Browsing Arts, Humanities and Education by Subjects
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Unsatisfactory devices: legacy and the undocumentable in art.Regarding perception of ephemeral artwork when lost to the fractures of time Peggy Phelan states “you have to be there.” For Phelan ephemera, specifically performance “become[s] itself through disappearance,” which draws empathy with Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “aura of the original.” In practice this a less than pragmatic account of the reality of experiencing such artworks, for how can they exist beyond the moment of making if not recorded, in order to map their histories? This essay interrogates the critical, sensitive and individualized distance necessary to archive transient artworks. Moving beyond the disciplinary ghettos of event and documentation, it interrogates how divergent and sympathetic modes of practice allow for a greater level of sustainable critique. This complex and problematic terrain is analysed in response to The Alternative Document, an exhibition I curated on the subject in 2016, and suggests archival possibilities beyond formal academic, artistic and museological conventions.