Ever Present Archiving: Methodologies for Art Histories Through Fabrication, Invention and Social Practice
Ever Present Archiving explores the ways in which an installation-based practice might critique assumed forms of collected knowledge. The thesis explores modes of fabrication, invention and social practice to interrogate archives and their construction of art-historical narratives. Focusing particularly on how representations of the past constitute ‘re-presentations,’ this project revisits particular moments in the art history of Aotearoa (such as The Group, the Ōtautahi Christchurch-based art collective; and an all-women painting studio in Ōtepoti Dunedin 1939–40) and imagines their possible entanglements with international movements (including the Bauhaus). Through artworks, exhibitions and the use of an invented persona, Florence Weir, the thesis traces alternative histories of modernism in Aotearoa, explores questions of truth, representation and temporality in historiography and troubles the fixed, solo authorship structure of the canon. In creating narratives that might or might not have existed, this project deliberates on the role of fiction in both the collection and interpretation of material histories, and critiques traditionally held divides between art-historical scholarship and artistic fabrication. This practice involves collaboration with other practitioners, intersubjective research methodologies and attention to a social kind of art history where stories are told through friendships, relations and social settings. The making of installations, objects and assemblages based on archival fragments and conversational-based research becomes part of an original practice-led methodology for art-historical investigation that highlights both the productive nature of the archive, and gaps and slippages within the information it stores. In privileging design, decorative and domestic categories, this practice traces alternative histories of modernism in Aotearoa, in a reflexive and haptic research process that contributes to a feminist rethinking of the archive.