What Is a Living Archive: Curating the ‘unruly’ materiality of Contemporary Art

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Just as archival practice shapes our engagement with and understanding of cultural histories, the ‘unruly’ materiality of conceptual, performance and time-based art demands living archives as sites of creative intervention and public interaction. This challenge shapes the development of experimental curatorial practice making contemporary art archives visible and accessible particularly through embodied and remediated memory. What performative, collaborative, participatory approaches to interaction with contemporary art archives can we develop to enhance our understanding of the significance of these artists' work? This paper seeks to address this question by reporting on the findings from the 'Curating Living Archives' research project between 2021-22, which explored the potential of oral history, open-source practices, new media conservation and performance commissioning as potential curatorial tools to activate time-based artworks selected from the unique performance art, mail art and video art collections at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD). The paper will reflect on the project's workshop-based collaborative approach and outline contributions and insights shared by artists, curators, archivists, and conservators about the challenges and opportunities arising from contemporary artists' 'unruly' approaches and the changeable materiality of artworks in archives of time-based art. This approach maps a contemporary and ever-evolving field where curatorial and conservation cultures intersect and inform DJCAD's work in developing the REWIND Artists Video Collection, the Alastair MacLennan Archive and The Attic Archive Collection established by Pete Horobin in 1980. The paper will specifically focus on the commissioning of a new online work, A Script for an Archive: Women, by Holly Davey, addressing issues of gender representation in archival spaces, seeking to connect the experience of women artists past and present to question 'How would you like the future to be?'.

    Shaking The Archive - Reconsidering the Role of Archives in Contemporary Society. The last decade has seen an exponential rise in scholarly work on archives and preservation.

    This 3-day hybrid conference aims to engage with diverse sectors and subject areas to explore how archives can be interrogated, reimagined, and represented.


    ConferenceShaking the Archive
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • Archive
    • curating contemporary art

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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