system: “Collecting with its effort for allness is ambitious to overcome absolute irracionality of a poor being of an object by integration into new for this purpose created system, thus into a collection.” By historical attribute Benjamin does not expel its subjective origin. On contrary, if an individual is able to create a collection, he or she can be also considered as a creator of history. Basic characteristic of archive creation is negation of real time and forming your own time instead. Beside the fact that a collection is a time collecting, time creating, it also generates the time by creating its new form. An activity that measures the time (diary, archive, collection) together negates the time, if you like interfere with its basic feature- constant moving. The real time is replaced by “other” time. Jean Baudrillard consideres the time as essential in terms of creation of collection. He says: “ In fact, the biggest power of collecting things neither comes from their uniqueness nor their allocated historicity. Mentioned above does not say why the time of collecting is not a real time, it is the organization of a collection which replaces the time. That is, with no doubt, the basic function of collecting: to dismiss the real time  in systematic dimension. Hobby, curiosity, prestige, social discourse can lead into deeper mutual relationship ( which will never outreach the group of its fans), by no means we mainly talk about ‘killing the time’. Collecting literally kills the time.”

Creation of archive or collection as well as their systematization are created retrospectivelly. The function of a begining is allocated at the later stage. The begining of collection does not make sense until repetitive performances. Only after repeating a certain activity we are able to name or if you like to define the very first one. By continual repeating we become familiar with the things we assure ourselves in their easiness and thus exclude the fear of danger of unknown. Kierkegaard’s hero deliberately gives up the relationship with his lover, because he wants to keep it as memory, not in reality but only in his imagination, so that he can keep her ideal in his head. Repeating or trying to repeat already known cases negates time moving. Continual repeating gives us a feeling of constancy- a time stop. A collector collects from a personal exigency, this act is repeated from a simple need of repeatency but also from a need of progressive repeatency thus getting closer to the end, referring to development and a final stage of a piece of art. The creation itself consists of many repetitive rounds, or at least unconditional training, otherwise single act would not fulfil its purpose.

Collecting may be a starting point for a memorial whose main feature is beside survival and constant need of enlarging the sequel, creation of a platform for expanding. Whether it comes to desire for perfection which becomes its effect or motive power of repeating of certain activities or in case of expansion, thus time stop, a collecting can be considered as a manifest of basic human momentum that means approaching God, to stay alive and live imortally. 

Finishing the master-piece refers to idea of perfection which is mostly described by death. A death of a collector- a subject. A perfection happens to be in this case accomplishment, thus the end, something that leads collecting to the final stage by its fulfillment. We talk about imaginary end which becomes important for its contrast with end resulting from a coincidence or a situation ( such as missing space, archive disposals, changes in motivation, changes in ways of maintance, selling, giving or death). A perfection is equivalent to death in the totality, in the absolute and in our imagination because we do not really know and we are not able to find out. The awarness of absurdity for accomplishment of knowledge shapes a frame of perfection which is comparable with the knowledge of godship. Only God can be perfect. He is at the same time a Creator and the creativity is what we have in common, human beings are able to be creative, too.

A creation of archive/collection is a creative activity, a fight with a time, replacing real time with fictive time that is our own time, forming subjective history and system coming from the knowledge of our own mortality. The main idea is to leave a message about our time for the future or for those who will take over the collection/archive.