Case Study

How Do You Archive the Sky?

November 2015

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “Archive … the term has become so productively elastic.”

– Debra Levine1

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 “The archive has become the battleground of a cultural war between those who see culture as based on identity and those who see it based on difference.”

– Morten Søndergaard2

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 “This always-departing body presents too its own history and timeframe, its delimiters and politics, but also a somatic reflection of this information, to allow work to remain present, in a moving changing shifting vehicle.”

– Julie Tolentino3

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Archives, like bodies, are not static. As time passes, their material nature is at risk of deterioration, loss, or destruction. Archives themselves are marked by removals and gaps. Their meanings will change over time, depending on the contexts in which researchers interpret, select, and edit them. If they are mutable, why do arguments surrounding archives so often rest on the assumption that archives are, by definition, resistant to change?4 Perhaps this is because the formal definition of an archive is “a place in which public records or historical documents are preserved.”5 In stressing preservation as the archive’s principle activity, the archive as understood in this definition indicates the permanence of paper documents, images, ephemera, realia, and other “physical” remains that may consequently contribute to the appearance of resistance to change. Or, perhaps archives are perceived as static because archives are often associated with long histories and traditions of state power and authority. As Jacques Derrida famously argues, “There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory.”6 Derrida is often cited for reminding us that the word archive derives from the Greek arkheion, the house of the Head of State where documents were filed, organized, and made available by way of magistrates, connecting the archive’s housing of physical material to practices of political governance.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Here in the United States, a well-known example of such an archive is the US National Archives in Washington, DC. Emblazoned on the façade of the building are the words, “This building holds in trust the records of our national life and symbolizes our faith in the permanency of our national institutions” (my emphasis). The National Archives was built as a monument to the past, and the words on its façade immediately draw the viewer’s attention to the archive’s characteristics of legacy, preservation, and institutional endurance. Such monumentalization frequently frames both the archival and artistic fields’ understanding of how archives produce the conditions for the narrating of history.7 Archives as institutions of memory have placed great weight on their own powers to preserve the past. According to Blouin and Rosenberg, archives themselves “served and reinforced traditional historiographies and authorities.”8 Yet, as the authors point out, the processes of social memory also create counter-authorities; consequently, “the very purpose of historical archives past and future became a contested subject, along with their practices of appraisal, acquisition and preservation.”9

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Figure 1. Transfer of Charters of Freedom to the National Archives. December 15, 1952.  Retrieved October 10th, 2015 from The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.Figure 1. Transfer of Charters of Freedom to the National Archives. December 15, 1952. Retrieved October 10th, 2015 from The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 If archives have been presumed to be resistant to change—in spite of the contested nature of the histories they produce—archivists themselves have been implicated in assuming the traditional role of “custodian of knowledge.” Blouin and Rosenberg have illustrated how archivist Hilary Jenkinson, writing in 1965, posited that the archivist’s professional role was based on assuming a passive and “non-interventionist position” when it came to working with the materials in their collections.10 Archivists were perceived to be objective “custodians” of the records in their care, acting independently of personal biases and historical judgment. This logic also subscribes to the notion that by accurately preserving these records we can retain objective truth through notions of historical documents as authentic. However, writing in 2001, archivist Terry Cook demarcates a significant change in the role of the postmodern archivist, “For archivists themselves, the postmodern shift requires moving away from identifying themselves as passive guardians of an inherited legacy to celebrating their role in actively shaping societal memory.”11 In other words, archivists today acknowledge that they are not merely custodians tasked with guarding the gates to a static entity. Instead, the work that they do has the power to shift and alter the structure and meaning of archives themselves.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The archival field has, in recent years, experienced an important turn away from locating historical authority as the eminent value of archives. This contemporary archival paradigm has been described as a “questioning paradigm” by John Ridener, who explains, “The archivists who work within the questioning paradigm have attempted to link their contemporary work with the archivists of the past while problematizing the assumptions previous archivists took for granted. The result is an intellectualized and subjective approach to a formerly practical and objective point of view.”12 This contemporary paradigm for archiving does not devalue but rather emphasizes the subjective. In doing so, archivists working in the field have been re-examining the purpose of archives as sites of permanence and monumentalization.13 As archivist Verne Harris has suggested, “Archivists cannot avoid complicity, for institutionally (and often legally) they are positioned within structures of power. But we can work against its pull and for me it is a moral imperative to do so.”14

