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Seminar Series – Advancing the Archival Turn: Archivists, Artists and Critical Archival Practice

This six part online seminar series starting on 22 Feb 2024 presents research from within and outside of the Department of Information Studies at UCL that seeks to reposition the relation between art and the archive. While the intersections between visual arts and the archive have been explored and articulated through the archival turn in the arts and humanities, this series foregrounds new trajectories in research and practice that are empowered by critical archival lenses. These endeavours not only resist former disciplinary and contextual boundaries of practice, they also actively surface and embrace the messy and fluid relations and positions between artist, curator, researcher and archivist, and in so doing, open up new potentials for archival activism.

The series is curated by Dr Anna Sexton and Dr Liz Bruchet and our guiding questions are:

  • What happens when the archival turn in art turns towards critical archival studies?
  • How are new practices and perspectives fostering archival activism in the visual arts?

Dr Anna Sexton is the Director for the Centre for Critical Archives & Records Management Studies, and the MA in Archives & Records Management at UCL. Her research interests lie in participatory, creative and trauma-informed approaches to recordkeeping particularly in health and social care contexts.

Dr Liz Bruchet is a researcher, archive curator and oral historian. Her research focuses on the intersections of creative, curatorial and archival practices and the records of artists and visual arts organisations, with a recent focus on the postcolonial transnational histories of the Slade. Previously Senior Lecturer, Archival Studies, UCL (2020-2023), she is currently Honorary Research Fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Full session details for the initial seminars with booking links can be found below. Details for all seminars will be added in due course.

Seminar One: Under the tip of the iceberg: Informal recordkeeping practices of supporting workers in contemporary art

Thursday 22 Feb 2024: 1-2pm GMT

Speaker: Natasha Smith Tebbs. Moderator: Liz Bruchet

Summary of Session: Within the disciplines of contemporary art and archival science, the extensive scholarship on ‘art and archives’ rarely probes the much narrower topic of recordkeeping by workers in contemporary art. And where this is discussed, it usually concerns institutional records management and records made by workers in senior or prestigious roles. To provide a different perspective, this talk presents exploratory research on personal recordkeeping about work by three people who support the production and display of contemporary art. It uncovers how their 'records work' can take place at a significant scale, and involve tangible and intangible forms of records – such as physical objects, materials and ephemera, digital records, oral histories and bodily imprints – as well as multiple practices. Alongside insights into the motivations behind such accumulations, the findings consider the personal and cultural meanings of these records. In illuminating aspects of contemporary art, from intimate details of artworks to problems of the exhibition cycle, perhaps there is scope for some records to aid cultural recovery and to challenge troubling systems in the sector. Who cares to know what can lie under the “tip of the iceberg” – as one worker phrased it – of contemporary exhibition-making?

About the speaker: Natasha Smith Tebbs graduated from the Master’s programme in Archives and Records Management at UCL in 2022. Prior to this, she worked as an coordinator, producer and manager in public and non-profit galleries of contemporary art and trained as an artist at the Slade School of Fine Art. She is currently working as a Collections Assistant for an architectural archive.

Time for questions, discussions and reflections from participants is included in the programme.

This online event is free, but please use this Eventbrite link to reserve a place and get the Zoom link for the day.

Seminar Two: Reconsidering the Artist’s Archive: Relational Dynamics and Affective Practices in Archiving Contemporary Artists

Thursday 29 Feb 2024: 1-2pm GMT

Speaker: Ringo Bunoan. Moderator: Anna Sexton

Summary of session: Drawing from postmodern and contemporary art and archival theories, Ringo's work positions the artist’s archive as a collaboration between the artist, archivist and their communities. Based on Ringo's own experience in creating the archive of her professor, Filipino conceptual artist Roberto Chabet, she examines the relational dynamics between all the participants, and addresses the complex subjectivities, contradictions, bonds, and emotions that are inherent in the artist’s archive.  She calls for a more affective view of archiving living artists and looks into ways where we can apply radical empathy and care, during and after the archival process, and most especially in difficult moments such as death and other disastrous events. Relating the parallels between post-studio art practices and post-custodial archive strategies, she explores alternative ways of documenting and archiving conceptual art and other ephemeral art forms. She also considers the impact and potential of digital technology in archive and community building outside of established institutions, and how it is challenging and expanding views on archival practice and art history. 

About the speaker: Ringo Bunoan is an artist, curator and archivist from the Philippines. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of the Philippines and recently completed her MA in Archives and Records Management at UCL and this session draws from her dissertation research. From 2007 to 2013, she worked as the Researcher for the Philippines at Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, where she initiated and created the archives of several Filipino artists and artist-run spaces, including the Roberto Chabet Archive.

Time for questions, discussions and reflections from participants is included in the programme.

This online event is free, but please use this Eventbrite link to reserve a place and get the Zoom link for the day.

