Tracing a line

Sandra Blow blown up.



The collections of books and images in art classrooms, available in galleries, on the internet, all represent an archive. As Mbembe reminds us when working with archives we construct narratives and linear progressions from fragments of information. The desire to construct a whole story that does not and cannot exist need  to be resisted, it is illusory. There is a political element in the selection and construction of narrative that must be worked with, involving situation and stories that exist close by, within reach. In this way both teachers and students might feel a collective ownership recognising their own times, habits and cultures.

‘Through archive documents we are presented with pieces of time to be assembled, fragments of life to be placed in order, one after the other, in an attempt to formulate a story that acquires its coherence thorough the ability to craft links between the beginning and the end. A montage of fragments thus creates an illusion of totality and continuity. In this way, just like the architectural process, the time woven together by the archive is the product of a composition. This time has a political dimension resulting from the alchemy of the archive: it is supposed to belong to everyone. The community of time, the feeling according to which we would all be heirs to a time over which we might exercise the rights of collective ownership this is the imaginary that the archive seeks to disseminate (Mbembe, 2002 p21)’


Achille Mbembe The Power of the Archive and its Limits P21


Refiguring the Archive

edited by Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Michèle Pickover, Graeme Reid, Razia Saleh, Jane Taylor