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Title: Mapping the Sisyphean Archives : archival/anarchival performativity of repetition and failure in contemporary archival art
Author: Ji, Gaeun
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 2172
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Exploring a distinctive archival turn in art, this study investigates where the archival impulse comes from and why and how artists, as performative researchers, are obsessed with issues relating to the archive. In order to answer for these questions, this thesis displays a dynamic geography of archival/anarchival performativity in contemporary archival art since, primarily, the 1960s. The artist as Sisyphus detects the aporia of the archival impulse being simultaneously archival and anarchival and activates a Sisyphean loop of repetition and failure in their own artistic archives. Inspired by the myth of Sisyphus, this project is therefore given the title “mapping the Sisyphean archives”. Using a methodology of mapping, diverse case studies of archival art are interwoven to unveil the reconfiguration of the physical and conceptual conditions of the archive. The meaning of mapping here is varied – doing, undoing, performing, failing, and queering, polymorphously facilitated by two key wheels of Sisyphean performativity. A critical capacity of repetition and failure is thus crucially credited as it brings resistant and alternative modes of being, thinking, and knowing to undermine any idealisation and totalitarianism embedded in normative archives. Referring to Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive reading of the archive and Gilles Deleuze’s thoughts on rhizomatic creativity, the first half of the thesis examines multifaceted aspects of repetition as being pathological, self-evolving, creative, and differentiated each time. In the second half, with reference to Aaron Williamson’s performance, The Collapsing Lecture, staging the idea of failure, polyphonic potentiality of failure is addressed as a particular attitude of Sisyphean artists to experiment with unusual, irregular, fallible, and purposeless yet permissive, rebellious, and emancipatory rhythms from within the archive. Such a destructive yet generative force of Sisyphean performativity ultimately contributes to subverting the negative connotation of repetition and failure against the ideas of banal sameness and of success. Above all, a performative and processual multiplicity that Sisyphean archival art maps out demonstrates how any overdetermined social consensus and power inscribed in archives can be dismantled and how the stagnant site of archives can be transformed into an imaginative, fluctuating platform for infinite future stories to come.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral