Curating Documentation #1

Published on October 27th, 2019

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This workshop is a collaboration between Annet Dekker (University of Amsterdam), Karen Archey and Britte Sloothaak (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) and Gaby Wijers (LIMA, Amsterdam), to explore documentation in relation to the curatorial practices of the museum.

Expertmeeting Curating Documentation #1
20 November 2019 @ LIMA, Amsterdam
Presentations by Karen Archey, Gabriella Giannachi, Gable Roelofsen

A collaboration between Annet Dekker (University of Amsterdam), Karen Archey and Britte Sloothaak (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) and Gaby Wijers (LIMA, Amsterdam).

In this expertmeeting we will explore documentation in relation to the curatorial practices of the museum. Documentation is created and used in different ways, and functions differently yet complimentary in the various departments of museums. While conservation departments try to optimize their documentation workflows by creating detailed descriptions, visualizations and mappings of all the elements of an artwork. Curators tend to approach documentation predominantly as a tool to present and explain parts of an artwork based on traditional models of institutional cultural authority and disciplinary expertise. Visitors to the museum provide another perspective by documenting their experience and making it part of the online circulation of images documentation becomes part of identity construction. Finally, artists do not only create but also document their work, at times making it part of another presentation or turning it into a new artwork altogether.

These different perspectives open new ways of thinking about what documentation means, is it still an inferior subjective derivative, or does it become a new version, thus changing the status of the ‘original’ artwork that was once collected? If so, how does this impact the conservation and curation of these artworks? At the core of these changes in documentation is the question how these expanded practices of documentation influence the value and experience of the ‘original’ artwork, and in turn, in what way do they affect the traditional authority of the museum as creator of documentation used for future reference, historical relevance or cultural memory? This also relates to a more general question, how can these various instances of documentation enable art historians, curators, and conservators to reimagine and represent the relevance and value of digital art in the future?


Gabriella Giannachi (University of Exeter), Documenting Performance and Digital Art: The Role of the Audience
Audiences are often implicated in artworks, whether by being unknowingly captured in a work, becoming participants within it, or even creating it in the first place. However, when it comes to documentation, their presence is rarely documented, shown, and let alone preserved. This short presentation will introduce works by Ant Farm, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Blast Theory, Amalia Ullman and discuss the findings of a number of projects including the Presence Project, and the Cartography project, to reassess the value of documenting audiences in performance and digital art.

Karen Archey (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has had pioneering role in the acquisition and display of time-based media since the 1970s. Despite this pioneering history in the presentation of the moving image, until recently the Stedelijk had not thoroughly documented its time-based media collection. This presentation outlines the new documentation practices developed by the Stedelijk in the past three years, which take the form of inter-departmental working group meetings, artist interviews and text writing initiatives.

Gable Roelofsen (Het Geluid, Maastricht), Let’s start mourning the right kind of things
I would love to talk about the joyful death of fake objectivity. And why I think that this death is a joyful thing. I would love to talk a little bit about how we can navigate this world in which more and more voices are getting themselves heard. And how people who are not used to hear other people but themselves speak can show up for this era and how we need to re-examine things we knew for sure by re- performing, re read and remix and confronting the real and the cultural archive. How this process can help us wake up from amnesia. And why we should do it all without any nostalgia.

Bio presenters:
Karen Archey is Curator of Contemporary Art, Time-based Media at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. She is an American curator and art critic formerly based in Berlin and New York, and a 2015 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant recipient for short-form writing. She heads the Stedelijk’s research initiative on the conservation, acquisition and display of time-based media and also coordinates the museum’s performance program, she is currently working on a thematic, intergenerational group exhibition examining the legacy of Institutional Critique. Archey previously worked as an independent curator and editor for the New York-based organization e-flux. In 2014, she organized with Robin Peckham the exhibition “Art Post-Internet” at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Archey frequently gives lectures on topics ranging from feminism, art and technology to collecting time-based media.

Gabriella Giannachi is Professor in Performance and New Media at the University of Exeter, UK. She has published a number of books including: Virtual Theatres (Routledge, 2004); The Politics of New Media Theatre (Routledge, 2007); Performing Presence: Between the Live and the Simulated, co-authored with Nick Kaye (MUP, 2011); Performing Mixed Reality, co-authored with Steve Benford (MIT, 2011), Archaeologies of Presence, co-edited with Michael Shanks and Nick Kaye (Routledge 2012), Archive Everything (MIT 2016), and Histories of Performance Documentation, co-edited with Jonah Westerman (Routledge 2017). She has written papers for a number of humanities and science journals and has been involved in a number of AHRC, Innovate UK, EU and RCUK funded projects involving collaborations with Tate, LIMA, Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, The Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

Gable Roelofsen is an actor, singer, director, writer and producer from Dutch-indies decent. He received his education at the Maastricht academy for Drama, Lincoln Center Theater Directorslab New York City and he conducted an artistic research about innovation in the field op opera and musictheatre at APT-Apass post-graduate in DeSingel, Antwerp. In 2015 he graduated from the Operamanagement course of Opera Europa. He writes, directs and performs at his own musictheatre company Het Geluid Maastricht. The company is artist in residence of Theater aan het Vrijthof Maastricht and partnerorganization of Nederlandse Reisopera.


This expertmeeting seeks to open up the tensions between these different positions, to develop an expanded account of documentation and its relation to the museum.

Curating Documentation is part of a year-long research on documentation and collecting practices of art organisations and the first workshop in a series of workshops that explores the value of documentation in the context of museum collections. The outcome of the research will be made public in 2020.

This research is made possible by Knowledge Innovation Mapping (KIEM) within the programme Creative Industry of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Principal Investigator: Dr. Annet Dekker, University of Amsterdam; Public Partners: Karen Archey and Britte Sloothaak, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Gaby Wijers, LIMA, Amsterdam.


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