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 In the wake of these reassessments of the archivist’s role, this essay considers what it might mean to acknowledge that the archivist can work against structures of power while being simultaneously positioned within them. What is the value of considering the subjectivity and ethos of archivists themselves, and acknowledging the conflicting ideologies at play in their work? What are the implications of considering how the work of archiving arises from the work of singular bodies with particular investments, subjective interpretations, specific contexts, and sets of social relations? I do not necessarily mean that such contexts or subjectivities must be put forward in didactic, idiosyncratic, or willful approaches to contextualization and meaning. Rather, as we consider new models for radical archiving today, I wish instead to emphasize that the field of archives has itself been guided by diverse paradigms over time, and that these multiple paradigms difference archival practice from within the archival field’s own history and practices.15 As archivists continue to reconsider their professional practices, I emphasize how archivists have valued the creative and subjective labor that underpins the creation of archives themselves. In doing so, the work of the archivist transforms the concept of the archive from a static site to a dynamic scenario in which the archive itself undergoes perpetual re-examination.

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14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Bodies in/as Archives

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Archives, like bodies, inherently resist the hierarchical, Aristotelian logic that is associated with cataloging and standardization.16 Archives are often messy and nonlinear. Their nature inherently resists the protocols of standardization found in library catalogs. In fact, existing systems of bibliographic control are often opposed to the concept of respecting original order in archival theory, which states that the archivist should respect the “organization and sequence of records established by the creator of the records.”17 While the very nature of archives indicate their difficulty in conforming to pre-existing standards of order, their inherent capacity to generate distinct, personal, and subjective modes of organization may be one of their most important and generative aspects.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 To expand on archives’ inherent dynamism and subjectivity, and to further disrupt the notion of archives as static and permanent, I wish to turn to the work of performance artist Julie Tolentino. In her work, Tolentino challenges the traditional ontology of the archive—and its basis in documents—by proposing that performance can be archived “into/onto the artist’s body.” Her project, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME (2008-ongoing) conceives of the relationship between performance and the archive as interdependent. THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME consists of a series of collaborations with artists in which Tolentino’s body serves as archivist and archive of a particular performance by another artist. Over the years, Tolentino invited a number of collaborators—including Ron Athey, Franko B, David Rousseve, Stanley Love, and Lovett/Codagnone—to select a work from their own performance practices. These works were subsequently archived by, upon, or into Tolentino’s body. A well-known example is THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Archiving Ron Athey’s Self Obliteration #1 (2011) in which Tolentino re-enacts the work, with Athey performing first and Tolentino following in ritualistic succession.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Exploring the body’s potential as both a medium and container of record, Tolentino’s collaborations are grounded in individual contracts between Tolentino and the participating artists. Tolentino’s project is producing, “a map of body-specific, contextual, and practical differences between each performance and its archive,” suggesting that the contents of performance archives “should not be valued for how closely they resemble the thing they seek to preserve, but for their fidelity to delineate difference.”18 Here, Tolentino proposes that archives, traditionally valued as sites of preservation and stasis, also have the potential to delineate transformative differences in the meaning of their content for the future, valuing both the original and the continual process of reinterpretation that it must undergo in order to be retrieved in the present. In the fall of 2013, Tolentino enacted her latest instantiations of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME at the New Museum in New York for the exhibition, “Performance Archiving Performance,” curated by Travis Chamberlain. The exhibition brought together artist projects—including works by Jennifer Monson, Yanira Castro, and Sara Wookey—that drew upon the concept of the archive as a medium for artistic work, and explored ways in which performance might present a record of itself. Driven by theoretical and pragmatic questions about the function and constitution of archives relative to performance, the artists involved in the exhibition had disparate practices and different relationships to, expectations of, and desires for archives in relation to their own performance work, as well as in their approaches to archiving the legacies of others. Through these projects, the acts of archiving became as much a part of the artwork as the performance itself.19

