This is an illustration from my sketchbook. It highlights the madness of March 2018, the majority of it was spent sitting in the art studio producing nothing and allowing a whirlwind of thoughts to spin around my mind. It captures a feeling of being overwhelmed by just how big the Artist Archivist Archive concept can be.
For researchers, having access to letter books or diaries potentially offers huge amounts of informational value. They record insights, decisions, thoughts, activities, it helps give a better understanding of archive collections / records overall context. Without my explanation of what this one illustration is about, it becomes open to subjective interpretation. Which is fine for persons viewing art but not necessarily for a researcher.
My objective in March was to finish cataloguing all art records currently held within the archive. I set out to capture key information such as dimensions, dates of construction, materials used for making the artwork. Listing every art record became quite tiring however the process revealed the original order & catalogue arrangement. The artist created themed art records, consequently they are arranged within subject files. These project never end, so the subject files are in a sense always active records.
Football for instance is a common theme. There is further sub-text with each piece. Some are sketches are from a Celtic match, others items are a response to BBC Radio commentary. They belong as a grouping within themed subject files. Each file can be titled, dated, and the administrative history can allow the artist a chance to explain the purpose for the art records. Cataloguing to item level is absolutely critical, if art records are subsequently viewed in chronological order, a researcher can view the artists creative development, changes in materials, development of technique & concepts. Each subject file has content added over years’; inevitably, one will influence the other.
I also realised the relationship with appraisal is very different than in archive institutions. If the subject files have an active life, therefore so does appraisal. No catalogued art records are ‘fixed’, they can be re-purposed at any time. Therefore the archivist has to create appraisal records that document changes or disposing art records & a justifications. This contrasts completely with standard archivist behaviours, which ordinarily consider the alterations to records under their care to be unethical & unlawful.
Subject files mainly contain sketches, not high quality art objects. Cataloguing the records revealed there is too much material to exhibit at the ARA conference in August. The archivist needs to act as curator, select records that represent the story of the entire archive. The artist has decided to make artwork of a higher quality as the anxiety that an audiences will experience / judge the work via single art objects is strong. Both artist and archivist are conscious the experience of the audience in August is critical for the artworks success.
Both the creative and information management professions have a duty to document. It is something in common though their approaches are different. The catalogue is starting to act like a written diary. It is historic evidence of the artist activity and purpose behind sketches & art objects. The archivist is also performing creative actions in collaboration with the artist. The archivist is forming appraisal records, box lists, catalogues, policies concerning accessions. The archive is an artwork, the archivist is the creator, the artist is creating the content for it. This is a confusing relationship as I am both artist and archivist.
The illustration also reveals my deep anxiety about the upcoming exhibition in August. Increasingly I am becoming aware that an audience will be judging my artwork, even those who choose not to participate with the art will be judging it. Creative people invest so much of their personality into an artwork, it is hard to communicate how much I must resist running away from the entire exercise. Equally, it is hard to prevent my enthusiasm from writing too much. The journey so far has triggered so many thoughts & themes that I am so very excited to explore that I could write another 2000 words easily.