Mariana Lanari co-founded Archival Consciousness in collaboration with graphic designer Remco van Bladel. The project, set to investigate new publishing methods for cultural libraries and archives, was founded in 2019, and has received, among others, funding within the call Small projects for NWA Routes. The exhibition Catching Up in the Archive at De Appel in Amsterdam puts the project and the methodology into practice. We visited the exposition and spoke with the artists.
When entering the exposition, you are overwhelmed by the number of books that are displayed in the space. Catching Up in the Archive is a major exhibition showcasing the evolving infrastructure of De Appel's Archive. Displaying more than 16 000 objects in de Appel's Aula and launching an interactive online environment. Catching Up in the Archive leads to public gatherings, ear-opening encounters, and ‘moving’ situations with special guests and curious passers-by.
AN EVOLVING PIECE OF ART
'Everyone is an archivist', it says on De Appel's website. The phrase serves as a subtitle to the exhibition. Catching Up in the Archive can be viewed as an evolving piece of art that constantly changes shape on the basis of visitors' participation. With the funding received via the Art route, Lanari and Van Bladel were able to create mobile archive units (a.k.a Silverfish) that can identify archival objects, scan materials, and instantly display them on bibliograph, the exhibition's online environment.
These new machines can be used by visitors as well. They are invited to browse, read, scan, and annotate items they choose themselves. Through this interaction with the work, visitors learn about the Archive’s infrastructure and participate in shaping De Appel's dynamic and growing digitised collections. What's more, visitors can create their own personal archives. "A lot of people experience it as a trip down memory lane", Van Bladel tells me. "Visitors recognise books and publications that they have come across earlier in their lives. People really have fun with it."
The exhibition has already welcomed many visitors and yielded a lot of positive reactions. Writer Abdelkader Benali for instance called it 'an exciting project' on Twitter and assistant professor Colin Sterling (department of Memory & Museums at Universiteit van Amsterdam) tweeted: "Loved this installation/intervention/actual working library by Mariana Lanari. Something very fun about standing in a semantic web."
ABOUT ARTISTS COMMUNITY KNOWLEDGE (ACKnowledge)
In 2020, the funding application Artists Community Knowledge (ACKnowledge), consisting of three sub-projects including Catching Up in the Archive, received funding in the call 'Small projects for NWA Routes'. The three sub-projects were selected by the members of the Art route-steering group and the other applicants to the call.
ACKnowledge investigates art as an alternative form of knowledge production, which is defined as one of three 'game changers' within the Art route. The three subprojects within it focus on three different types of art practices: art libraries, artists' self-organized communities/collectives and artists' material craft practices.
The three subprojects deal with the development of new concepts and new knowledge in contemporary art practices that are also potentially significant for other societal areas. Their overarching research question is: How can we reveal knowledge that is embodied in contemporary arts practices and share it with a larger public?
The deadline for submitting proposals within the call Small projects for NWA routes 21/22 has passed. There will be another call next year.
WRITTEN BY Yolanda Bartman
THANKS TO De Appel, Mariana Lanari, Remco van Bladel