Rant 80: Just for the record..!

Rant 80: Just for the record..! Lyndall Phelps, Archival Scenarios (detail), 2010

Working from the collection is a common feature in contemporary art. As the documentation and archiving of information and material finds its way into more exhibitions, Brychan Tudor is beginning to feel overwhelmed by too much stuff!


After writing reviews for Fred Langford Evans and the Institute of Critical Zoologists’ recent exhibitions at Oriel Mostyn and Chapter Arts respectively, I have begun to question the recurring use of the archive as a means of constructing an artwork or exhibition.

Have we lent on this institutionalised paradigm to the point of collapse? In his show Apothecaries, archives, icons..., Langford Evans presents us with a reconstituted photo-documentary archive of an existing Ecuadorian museum archive, which raises the question, “Isn’t it time to give archive a rest?” It feels like a favourite record that you’ve over-played.

This train of thought continued as I fumbled my way around Documenta13. Suffocated by an enshrouding sheath of content, I tried to think of when I first noticed this proclivity towards the (over) use of museological language in contemporary art.

My thoughts drifted back to Artes Mundi 4, where I spent several days looking through this selection of works from all over the world, deciphering and digesting content like a ten-course meal of foie gras in truffle oil. This exhibition included a number of pieces that I would not consider artworks, but rather simply documentation of ‘the act’.

Perhaps this is a separate point, but I feel it is acutely relevant to my argument. When an experience is documented and presented to the viewer, it does not necessarily constitute an artwork. Only when this experience is documented or edited specifically to imply the artist’s thoughts or reflections does it become art.

Artists are collectors and documenters by nature, but surely this is a pre-requisite for rather than an identifying feature of artistic practice? I remember an MA tutor once banning me from using a particular word to describe my practice because I used it too regularly. I wonder if similarly punitive measures might have relevance here?


Contributed by Brychan Tudor
Brychan is an artist, curator and writer, currently based in Cardiff. As a founding member and Creative Director of CAAPO (Creative Assault Art Production Organisation), he has devised and project-managed a range of international projects in the public realm. 


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