Opening Reception: Monday, October 27th @ 6-9PM
Participating Artists: York Chang, Zoe Crosher, David de Boer, Veronica Duarte, McLean Fahnestock, Patricia Fernández, and Daniel Small
“There is no archive without a place of consignation, without a technique of repetition, and without a certain exteriority. No archive without outside.”
– Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever
“To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”
– Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History
A spectre haunts the archive … and, somewhat tautologically, that spectre is the archive itself. Archives are, after all, almost by their very definition, hauntological (as opposed to ontological); they are incomplete representations of the past projected into the present, ghostly manifestations masquerading as material traces, zombified remnants of the half-erased and never-quite-attained co-existing in a strange simultaneity between the ‘then’ and the ‘now.’ However, if time really is ‘out of joint,’ as both Hamlet and Walter Benjamin proclaim, then perhaps the ghosts that wander the archive may just be of our own invention; the archive as a phantasmagoric illusion and/or performative séance, a reverse hauntology where, paradoxically, the living pester the dead, refusing to let them rest.
This temporal disjunction need not necessarily result in a cynical and apolitical “end of history,” as suggested by some jaded postmodernists. Instead, highlighting the relative intersectionality of space and time, archives are really parahistorical (another manifestation of the paranormal, perhaps), rather than ahistorical. Intimate derivations, the off-spring of a Freudian and Situationist sex d(é)rive (where metadata operates as a kind of collective unconscious), populate the space between the individual hypomnesic object of the archive and the hyperorexic border of its archival container, pursuant to the database logic of the contemporary society of the query. The subject that therefore traverses the archive today is not, as may be expected, the archivist, but the user (or rather a hybrid mash-up of the two, a ‘user-archivist,’ creating newly-appended archival inscriptions simply through use). In such a dialogical environment, traditional exegesis by hermeneutic interpretation is replaced instead by heuristic inquiry; to re-member is not a disassociated act of duplication, but rather an engaged instantiation through prosthesis, a material appendage, as it were.
The seven research-based and project-oriented contemporary artists participating in the upcoming Heuristic Memories exhibition at the Cerritos College Art Gallery all treat this theoretical construct of the archive as an artistic medium for their conceptual bodies of work and, in the process, perform themselves agentially as mediums, channeling the ghosts that haunt their respective archival selections. Though some of the artists have personal bio(mytho)graphical connections to their chosen re-constructed, re-constituted, and/or re-considered archives, even those artists whose archive is built solely of their own imagination purposefully blur the lines between objective documentation and subjective fantasy to create meta-critical analyses of archival thought and the related systems of information production and dissemination generated by it in contemporary society.
McLean Fahnestock will display pieces from her ongoing research-based project titled The Fahnestock Expedition, involving repurposed documentation of her grandfather’s and great-uncle’s maritime voyages throughout the South Pacific in the 1930s. The video installation An Incomparable South Sea Setting explores the historical dreamscape of Polynesia in the Western imagination through recovered and manipulated film strips, while the Stars to Windward print installation, named after the book originally written by her grandfather, chronicles the artists own attempt to scan the frontpieces of copies of the book located in libraries across the country.