Seminar 3: Notes on Sometimesing 

Thursday 7 March, 1-2pm GMT

Speaker: Chris Kirubi Moderator: Liz Bruchet

Summary of session: Following the historian Gemma Romain’s proposition of reading against the grain of archival materials, this session will speak to and from this grain, as a visitor against granularity. Moving between examples and fragments from my own (undisciplined) practice I will share nascent and gossipy thoughts that try to cross the distance between discursive and embodied practices —

- and cross here barely props up a syntactic delay between spantraverse or navigate and thwartbetray and even curse - 

 — what can the visitor do or say that might derange the institutional imperative, and what speech becomes possible from this derangement? This session will elaborate on the unfaithful movements that the poet Bhanu Kapil has described in her writing on her experiences of working “near + with + alongside [beneath] the archives of Enoch Powell”; I sometimes visit, and sometimes don’t.

About the speaker: Chris Kirubi is a poet-artist based in London. Their debut collecting WILDPLASSEN is forthcoming in October this year with the87press. In 2018 they slipped a zine titled Those Institutions Should Belong to Us inside Rehana Zaman’s Tongues published by PSS. They are a Lecturer in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Time for questions, discussions and reflections from participants is included in the programme.

This online event is free, but please use this Eventbrite link to reserve a place and get the Zoom link for the day.

Seminar 4: Bringing Critical Archival Perspectives to the Art Therapy Record

Thursday 14 March 1-2pm (GMT)

Panelists: Anna Sexton, Sheila Grandison and Sophie Cottrell. Moderator: Liz Bruchet

Session summary: 

This panel discussion weaves together perspectives from both art therapy and critical archive discourses to consider a key aspect of art therapy practice – the safekeeping of the artworks made through the therapeutic relationship. In the reflections offered by the panel, safekeeping itself becomes a particular kind of caring dynamic with significant implications for reflecting on the storage, retention and disposal of service-user created artefacts. The panel will discuss the relevance of affective and trauma-informed approaches to recordkeeping emerging from the critical archive discourse to the art therapy context tying this together with art therapy perspectives that acknowledge how the strength of attachment to paper in art therapy is profound. The panel will collectively envision how consent, storage, retention, disposal and access might ideally be orientated when caring for art therapy records, nuanced with discussion of the concrete, messy, and fragmented realities that frame and block ideal modes of practice from being realised. Key contextual realities such as rapid and/or abrupt discharges in the acute sector; movement of care across sites and services; and lack of provision for safe records storage over time will be unpacked alongside an examination of professional framings within art therapy that have at key moments foregrounded legalistic over affective understandings of record ‘safe’ keeping. The panel discussion will be structured around a set of key questions for reflection which will draw out the differing starting points, expertise and understandings between the panel members.

About the Panel Members

Dr Anna Sexton is the Director for the Centre for Critical Archives & Records Management Studies, and the MA in Archives & Records Management at UCL. Her research interests lie in participatory, creative and trauma-informed approaches to recordkeeping particularly in health and social care contexts

Sophie Cottrell and Sheila Grandison are both based within the NHS East London Foundation Trust  and have extensive combined experience as UK state registered (HCPC) art therapists, clinical supervisors and training leads working in acute and community adult mental health services, learning disabilities services, and health education sectors.

This online event is free, but please use this Eventbrite link to reserve a place and get the Zoom link for the day.

 

Previous CCARMS events

Migrated Archives Seminar and Workshop Series

The UK Migrated Archives Working Group at UCL are launching a UK Migrated Archives Online Seminar and Workshop Series to start 19 Oct 22. 

This five-part online series aims to raise awareness around some of the issues, challenges and ethics surrounding the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Migrated archives; centre the perspectives of Archivists from affected countries; and promote and provide opportunities to be involved in reparative action.  We’ll hear from eminent experts in the field and Archivists from around the world, working together to spur action on this long-neglected issue.

Information and booking details will be updated regularly here.

The UK Migrated Archives: Introducing Issues, Challenges and Ethics

 Wednesday 19 October, 5pm-6.30pm BST

In this first seminar of the UK Migrated Archives Seminar Series we will introduce, contextualise and examine the issues, challenges and ethics surrounding the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Migrated archives 

Speakers and themes are:

  • Introducing the Migrated Archives Group, Dr Anna Sexton (University College London, UK)
  • Overview of Displaced Archives and Attempts to Address the Problem, Dr James Lowry (City University of New York, USA)
  • Overview of issues and challenges surrounding the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Migrated Archives, Dr Mandy Banton (School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK)
  • Keynote: Positioning the UK’s Migrated Archives in relation to archival ethics and reparation, Dr Stanley Griffin (University of the West Indies, Jamaica) 

There will be time for Q&A facilitated by members of the Migrated Archives Working Group.

