I contributed the essay On Ambivalence to the catalogue publication that accompanied the Liquid Archive exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art in 2012. The exhibition was curated by Geraldine Barlow, then Senior Curator at MUMA, who brought together invited projects with key works from the Monash University Collection, by international and Australian artists and collectives.
The exhibition theme tied in strongly with the findings of my doctoral outcomes including The Suicide of Objects survey exhibition, and the subsequent development of this research in Performing the Archive and Arkive City (2008). My essay drew on this body of work, which examined the increasing interest amongst artists, from the 1990s onwards, in creating works that activate collections and archives in new ways, reframing or ‘recollecting’ of the relationship between the contemporary and the historical. As Max Delany notes in the catalogue’s Introduction, “Liquid Archive explores the various ways in which artists are currently working with archives – personal and public, material and digital – and archival strategies to explore the mechanisms through which we capture and recall experience, and the passage of time itself.”
Rather than merely being a messenger of time, reporting the past to the present so to speak, I suggest that “the archive is mercurial in nature, and, in the hands of artists, open to new fields of signification, imagination and action.” This mercurial quality underpins the ambivalence to which my essay title refers.
Participating artists: Laurence Aberhart, Joyce Campbell, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Maha Maamoun, Raqs Media Collective, Xochitl Rivera Navarrete, Zineb Sedira and [The User]. They were accompanied by artists from Australia: Bashir Baraki, Zoe Croggon, Mathew Jones, Leah King- Smith, Nicola Loder, Ricky Maynard, Tom Nicholson, Patrick Pound and Kit Wise.