19. November 2018
documenta Institute Discourse #7

Kunsthochschule Kassel
Menzelstraße 13-15
34121 Kasse

The archive’s connections to artistic and curatorial work are variegated and complex. While the idea of the archive, on the one hand, is informed and shaped by institutions dedicated to conservation, research, and exhibition, on the other hand, the term archive also indicates a site of subject-bound experience that conjures associations of a labyrinthine abundance. Within culture-theoretical discourse the archive stands not least for a form of political activism, while under the banner of “postproduction” it has become an integral part of artistic practices of collection and documentation; this can be observed, for example, in the Skulptur Projekte Münster’s reframing or reenactment of artworks, as with those of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (2007). In addition, since the 1990s, and in parallel to the rise in digital data production, an intensive engagement with the materiality and temporality of the archive has also developed.

In the face of this spectrum of meanings and readings, artistic practices draw upon the archive as a heterogeneous reservoir where processes of remembering, forgetting, displacement, oversight, and dismissal are made visible – aspects that were staged in public space and in personified form by Silke Wagner in the figure of Paul Wulf, for example. Her artwork is itself one that works both with and on the archive.

The museum as an institution takes on a special role in relation to the Skulptur Projekte: it secures its continuities and breaks and simultaneously enables a reconsideration of both the positioning and organizational form of each new edition of the exhibition, and of the perpetuity of the Skulptur Projekte archive. The specific situation in Münster allows both for the opening up of its archives through research, and for items from the archive to be exhibited and directly linked both to works from public collections on outside display, and to those works of the Skulptur Projekte that have made their way into the museum’s collection. Both of these approaches – research and exhibition – guarantee a diversity of forms of the public, question the meaning of the archive in different ways, and reflect the expectations and questions that can be addressed to an archive. The lecture explores the political demands of “working on an archive” as a process of recognition in the face of populist distortions of history and cultural memory.

“documenta Institute Discourse” invites discussions alongside international speakers on themes of archiving, research, and mediation. It allows for the articulation of new and unexpected functions, forms of action, strategies, and imaginings for archives, research institutions, and educational institutions. The series of public events is a collaboration between the documenta professorship at the Kunsthochschule Kassel and the documenta archiv, and it accompanies the process of establishing the new documenta Institute in Kassel.

Ursula Anna Frohne, a Professor for Art History at the University of Münster, was Professor for Art History of 20th and 21st Centuries Art at the University of Cologne between 2006 and 2015. She also taught as Visiting Professor at the Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University and was Professor of Art History at International University Bremen. Anticipating her academic career, she was curator at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. In 1987 she worked as a research assistant and catalogue editor for documenta 8 in Kassel. Her publications focus on the sociology of the artist, contemporary art practice and technological media (photography, film, video, installation), political dimensions and socio-economic conditions of art and visual culture.

Marianne Wagner is curator of contemporary art at the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster/Westfälisches Landesmuseum and she was part of the curatorial team of Sculpture Projects Muenster 2017. As head of the Sculpture Projects Archive she has recently launched a multi-year research project, in cooperation with the University of Münster, and funded by the VolkswagenStiftung, to work on the exhibition’s archival materials and history. Besides curating exhibition projects, she writes on contemporary art, with a focus on performance art, speech acts and knowledge transfer, sociology of art and institutional critique. For her PhD dissertation on the subject of „Lecture Performance: Speech Acts as Performance Art since 1950“, in 2014 she was awarded with the Joseph Beuys Prize for Research.


© Nicolas Wefers