Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Mobile Archive opens tonight... Art in General. Here is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Mobile Archive curators Galit Eilat and Chen Tamir, which will appear in FANZINE soon:

Thom Donovan: Do you see an evolution to the archive based on the different places it's traveled to? Do you perceive moments when the archive has changed dramatically? Moments of sea change in the collection?

Chen Tamir: It's always changing because each institution adds up to twenty-five DVDs. By definition it changes each time because it has to with each stop.

Galit Eilat: But I think the archive also depends on which institution is curating it, and making decisions about how to deal with it, how to present it. So it's not just the content, but also the form. What discussions will come with it? Discussion can arise around different issues related to the archive. So we are not only talking about the video works themselves, but how they become articulated. That's what I mean by "form."

TD: So each different institute articulates the meaning of the archive in its unique way?

GE: It's a different context. Different curators choose to show different works to a particular audience.

TD: Why are archives which cross international boundaries important?

CT: I think it's about facilitating dialogue and cross-cultural exposure. The work that's in the archive is coming from very personal perspectives, but together they create evidence of certain mind-frames within cultures, certain issues important to particular cultures. The more these videos are watched the more understanding we gain. For example, a lot of the works in the archive are from Israel or Palestine, the Middle-East and Eastern Europe, and for them to come to New York right now while the US is at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and in an economic war with the entire world makes it extremely urgent that we establish dialogue between cultural producers from those parts of the world.

GE: For me, it started with the permanent archive, and using videos from the archive in presentations. The traveling archive grew out of a desire to share with other places and also out of the idea that other institutes would contribute something we were not aware of or we don't have the possibility to communicate with because it is from another country, continent or nation. All of this was especially important given the geopolitical context where I come from, where there is not much dialogue between countries. By having the archive travel it is easier to engage in dialogue. Already the archive has contributed quite a bit in this way.

CT: It's also interesting to think about the economy of these archives. A lot of artists don’t upload their videos online because this is not a framework they'd like their work shown in--they would prefer exclusivity for their work, for it to be presented in a gallery--but they do want the exposure a traveling, exhibited archive provides for. And the archive is more like a library since none of the works were purchased, but given to the archive by artists for distribution. You could think of it as a library of viewing copies of these works which otherwise would have market value but do not because they are not editioned. But they do have value. They are physical things, and we have them. Someone may have paid $5,000 for them, and it's in their house, or a museum may have purchased them. It's sort of a parallel economy.

TD: So it's somewhere between the YouTube model and the exclusivity of a private collection?

GE: The archive foregrounds the symbolic value of art works. In fact, we may distinguish a collection from an archive in terms of an archive's symbolic value. The former is dealing more with market value, the later with symbolic values. This is one way to imagine a different economy. What if we distribute works without instruction, without a manual? How then to communicate with the artists and between institutions? The value of works of art become determined more and more by how they are shared.

TD: Could you clarify the term "symbolic value"? I think I know what you mean, but just wanted to make sure.

CT: Cultural value vs. economic value. You can't put a price on it.

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