Historiography, Memory, and the Contemporary Archive

Texts that discuss the concept of the archive and how its context and meaning have changed in the contemporary technological climate. The bibliography focuses on concepts of nationalism/power, historiography, memory and the role of film and ephemera in primary research.

These texts explore the problems surrounding archiving ephemeral artwork/installations and works that relate specifically to the content of the immersive spaces of Expo 67: Man and His World – through discussions of human geography, colonial conquests of power and space, virtual travel through immersive spaces, national representation and historiography, and technological advancement and innovation.

  • Amad, Paula.
    Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday, and Albert Kahn’s Archives de La Planete. ” Chapters 4: No more written archives, only films.” & ” Chapter 5: ‘ The anecdotal side of History.” New York: Columbia University Press: 2010.
    Paula Amad takes up the photo-archive of Albert Kahn, combining an examination of French modern philosophy, film theory, documentary, and the Annales school of history and temporality. The book examines film’ s implication in the construction of human geography and colonial ideology – two conquests closely linked to historical archival pursuits. The book is a mediation on film’ s central role in the transformation of the archive in the 20th century, which challenges truth claims and changes the landscape of how history is made. Counter Archive provides a useful historical reading of the debates between archives, media, and memory.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre.
    The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia, 1993.
    Bourdieu elaborates a theory of the cultural field which situates artistic works within the social conditions of their production, circulation and consumption. He examines the individuals in institutions involved in making products: not only the writers and artists, but also the publishers, critics, dealers, galleries and academies (and here one could add archivists). He analyses the structure of the cultural field itself, as well as its position within the broader social structures of power.
  • Derrida, Jacques.
    Archive Fever: a Freudian Impression. Chicago: University Press, 1996.
    Archive Fever, is a meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology, but mainly a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving. He specifically questions what it means to do so in contemporary society where the boundraries between public and private space are being reshaped by media, specifically email. Derrida traces the archive from its origins in power and place to its often intangible contemporary role.
  • Doane, Mary Ann.
    The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive. Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002.
    Doane explores ” cinema’ s essential paradox” – temporal continuity through the rapid movement of still images. The book confronts this paradox, examining the instability of the image and its relationship to modern ideas of continuity and discontinuity, archivability, contingency and determinism, and temporal irreversibility.
  • Elsaesser, Thomas.
    “The New Film History as Media Archaeology.” Cinemas. Volume 14, numéros 2-3 (Spring 2005) 75-117.
    In “The New Film History as Media Archeology” Elsasser states that cinema studies needs to let go of the boundaries between “old” and “new” media in order to move forward in the digital era. He turns to early cinema studies as a methodology because of the way that it encompasses a constellation of viewpoints when considering cinema – exhibition, distribution, subject positioning, and technological advancement. New media is asking scholars to consider similar questions regarding “techniques of information, and a process of inscription, storage and circulation” (78). Elsaesser’s idea of media archeology would build on the methodologies of early cinema but also include a praxis “family tree” or “family relations” of medias that are linked or share commonalities in order to examine how these histories influenced one another or push against one another.
  • Foucault, Michel.
    The Order of Things. New York: Vintage, 1994.
    The book opens with an extended discussion of Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas and its complex arrangement of sightlines, hiddenness, and appearance. Then it develops its central claim: that all periods of history have possessed certain underlying conditions of truth that constituted what was acceptable: visible – accepted as truth. Foucault argues that these conditions of discourse have changed over time, from one period’s episteme to another. History as archeology acknowledges the power relations of what is revealed and concealed in one period to another and allows for gaps and fragmentation in history to be discovered instead of ironed into linearity.
  • Grau, Oliver.
    Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. USA: MIT Press, 2004.
    In this book, Oliver Grau shows how virtual art fits into the art history of illusion and immersion. He describes the metamorphosis of the concepts of art and the image and relates those concepts to interactive art, interface design, agents, telepresence, and image evolution. Grau retells art history as media history, helping us to understand the phenomenon of virtual reality beyond the hype. He traces immersive cinema through Cinerama, Sensorama, Expanded Cinema, 3-D, Omnimax and IMAX, and the head mounted display with its military origins. Grau offers not just a history of illusionary space but also a theoretical framework for analyzing its phenomenologies, functions, and strategies throughout history and into the future.
