Abstracts Conference
'La Volonté des Archives',
Collège d'Etudes Mondiales FMSH, Paris

Marta Jecu November, 2018 Collège d'Etudes Mondiales FMSH, Paris
Topic: Trans-disciplinary meeting of artists, academicians, museum practitioners and curators exploring questions of archival representation of museologic objects. Speakers: SARAH FRIOUX SALGAS (Quai Branly Museum), FRANÇOISE VERGÈS (Collège d'études Mondiales, FMSH), JOSÉ GOMES PINTO (Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon), CRISTINA BALDACCI (ICI Berlin), HELENE LARSSON POUSETTE (Swedish History Museum Stockholm), CATARINA SIMÃO (Contemporary Artist, Lisbon), CHRISTIAN KRAVAGNAN (Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien), CHRISTINE BARTHES (Quai Branly Museum), NATAŠA PETREŠIN-BACHELEZ (Independent curator and writer)

The atelier-symposium LA VOLONTÉ DES ARCHIVES proposes an ad-hoc, trans-disciplinary meeting of artists, academicians, researchers, museum practitioners and curators which will be invited to explore questions of archival representation of museologic objects – from the point of view of their field of expertise. While until today the usage of archive images is serving scientific interpretation and is functioning mainly as reference or documentation of a missing object, we propose during this symposium to draw the potential of the ‘object’ from the retro-active reconstruction of its parcourse, according to its representation in the archive. The atelier will be constituted by lectures and screenings of visual research material of the participants.
L’atelier-symposium LA VOLONTÉ DES ARCHIVES propose une rencontre ad hoc et transdisciplinaire d’artistes, de chercheurs, de muséologues et de conservateurs qui sont invités à explorer des questions de représentation archivistique d’objets muséologiques – du point de vue de leur domaine d’expertise.Alors que l’utilisation d’images d’archives sert toujours de référence pour un objet manquant, nous proposons au cours de ce colloque de tirer le potentiel de l’objet de la reconstruction rétroactive de son lieu selon à sa représentation dans les archives. L’atelier sera constitué de communications et de projections video de matériel visuelle de recherche des participants.


SARAH FRIOUX SALGAS (Quai Branly Museum)

Sarah Frioux Salgas will be talking about her curated exhibitions at the Musee du Quai Branly in which he has  worked with the Museum’s archives.  Notably:

  • DAKAR 66. Chroniques d’un festival panafricain
  • PAUL ROBESON (1898-1976). Un homme du ‘Tout-monde’.
  • PRESENCE AFRICAINE:Une tribune, un mouvement, un réseau.


FRANÇOISE VERGÈS (Collège d’études Mondiales, FMSH)

My intervention will be about the “missing object » of colonial slavery : there is not a single object that can summarizes colonial slavery. What kind of archives will help? But archives are also too numerous to present in one coherent show a multi-territorial an multi-temporal event. Yet, the argument of the impossibility to represent is not enough to solve the problem at han. The contribution will raise a series of questions on visualization of a crime that has repercussions to this day and present some artistic answers.


JOSÉ GOMES PINTO (Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon)

In his text ‘The Contingency of the Absolute’, José Manuel Gomes Pinto will try to demonstrate how archives function as a technology of modern times, from a historical and technological point of view.


The irreverent archive: Artistic counterstrategies in re-enacting history

Who decides if an archive or collection is relevant for the present, and thus for the future? And why, or rather, for whom? Is it possible to prevent this decision from turning into an act of power that generates hierarchical relationships and strict categorizations? Is the process of deinstitutionalization of museums always effective, and for how long can it be renewed (Terry Smith, 2017)? What happens when the archival images and objects collected by museums and other cultural institutions are no longer conceived just as documentation but become art (Peter Osborne, 2013/2017)? The possible answer to these questions could be provided by the model of a “radical museology” theorized by Claire Bishop (2013). Which means to choose the contemporary as method – and no more as periodization –, as well as to offer a politicized representation of history to crumble the authority of the Western gaze and start a process of decolonization. Institutional critique is certainly nothing new to artists, but in the last decades it has been consolidating as a form of political resistance towards the abuses of history and the ghosts of the colonial past. This presentation will focus on the archival counter-strategies adopted by artists, and highlight some of their common aspects, such as: the relationship between history and storytelling, documentary and fiction, politics and poetics, the materiality of media and their revitalization. Filipa César’s ongoing research on the imaginary of liberation from colonialism in Guinea-Bissau, through film footage and sound recordings stored in forgotten and damaged archives, will serve as a main case study.