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 At the time of the exhibition and artist residencies, I was working as the New Museum’s first Digital Archivist, with my role situated with the Department of Education and Public Engagement. During the course of Tolentino’s participation in “Performance Archiving Performance,” I engaged Tolentino and Chamberlain in a series of discussions surrounding institutional archives and how they might relate to performance. While connections between Tolentino’s model of archiving and those found in the professional archives field may seem abstract or incommensurable, in speaking with Tolentino over the course of her engagement at the Museum, I came to draw many parallels between the issues explored in THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME and how I myself have come to think about archives. By considering Tolentino’s archiving performance piece alongside the recent history of changes in archival theories and ethics, I was reminded of the increasingly outmoded notion of archives as static, immutable sites. I propose that both Tolentino’s work and contemporary archival practice suggest the possibilities of subject-specific, contextual, and affective approaches to archives.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 In Tolentino’s project, the site of performance—its position in time, space, and form—was placed in question so that the actual process of archiving could be interpreted as its own mode of performance. Tolentino’s performance helps us reassess earlier positions in performance theoryfor instance, theorist Peggy Phelan’s well-known contention, “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance.”20 Phelan’s account of performance’s ontology as based on disappearance occludes the possibility of transmission via the encounter of bodies with one another. In contrast, Tolentino’s project suggests instead that performance is not completely lost through what Rebecca Schneider calls “body-to-body transmission.”21 Rather, performance might be kept alive, reinterpreted, and differenced through such transmission, as Tolentino considers the body itself to be a means of recording, thereby considering the body as an archive and as part of the archiving process. For each enactment of THE SKY, Tolentino is less interested in achieving a correct transmission of seminal works of performance than passing these performances on with a difference, suggesting variations inherent to or brought upon the original by way of its current contextualization.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 For THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME at the New Museum in 2013, Tolentino archived Weighted (2010), a piece by the artist duo Lovett/Codagnone. In contrast to the original piece, which was performed by two people, in this new iteration of the work, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Lovett/Codagnone’s Weighted, John Lovett, Alessandro Codagnone, Julie Tolentino, and Stosh Fila perform the work in sequential pairings. The work engages in repetition, in a four-hour durational sequence. Repeated in the score is audio from Arundhati Roy’s essay in the Guardian, “The End of the Imagination” (1998). The phrase, “There are other worlds. Other kinds of dreams. Dreams in which failure is feasible, honorable, sometimes even worth striving for,” repeats throughout the performance; its loop and reminder of imperfect attempts accentuate the variations in the work itself. When Tolentino archives the work onto/into her body and the bodies of others, the shifts make legible how past work is continually reframed in the present encounter between artists, their audiences, and the history of and present instance of a work.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Figure 2. Julie Tolentino.  THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Lovett/Codagnone’s Weighted. November 23rd, 2013.  Image: Gigi Stoll PhotographyFigure 2. Julie Tolentino. THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Lovett/Codagnone’s Weighted. November 23rd, 2013. Image: Gigi Stoll Photography

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23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 How might THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME—conceived outside of the realm of traditional archives and special collections—further extend the question of subjectivity in the work of professional archivists? Coinciding with the various questioning and subjective paradigms in archiving, Julie Tolentino’s project also interrogates values of monumentalization and permanence by considering how traditional archival logics privilege material remains. The project explores how the body might itself be a repository. In engaging this question, the artists who Tolentino collaborates with all produce radical performance art dealing with issues of embodiment, and many have done so since the 1990s. Like Tolentino’s own work, theirs confronts issues of sexuality, gender, race, ritual, and disability. To their work, Tolentino brings her distinct knowledge and embodied experience in dance, and her own history of involvement around the AIDS crisis, its communities, and the subcultures of caretaking and social activity around it. Archiving the work of another artist includes, and is transmitted through, Tolentino’s own practice, persona, and embodiment. Consequently, each work is conducted through a very different body and person, which teases out different dimensions of the work itself.22

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 In writing about Ron Athey’s work, Tolentino has reflected on the nature of bodies as archives: “Our saturated bodies serve individually as perfectly-inadequate archives worthy of a leather-daddy boot shine, a perfect reunion-by-slow-dance in a mirrored ballroom, or maybe just a messy blow job.”23 Here, Tolentino suggests that there is value in archives as imperfect vessels, drawing attention to the fact that archives are not, in fact, perfect containers of events. Yet, this imperfection might contain its own abundance, as it is “saturated”; this imperfection is also that which makes “reunion” of relations old or new, and connections of desire. In archives, such connections abound between researchers and their objects, archivists and their repositories, donors and their materials. Tolentino intervenes in the notion of the archive as stable and passive through actively collaborating with living artists to shape the nature of the archived work. She asks, “If the archivist is the person who gathers, reviews, organizes and offers presentation modes to the public, then THE SKY project also offers an emphasis on not only a disintegrating archiving body, but too opens into an artist’s own voice, agency and contribution for this particular endowed work’s archiving process.”24