  • Griffith, Alison.
    Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
    —-. “Time Traveling IMAX Style: Tales from the Giant Screen.” Virtual Voyages: Cinema and Travel. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 238-258.
    In these two texts, Alison Griffiths, through a series of historical case studies, explores the architectural spaces of the medieval cathedral, the panorama, the planetarium, the IMAX theater, and the science museum. Griffiths explores how the spectator’ s desire for immersion and interactivity has redefined the architecture of the cinema and museum space. In so doing, they demonstrate how attention to the role of travel imagery in film blurs distinctions between genres and heightens awareness of cinema as a technology for moving through space and time, of cinema itself as a mode of travel.
  • Lütticken, Sven.
    “Viewing Copies: On the Mobility of Moving Images.” e-flux. 8: 2009.
    In this article, Lütticken discusses in the circulation of moving images outside of mainstream distribution networks and explores how cult value and aura are certainly alive in well in the fact that researchers still have to travel the distance to museums and galleries to see video or film pieces. However in the era of YouTube and filesharing ” the economy of the rarified object becomes ever more exceptional, placing ever-greater stress on the viewing copy as a means of granting access to work beyond the ‘ official’ limited edition and outside of the exhibition context” (e-flux). Viewing copies are solely created for private research purposes and never for public consumption, and their circulation amongst academics are done in semi-secrecy, and often copies are made (predominantly in VHS format) that further degrade the quality of the image in the act of transfer. The issue around the quality of the image in contemporary culture sits at two poles. On one hand, we are moving into hyperrealism with research being taken up yet again around IMAX and 3-D, in addition to high definition television and blue ray. Yet the desire for the crisp detailed image is discarded online. The immediacy of access seems to override our desire for the ‘ truest’ image. Lütticken exclaims, ” Viewers have a great capacity for ‘ correcting’ these conditions in the mind, for imagining the ‘ proper’ presentation” (e-flux).
  • Merewether, Charles. Editor.
    The Archive: Documents of Contemporary Art. Cambridge: Whitechapel, 2006.
    In the modern era, the archive-official or personal-has become the most significant means by which historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored, and recovered. The archive has thus emerged as a key site of inquiry in such fields as anthropology, critical theory, history, and, especially, recent art. The archive is no longer viewed as a neutral, transparent site of record but as a contested subject and medium in itself. This volume surveys the full diversity of our transformed theoretical and critical notions of the archive—as idea and as physical presence— from Freud’s “mystic writing pad” to Derrida’s “archive fever”; from Christian Boltanski’s first autobiographical explorations of archival material in the 1960s to the practice of artists as various as Susan Hiller, Ilya Kabakov, Thomas Hirshhorn, Renée Green, and The Atlas Group in the present.
  • Nora, Pierre.
    “The Reasons for the Current Upsurge in Memory”. Transit,-Europaeische Revue. No. 22, 2002.
    “We are witnessing a world-wide upsurge in memory. Over the last twenty or twenty-five years, every country, every social, ethnic or family group, has undergone a profound change in the relationship it traditionally enjoyed with the past. This change has taken a variety of forms: criticism of official versions of history and recovery of areas of history previously repressed; demands for signs of a past that had been confiscated or suppressed; growing interest in ” roots” and genealogical research; all kinds of commemorative events and new museums; renewed sensitivity to the holding and opening of archives for public consultation; and growing attachment to what in the English-speaking world is called ” heritage” and in France ” patrimoine” . However they are combined, these trends together make up a kind of tidal wave of memorial concerns that has broken over the world, everywhere establishing close ties between respect for the past-whether real or imaginary-and the sense of belonging, collective consciousness and individual self-awareness, memory and identity.”
  • Prelinger, Rick.
    Keynote. Future Histories of the Moving Image. Conf. University of Sunderland. Sunderland, UK. 17 Nov. 2007. http://www.futurehistories.net/
    Prelinger highlights current issues in media archiving, with a call to arms in regards to open source collections. The Internet Moving Image Archive, which now holds a vast amount of the Prelinger collection, is one example of a digital open source archive. While cultural media theorists, historians, and archivists are hesitant to support open source archives for the remixing, sampling, and free use of their images, Prelinger supports these artifacts being accessible. What is the purpose of protecting moving images if they are inaccessible to the public?