The Archive: Definitions and other Nightmares

The Archive:
Definitions and other

Archives are a curious concept. The process of putting things together, dividing them up into smaller categories and organizing them according to a distinct pattern ends up being far more intriguing than one would normally expect. A government holds neatly organized records of its’ citizens information, a bank uses databases of client accounts, a single woman/man keeps his/her past lover’s numbers in a little black book, while the Internet enlists the world’s available knowledge just with a single search engine. The Archive (with a bold capital A) is a force, distilled with bold power that comes with organization. It becomes quite evident that the perspective and manner through which we decide to compose The Archive is exactly what puts us in the privileged spot of controlling it, and at the same time proves the kind of significance it carries. No wonder that the biggest anarchists of the 19th century targeted state archives, as a means of breaking down the system.


                           “The supreme law of the State is self-preservation at any cost. And since all States, ever since they came to exist upon the earth, have been condemned to perpetual struggle a struggle against their own populations, whom they oppress and ruin, a struggle against all foreign States, every one of which can be strong only if the others are weak and since the States cannot hold their own in this struggle unless they constantly keep on augmenting their power against their own subjects as well as against the neighborhood States it follows that the supreme law of the State is the augmentation of its power to the detriment of internal liberty and external justice.”               Mikhail Bakunin                                  


Organizational power aside, how could we really cope with the connections between a well put together list of information and whatever we came accustomed to define and understand as Art?

It all begins with History, in its‘ strictest marxist connotations. Exhibitions may come and go, but the gallery remains, point of departure and a destination. From intuitive space specific Installations and politically motivated painting, to playful sculptural works carrying memories from our childhood and captivating video art narrations, each work goes on to find its rightful place at a new home. At the same time they become integral part of a list, they are documented in an excel file, they get their specific picture record on a Filemaker database and they find themselves surrounded by other exhibitions under the “previous” button in a gallery website.  


noun \ ar·chive \ ˈär-ˌkīv \


And then the power factor comes in the equation. Yet what makes this archive vastly different from any other kind of Archive is the nature of the source material as well as the perspective of its composition. The works are to a gallery something deeply personal and vital. They are not like what a client’s account balance is to a bank, nor a last year hookup to a jolly bachelor. They are the vital components of its’ own history, the present that goes on to become a past, and a past that transcends into the territories of a lost memory.  For those 3 to 4 months of the duration of a current show, they become the occupants of its plain white walls and void spaces, they breathe fresh air and play with its visitors thoughts and feelings. They cannot be restraint into simplistic informational patterns completing a coldhearted powerful Archive (with a bold capital A), but illustrate a soulful dialogue with the gallery and put together a personal archive (with a small plain a).

In that sense the nightmare of defining and understanding The Archive as a theory and concept ends up in the case of a gallery’s relationship with its artist’s works somewhat of a dream.

A dream one dreams wishing to never wake up.



Dreaming is to be understood as the involuntary process of experiencing a dream. (i.e a series of thoughts, images and sensantions)