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Cultural theorists have often positioned the body as proffering radical challenges to the “static” nature of traditional archives. According to Diana Taylor, “The relationship between the archive and the repertoire too readily falls into a binary, with the written and archival constituting hegemonic power and the repertoire providing the anti-hegemonic challenge.”25 In her effort to realign the philosophical privileging of writing over embodied knowledge through a rich study of performance practices, Taylor ultimately presents the archive as a stable entity in order to defend the radicality of historically disadvantaged performance. Even as we explore the radicality of performance, we might also consider how the archive is itself a radically mutable site. As Debra Levine has proposed in speaking about Tolentino’s work, “The body as an archive of performance undermines the institutional stability of the archive, for it can only be constituted if performance is expended.”26

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 I question the commonly perceived notion that an institutional archive is static and inflexible. Such arguments reinforce a detrimental binary between notions of the archive as stable and monumentalizing, as opposed to the inherent radicalism of ephemerality in liveness and performance. Instead, we might consider Rebecca Schneider’s critique of such dualisms, as she reminds us, “If we consider performance as ‘of’ disappearance, if we think of the ephemeral as that which ‘vanishes,’ and if we think of performance as the antithesis of preservation, do we limit ourselves to an understanding of performance predetermined by a cultural habituation to the patrilineal, West-identified (arguably white-cultural) logic of the archive?”27 In taking up Schneider’s proposition of challenging traditional archival theories, I also want to suggest that we continue to question the notion of the “logic of the archive” as something that is fixed, all-encompassing, and unvaried across numerous and diverse archives and repositories. Just as performance does not necessarily always embody the antithesis of preservation, archives in their plurality do not only embody the ideals of stasis, objective truth, and monumentalization. If artists such as Tolentino have pointed to the imperfections that are a vital part of the processes of archiving performance, we should also note that this exists alongside archivists’ own interest in theorizing imperfection, absence, and interpretation. Rather than suggest that aesthetic practices offer a panacea or corrective to archives, we might instead consider how contemporary aesthetic and archival practices have developed parallel lines of critique and possibility.

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28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Archives and their Subjectivities