HELENE LARSSON POUSETTE (Swedish History Museum Stockholm)

Museums have always collected, classified and exhibited according to norms and values of its time. In turn, this practice has determined which interpretations of the historical material are subsequently possible today. Nevertheless, a large number of objects at museums have a complex history with rich biography that can be linked to several periods, peoples and events.

By working in an interdisciplinary way, bringing together artists with historians, archaeologists, and writers, and mixing theory with practice, we can create contexts that allow for new knowledge, understanding and interpretation of the museums collections. An example of such practice is History Unfolds – Contemporary Art Meets History at the Swedish History Museum (2015-2017). The project was an attempt to make visible how history is created and used, and how it in turn has influenced and still influences our view of society. As curator of the exhibition, I invited ten artists who in their practice often deal with history and its creation, whose experiences and expressions conveyed important knowledge of the past. The artists asked new questions in relation to the Museum’s collections and research, investigated new methods and brought expression to alternative perspectives. This exploration was possible due to their collaboration with the Museum’s researchers, archaeologists and educational staff.

Inviting artists to work with the Museum was an important and conscious choice. Their commitment and presence opened up new perspectives on the Museum’s activities. Art can make us see the world from new points of view; making it more complex and help us formulate new and more diverse questions. Art can also express the inexpressible, without the need to be exact and descriptive.

As a continuation of these experiences I have founded History Labs, a format, platform and network with the intention to investigate ways to bridge the gap between research, artistic and museum practice. Resently I work as advisor at the Swedish Heritage Board and at the newly established Stockholm Women’s History Museum. In the next coming years we will develop methods for investigating already existing archives and collections, and unfold invisible and forgotten (and sometimes hidden) stories.


CATARINA SIMÃO (contemporary artist Lisbon,

Like the archive, photography is part of a museum´s ecosystem. When photographs are set together for documentation purposes, they are organized as index or as catalogue. Inside the museum, the photography´s status I am interested in, and which I took as primary material for my work, is that in which it refers the object (or to an exhibition, an event, or a process), that means, when it replaces the object at the index system. Those photographs produced to comply and manage access to a collection´s objects, absorb the institutions ideological codes as well as its historical classification regimes, be it aesthetical, racial or commercial. Exodus Station#4 residency project took place in 2018’s first semester in three different museological settings, in which I proposed to work on the link between Mozambique´s political history and the presence of Makonde Art in its collections. The museums’s residencies focused on the relation between the collection´s object and the history of its representation at the archives, aiming to think the way in which one interferes the perception of the other, and the way in which that dynamic and circular relation transfers to a visual form of political knowledge. In my presentation, I will analyse the perception resulting from the first residency at Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac Museum; I shall talk about the experience at the residency that followed, at Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig, as well as about the incursion to Lisbon´s National Ethnology Museum´s photography archive, which folds the European museums trilogy initially programed. Within this structure, narrative chronology shall flow contradicting the sequence in which the museums were visited, so to favour the idea of a visual record without center, yet in which connections take place rather critically throughout an image, through photographic series or else through its clear absence. In general, this experience meant to displace the inventory´s nature out of its pretended neutrality, as so to allow thinking this photographic medium retroactively anew as fostering technology for concepts as “authenticity”, “coloniality”, “nacionalism” or “socialism”.


CHRISTIAN KRAVAGNAN (Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien)

Collections of African art in Western museums have almost always been part of colonial histories of violence, exploitation and cultural appropriation. Against the backdrop of the current debate about Western museums’ colonial heritage, this paper proposes a contrapuntal reading by juxtaposing the dominant model of Black art taken hostage by white museums to an alternative history of collecting African art in Black institutions. What is the role of African art in a Black Museum in the West? To discuss the question of the liberating part classic art from Africa can play in an emancipatory environment of education like the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S., I will focus on Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Virginia, one of the oldest Black colleges and collector of African art since the 19th century. As it is the topic of my own archival research in the named institution, I will also address the role of a Jewish refugee from Vienna in mediating African art to young African American artists studying at Hampton in the 1940s.


CHRISTINE BARTHES (Quai Branly Museum)

Under focus is the rôle of systems of archiving that represent the museologic object in the Photographic Collections of the Quai Branly Museum – photographs or other indexing codes that become themselves ‘objects’ of collection – that absorb and express the institutional policy.


NATAŠA PETREŠIN-BACHELEZ (Independent curator and writer)

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez  will be talking about the Show me the archive and I will tell you who is in power at Kiosk (2017, in Ghent), an exhibition that she curated on transnational stories from the history of feminist struggle.