The Archive and Archiving: The Stuff of My Art

"The postmodern is self-consciously art 'within the archive'1 and that archive is both historical and literary."
—Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism

In creating a small body of intertextual parodic works, I necessarily mined art history - my own history of art making and contemporary and modern art history. My self-archive and my archive on art proved indispensable in the production of these works. According to Linda Hutcheon, "To parody is not to destroy the past; in fact to parody is both to enshrine the past and to question it."2 In this short essay, I write about my initial thoughts on the relationship between parody, intertextuality and the archive in my art making. I discuss here three works that illustrate this relationship.

From my archive of notebooks of art ideas (fondly filed as Steal Big, Steal Easy: The Great Rip-Off Series), came Into the He(art) of Commodities, a five-year long performance art which I announced via postcards and a poster in the form of a blueprint installed in the traveling exhibition Text and Subtext.3 This performance made use of printed images - reproductions of art works published in my archive of Art Forum, Art in America, and Artnews. Appropriating these images, I announced that I will reproduce them in multiples through xerography or use them exactly as found. Framed and sold as mere commodities in non-art gallery and non-museum spaces (non-art market contexts), the success of this work was based on how well these objects performed as simple commodities and not as commodity fetishes.

In creating this performance, I drew from art history and I traced my lineage thus: Grosz and Heartfield, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Lichstentein, Broodthaers, Haacke, Lawler, Asher, Levine - a lineage essayed in Benjamin Buchloh's Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art published in the September 1982 issue of Art Forum. Into the He(art) of Commodities is a work performed within the current practice of artists appropriating images created by other artists and images of artworks reproduced in art publications. These artists offering these appropriated images as their own, deconstruct representation critiqued as problematic within a post-modernist perspective. Works specifically that of Sherrie Levine "made it clear that piracy, with its overtones of infringement and lack of authorization was the point. Her appropriations were not to be perceived as some mousy homage. Nor was she putting herself in a cult-k ook exercise in self-abnegation. By literally taking pictures she did, and then showing them as hers, she wanted it understood that she was flatly questioning - no, flatly undermining - those most hallowed principles of art in the modern era: originality, intention, expression.'4 Levine however "insisted that hers was an aesthetic practice that implied no particular quarrel with the economic determinations of cultural production". Levine: "I never thought I wasn't making art and I never thought of the art I was making as not a commodity."5

To phrase my own project vis-a-vis Levine's: I make no art objects for I offer no objects to be made visible, comprehensible, and co modifiable within and by the art system. Thus by placing these images without the pretext of the art system, what I do offer is the act of owning up to the crime that art making is commodity making. As a work of intertextual parody, Into the He(art) of Commodities draws from, mimics and questions the appropriative acts of artists like Levine. However, I stopped short of laying claim to these images as my own. By not signing them and thus not claiming authorship over these images; by not placing them to be "produced," received and circulated in the art system; by turning them loose into the world/market of simple commodities, I contest what has become eventually (and ironically) a convention -- authorship over the art of appropriation.

In 1999, I saw Gerhard Richter's Atlas at the Museu d"Art Contemporani de Barcelona. At first, I was not open to Richter's "exposition" (his setting forth of meaning or intent). I had one discomfort with Atlas: all the pieces of the archive of his art were installed on walls and pedestals as if they were art works in their own right. Fortunately, I soon realized that by exhibiting this massive archive, he was exposing the history (its origins) of his art. His art would not be possible were it not for all this "stuff." The archive referred to as an atlas was a systematic mapping, explication, elucidation (an exposition) of his art making. In the final analysis, his archive equals his art. In the same year, Hans Ulrich Obrist invited me to participate in an exhibition of archives titled Interarchiv where ideas, forms theories and practices of archiving and the possibilities of creating a network of archives by artists, hi storians, curators and writers were explored. Obrist, in his work as an international curator, had accumulated 1000 boxes of materials on the art of the 90's. In the process of loaning his archive to the Kunstraum Universitat der Luneburg, questions on the archive's "use, arrangement and accessibility" pointed to the condition that "it was to be treated less as a source of research and more as an exemplary research object,"6 (my emphasis). The exhibition Interarchiv was one of the offshoots of the project of Obrist and a team from Luneburg University to examine the "functions of archives and the relationships within them as well as for testing alternative forms of handling."7

Scapular Gallery Nomad Book Archive, an archive on Scapular Gallery Nomad, a gallery I wore ("performed") daily for five years was my contribution to this exhibition. Two years later this same book archive was exhibited in Who Owns Women's Bodies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Museum as part of an installation documenting my performance of this gallery. Taking my cue from Atlas, a year later I created a more ambitious archive to commemorate the end of my five-year long performance. Scapular Gallery Nomad Portable Archive-in-Progress was made specifically for the 2002 Gwangju Biennale. The gallery having been worn, the archive too was designed to be worn. The pack can be unfolded and laid out on a table. These two portable self-archives are again parodic works. Both play on the idea of archives as fixed repository places and on the modernist idea that an art work is autonomous, complete, and closed upon exhibition. Th e archive now being the artwork necessarily renders the art object as a work-in-progress, open to further accumulation, re-formation, and de-accessioning, and thus open to further reading.

An archive is essentially a body of materials collected/accumulated based precisely on the intertextuality of these materials. Thus, one learns of Scapular Gallery Nomad through my own writings, through the writings of others, through a correspondence of writings since included in the archive was a massive number emails generated in the course of curating the gallery for five years. Included too in the archive is a list I found in the net (the ultimate archive) linking texts/sites on Scapular Gallery Nomad with other texts/sites on a good number of other art galleries in the world. Again from Hutcheon: "the notion of parody as opening the text, rather than closing it down, is an important one: among the many things that postmodern intertextuality challenges are both closure and single, centralized meaning. Its willed and willful provisionality rests largely upon its acceptance of the inevitable textual infiltration of prior discursive practices. The typically contradictory intertextuality of postmodern art both provides and undermines context."8



1. Hutcheon quotes Michel Foucault. From Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews,trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.Quotation is from Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 2002, p. 125.

2. Hutcheon, p. 126.

3. Text and Subtext: Contemporary Art and Asian Woman was curated by Bing Hui Huangfu for the Earl Lu Gallery in 2000. From Singapore the exhibition traveled to Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Beijing.

4. Marzorati, Gerald. "Art in the Re(making)." Artnews, May 1986, p. 91.

5. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. "Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-side Aesthetics" in The Visual Culture: The Reader, eds. Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall. London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1999. p. 230.

6. From the preface of Interachive: Archival Practices and Sites in the Contemporary Art Field, eds. Bismarck, Obrist Koln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, p.417.

7. Ibid.

8. Hutcheon, p. 127.



Judy Freya SIBAYAN

Thu, 1 Jul 2004

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