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 If archives have long privileged—or have been perceived to privilege—“site-able” /material remains,28 archivists such as Lisa Darms have also pointed out the importance of their gaps and intangible remains. Darms has proposed that “speaking about the gaps can be a form of documentation,”29 to suggest that what is missing can be as important as what remains. Indeed, historians have also taken up the generative and informative potential of a hermeneutics of absence in how they read and interpret archival contents.30 Things that are not saved, omissions, lost memories, or audience experiences are themselves telling of the subject’s or archivist’s priorities, and the process of archiving can draw in oral histories, new interpretations, and speculative thought. While archives do reflect aspects of events they represent, these traces (archival remains) are often fragmentary and marked by inconsistencies and gaps in terms of coverage. Tolentino, in turn, acknowledges that re-performance is not an infallible apparatus of capture. Her work does not seek to become a static time capsule, but instead creates a reinvention that is more about activating memory in the present, versus repeating it.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Over time, archivists have begun to acknowledge the impossibility of creating an objective record of past occurrences, acknowledging that archives are selective, and that memory is fallible. The notion of the archive as a utopic compendium of total knowledge is outmoded. Today we understand that archives are always reconstructive, always-already incomplete, and should never be in thrall to a singular narrative.31 Completeness is an impossible goal, and there are no absolute truths to be found in the archive. Rather, by assuming that archives are incomplete, archivists would make greater efforts to account for gaps and inconsistencies in the record, responding with more description, and increasing their efforts to connect different bodies of archival material, to piece together competing facts. This way, they will build more complex histories that could account for the co-existence of contradictory and multiple narratives.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 As artist and archivist Julie Ault recently stated in an interview with Marvin Taylor, the Director of Archives at Fales Library, “Archiving is yet another one of those fields that has, to some degree, come out of the closet to understand itself as a form of creation and production imbued with subjectivity rather than an objective bureaucratic practice.”32 Signifiers of this notion of “coming out of the closet” have been apparent within the archival field for at least a decade. The field of archives as a discipline, as any other discipline, experiences different paradigms that will continue to shift and change. The Society of American Archivist’s “Code of Ethics” is a good example of how archival standards have changed over time, particularly around the subjectivity of the archivist. In 2005, in the section covering “Judgment,” one would have found a stipulation that archivists “should not allow personal beliefs or perspectives to affect their decisions.”33 This Code of Ethics was revised in 2012 through the collaborative efforts of professional archivists.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 In the 2012 edition, a different approach to the role of the archivist foregrounds the archivist’s role and perspective. The former stipulation that required objectivity on the part of the archivist was removed, and in its place a new section emphasizing multiple subjectivities in the archiving process was added. This section states, “Archivists should carefully document their collections-related decisions and activities to make their role in the selection, retention, or creation of the historical record transparent to their institutions, donors, and users. Archivists are encouraged to consult with colleagues, relevant professionals, and communities of interest to ensure that diverse perspectives inform their actions and decisions” (my emphasis).34 These differences in the Code of Ethics mark an important change that will undoubtedly and necessarily continue to be revised into the future. However, that is not to say that the issues present in the field can be resolved solely by amending a professional code. Rather, the changes in the code suggest that the very act of archiving is necessarily subjective and relational, and that such subjectivity must be diversified, debated, and documented. Further, the very existence of a code, professional guidelines, or principles of organization and practice, are themselves effects of social relations, changing contexts, as well as interpersonal and collective agreements and disagreements.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 The archival profession has turned away from objective and permanent presumptive logics in archival theory and practice. Current practices supplement the questioning paradigm with a social turn that advances a greater appreciation of the value of embodied knowledge, processes of interpersonal negotiation, and broader social relations within the archiving process. The production and maintenance of archival material reflects both personal as well as empirical information, just as live performances do not disappear, but endure and are remade in embodied remembrance, muscle memory, and transmissions of affect. By attending to the personal and embodied aspects of archiving, we might consider how active and mutable archival materials can be, even in the present.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 I think that THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME and the work of contemporary archivists share a common project. Both suggest the power of archives to reincarnate a non-determinate past in the present, and to pass it on with a difference. Tolentino’s project offers an alternative view of the archival field’s notion of the “enduring value” of archives.35 In looking at her work alongside current archival practice, we might recognize that this enduring value is neither determinate, nor is it unified; instead, it is manifestly non-determinate, dynamic, and reincarnated through the work of archiving (whether upon the body, in paper, or in the digital realm). By emphasizing how the endurance of value must itself be reincarnated over and over again, we might recognize, following Taylor, how performance, its repertoire, and the archive are all continually mediated. Such mediation is simultaneously technical and affective, personal and social. Archives are valuable not only for their material remains, but also for what is intangible and unquantifiable; they are important because of the connections they make, the identifications and disidentifications they produce, the forms of reinvention they make possible, and the possibility of relationality and community that they open onto. They are valuable for the many subjectivities they involve—whether of those who do the archiving, of those who consent to have their thoughts and traces archived, of those who are accidentally archived, and of those who interpret these values with values of their own.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 We might also think of the value of the archive in terms of what comes after its preliminary formation as a collection. How might we consider the desires of future generations, and what they might want from us? What will they want to remain? Perhaps they will want to understand the decisions that went into the creation and description of an archive, and the process of such decision-making. This will include things like documentation of provenance and custodial history. Perhaps those in the future will want access to material remains—and my use of “material” here encompasses both paper and digital archives—but, as Tolentino’s project has shown us, there is a desire not only to preserve the material remains, but also to access the affect of a singular historical moment. In her work with THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME, Tolentino does not necessarily claim to “store” a performance, just as archives should not claim to store live events. Rather, what her project gives us is access to the decisions, processes, and feelings of having to enter into such contracts, and engage in such different possibilities.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 If the dominant archival culture emphasizes “more product, less process,”36 Tolentino’s project demonstrates the profound importance of subjectivity, and the role that subjectivity plays in archives and how these affect the processes of building, maintaining, and interpreting an archive. By offering her particular body as an archive of the endowed works, the mode or process of archiving becomes just as important as the final product. Her work also helps us understand how the now—the historical present—is full of difference. As archivists, we might provide more recognition of the decisions made during processing and appraisal, and the social environments that move us to make such decisions altogether, to help us to better encompass and value the possibilities of archives and the processes that they engender. The sky in Julie’s project is—like an archive—a moving, changing, and shifting vehicle; never the same, yet it remains the sky nonetheless.

