The Politics of Collection, The Collection of Politics. [Play 3. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven]

What is an archive? What is a collection? What are the relationships of the documents stored in archives or objects stored in collections to memory, identity, history and politics? What can and what cannot be archived? What can be collected and not archived? Can an archive become a collection? What are the futures promised by archives or collections, and what futures fall into oblivion?

The question of the archive has been intensely discussed in recent decades. It entails other topics: the collection, the museum, the art institution, and, of course, the relationships between them and history. Besides this, the question of the archive emerges in the context of contemporary art history (Western history), the issue of nonexistent archives, and, given the absence thereof, of the way art history has been – or hasn’t been – written.

Artists and Projects: Akram Zaatari, Sean Snyder, Lidwien van de Ven, Michal Heiman, Lia Perjovschi, KwiekKulik (Zofia) and FCA – Hannah Hurtzing, Museum index, CAMP collection, Michal Heiman, Denemark, ICN – BKR collection.

Venue: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. Dates: 25.09.2010 – 06.02.2011 Photo Credit: Peter Cox

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The exhibition gave the chance to look at a selection of works of the Van Abbemuseum and compare them with collections and archives created by artists. For them, collecting is a strategy for creating an image of the social situation in which they live.

Personal view on historical moments

The exhibition features artists who have tried to wrest the possibility to be political from the mechanisms of collecting. In many artworks, historical moments will be seen through a personal eye and well known (media) images are combined with personal diaries, documents, and photos. An example is the work by Sean Snyder that focuses on image production and the representation of war by the media. He attempts to reveal some fundamental questions of representation.

Artists’ collections

Given the lack of suitable institutes in some parts of the world that present a collective history, artists themselves are sometimes forced to create their own, partial, art narratives, archives and collections. They search for their own historical trajectories, piece together interrupted narratives and create their identities with these collections. The work of Zofia Kulik for example, of the KwieKulik duo, comprises the alternative story of (art in) Poland between the years 1971 and 1987. The Romanian artist Lia Perjovschi has been developing a subjective art historical index which grew into the Contemporary Art Archive/Centre for Analysis (CAA/CfA). View the index here.

Institutional collections

Next to works by individual artists, some collections by institutions are scrutinized. Visitors can see the Van Abbemuseum collection in a new light, as the representative policies behind this collection are analysed. A part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Museum Palestine (CAMP) will be shown for the first time together with documentation on the motivations and possibilities for the future of a Palestinian museum. Another collection that falls under the spotlight is the Eindhoven BKR collection from the ICN (Instituut Collectie Nederland).

The Museum Index research project began in 2010, during Play Van Abbe 3, and presented a graphic overview of all the works in the collection. Each work was denoted by a symbol indicating its category – painting, sculpture, photograph, drawing or other graphic work, video or installation – together with a symbol for whether the work was made by a female artist, a male artist or a collective. Subsequent graphics gave information about the nationality of the artists, classified by their land of birth, and a review of the least expensive and most expensive acquisitions per year together with their current insured values. This form of quantitative research was also applied in a study of art, now present in the collection, that had been looted during World War II.

Co-curated with Christiane Berndes and Diana Franssen.