NEW YORK.-The International Center of Photography presents Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, on view through May 4, 2008. One of the most compelling issues explored by artists in recent years centers on the nature and meaning of the archive, that is, how we create, store, and circulate pictures and information. This widespread investigation examines the archive as both a conceptual and physical space in which memories are preserved and history decided.
Organized by renowned scholar and ICP adjunct curator Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition presents works by leading contemporary artists who use photographic images to rethink the meaning of identity, history, memory, and loss.
No single definition can convey the complexities of a concept like the archive. The standard view evokes a dim, musty place full of drawers, filing cabinets, and shelves laden with old documents, an inert repository of historical artifacts. Against this we have another view of the archival impulse as a way of shaping and constructing the meaning of images. It is this latter formulation that has engaged the attention of so many contemporary artists. Archive Fever explores the ways in which artists have appropriated, interpreted, reconfigured, and interrogated archival structures and materials. The principal vehicles of these artistic practices—photography and film—are also preeminent forms of archival material, and artists have used them in a variety of ways. The works presented here take many forms, including physical archives arranged by unusual cataloguing methods, imagined biographies of fictitious persons, collections of found and anonymous photographs, film versions of photographic albums, and photomontages composed of historical photographs. In spite of the diversity of subject matter, these works are linked by the artists’ shared meditation on photography and film as the quintessential media of the archive.