  1. 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0
  2. Debra Levine, “Expendable Archives,” presentation at the Radical Archives Conference, NYU, April 2014. []
  3. Morten Søndergaard, Re_Action: The Digital Archive Experience (Roskilde: Museum of Contemporary Art; Aalborg: Aalborg University Press, 2009), 27. []
  4. Email correspondence with Julie Tolentino, 2015. []
  5. For example, a recent panel titled “Opening the Digital Vault” purported to “explore the transition from a static physical archive to a digital infrastructure that is open, nonlinear, web-like, and constantly evolving.” See “Opening the Digital Vault” panel, The Archival Impulse: Collecting and Conserving the Moving Image in Asia symposium, Museum of Modern Art, September 10, 2015, symposium brochure. In events such as this, the traditional archive is described as static, linear, and closed. I question the binary notion of a “physical archive” opposed to a digital one. An archive, whether comprised of papers or bits and bytes is never a static entity. Moreover, the digital is not removed from the physical. []
  6. “Archive,”, September 12, 2015, []
  7. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). []
  8. Francis X. Blouin and William G. Rosenberg, Processing the Past: Contesting Authority in History and the Archives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 98. []
  9. Ibid., 98. []
  10. Ibid., 99. []
  11. Ibid., 38. []
  12. Terry Cook, “Fashionable Nonsense or Professional Rebirth: Postmodernism and the Practice of Archives,” Archivaria 51 (2001): 29. []
  13. John Ridener, From Polders to Postmodernism: A Concise History of Archival Theory (Duluth, MN: Litwin Books, 2009). []
  14. Ibid., 112. []
  15. Verne Harris, “Ethics and the Archive: An Incessant Movement of Recontextualisation,” Controlling the Past: Documenting Society and Institutions (Society of American Archivists, 2011), 351-52. []
  16. Jacques Derrida, “Différance” in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 1–28. In thinking of differencing the archive and the archival field, I also wish to mark how the specificities of archival collections differ across each collection and period of time. Collections themselves differ depending on the decisions made during processing. Further, archives themselves differ from the events whose records help us understand it, and that the meanings of each archive changes through interpretation over time, whether these interpretations are those of the archivists or users. These ideas are inspired by Derrida’s notion of difference, in which, “The verb ‘to differ’ [differer] seems to differ from itself. On the one hand, it indicates difference as distinction, inequality, or discernibility; on the other, it expresses the interposition of delay, the interval of a spacing and temporalizing that puts off until ‘later’ what is presently denied, the possible that is presently impossible.… We provisionally give the name differance to this sameness which is not identical: by the silent writing of its a, it has the desired advantage of referring to differing, both as spacing and temporalizing and as the movement that structures every dissociation.” []
  17. Hope A. Olson, “How We Construct Subjects: A Feminist Analysis,” in Feminist and Queer Information Studies Reader, ed. Patrick Keilty and Rebecca Dean (Sacramento: Litwin Books, 2013), 266. []
  18. Richard Pearce-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Chicago: The Society of American Archivists, 2005), 280. []
  19. New Museum website, accessed September 15, 2015, []
  20. Further information on the exhibition and conversations with artists can be found in “Shop Talk,” a series of blog posts on Six Degrees, the New Museum’s blog: []
  21. Peggy Phelan, “The Ontology of Performance: Representation without Reproduction,” in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 146. []
  22. Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), 99. []
  23. Email correspondence with Julie Tolentino, 2015. []
  24. Dominic Johnson, Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (Bristol: Intellect, 2013), 117. []
  25. Email correspondence with Julie Tolentino, 2015. []
  26. Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire. Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 22. []
  27. Debra Levine, “Her Body is an Archive,” 2013, []
  28. Schneider, Performing Remains, 97. []
  29. Ibid., 100. []
  30. Lisa Darms, “Archiving Performance Art for the Future: A Discussion with Lorraine O’Grady,” October 3, 2013, []
  31. See Krista Thompson, “The Evidence of Things Not Photographed: Slavery and Historical Memory in the British West Indies,” Representations 113 (Winter 2011): 39-71. []
  32. Schneider, Performing Remains, 100. []
  33. Julie Ault & Marvin Taylor, “Active Recollection,” Whitney Museum, 2012, []
  34. Society of American Archivists, “Code of Ethics for Archivists,” February 5, 2005, []
  35. Society of American Archivists, “Code of Ethics for Archivists,” revised January 2012, []
  36. Pearce-Moses, Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, 147. []
  37. Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner, “More Product, Less Process,” American Archivist 68, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2005): 208-63. []

How Do You Archive the Sky?

Tara Hart

Archive Manager – Whitney Museum of American Art

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