Please click here to book a free ticket via Eventbrite

The UK Migrated Archives: Listening Session

Wednesday 26 October: 3pm BST

The second seminar of the UK Migrated Archives Seminar Series will run as a listening session focusing on the issues, challenges and ethics surrounding the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Migrated archives  from the perspective of Archivists and Academics from affected countries.

Moderator: Forget Chaterera-Zambuko (Sorbonne University, Abu Dhabi)

Panellists: 

  • Avril Belfon ('Head of the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Mpho Ngoepe (University of South Africa)
  • Shibani Das (Department of Humanities, University of Exeter)

Please click here to book a free ticket via Eventbrite

The UK Migrated Archives: Learning From Elsewhere 

Wednesday 2 November, 3 pm GMT, 4 pm CET, 12 noon SRT 

The third seminar in the UK Migrated Archives Seminar and Workshop Series will focus on exploring examples of repatriation efforts of colonial records from outside of the UK. 

Speakers:       

  • Arjan Agema (National Archives of the Netherlands)  
  • Rita Tjien Fooh (Director of the National Archives of Suriname)  
  • Michael Karabinos (University of Amsterdam)  
  • Rika Theo (University of Amsterdam)  

There will be time for Q&A. 

Please click here to book a free ticket via Eventbrite

The UK Migrated Archives: Wiki-Edit-Athon

Wednesday 9 November, 3pm GMT

This edit-a-thon is an opportunity to get involved in wiki edits related to Displaced and Migrated Archives. This is a hybrid event and we have tickets for those that want to join us in person at a venue at UCL or remotely online via zoom. 

The Migrated Archives working group has been reviewing the existing UK Foreign and Commonwealth migrated archives Wikipedia page to reflect changes in the history of the UK Migrated Archives. At the edit-a-thon we will share the updates and changes the working group has been making and invite you to contribute with your edits to help improve information about the UK Migrated Archives.  

During the edit-a-thon you will be supported to help with wiki edits by our Wikipedia representative. No prior experience of editing is required, but we do ask that you register yourself on Wikipedia and engage with the brief training material we will be sharing ahead of the event.  

Special thanks to Mandy Banton for mentoring the process.  
The UK Migrated Archives: Wiki-Edit-Athon is organised by Farah Yameen, Marina Georgiou and Andrew Gray.  

Please click here to book a free ticket to attend in person or online via Eventbrite

The UK Migrated Archives: What Comes Next for the Profession?

Wednesday 16 November, 3pm GMT

In this final workshop we will introduce and explore concrete actions and ways that British Archivists can be involved in bringing about change. Areas covered will include:

  • Surfacing Provenance in (Re)Description
  • Calling on leading bodies to endorse or adopt the ACARM Position Paper
  • Writing to MPs

Please click here to book a free ticket via Eventbrite

A note on timings/recordings

All seminar sessions and workshops will be held online.  

The timings for each have been organised according to the time zones for the various speakers, which we know will not always be convenient for a global audience.  

We have decided not to record the seminars and workshops this time.  In order to make sure that everyone who wishes to participate can do so, we will release session notes and/or reading resources for each event and include an email address for specific queries that can be routed to the correct person. 

Where we have speaker permission,  we will also aim to include speaker slides, and speaker contact details.

The Migrated Archives Working Group

Established in March 2022 by Dr Anna Sexton (UCL, UK), Dr James Lowry (Queens College, City University of New York, USA) and Dr Mandy Banton (School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK), the Migrated Archives Working Group brings together a group of students from UCL's MA in Archives & Records Management's 2021/2022 cohort committed to working on raising awareness on issues connected to the displacement of archives resulting from Britain's former colonial entanglements. 

Meet the Migrated Archives Working Group

Dr Anna Sexton is the Director for the Centre for Critical Archives & Records Management Studies, and the MA in Archives & Records Management at UCL and is commited to ensuring students learn about Displaced Archives and the particular issues surrounding the UK's Migrated Archives as part of UCL's MA Programme. 

Dr Mandy Banton is a senior research fellow in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and formerly principal records specialist (diplomatic and colonial) at the UK National Archives. She is an historian with a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the Expert Group on Shared Archival Heritage of the International Council on Archives. She has written widely on the Foreign & Commonwealth 'Migrated Archives'.

Dr James Lowry is the Chair and Director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, Queens College, City University of New York, where he is Ellen Libretto and Adam Conrad Endowed Chair. He is the founder and director of the Archival Technologies Lab (ATL) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Liverpool University Centre for Archive Studies, where he taught following a ten year career in archives and records management. He is also an alumni of the Department of Information Studies at UCL where he undertook his doctoral study. James has written and researched extensively on displaced archives, and is convenor of Archival Discourses, the International Intellectual History of Archival Studies research network, and editor of the Routledge Studies in Archives book series.

Alia Carter is a full-time student on the Archives & Records Management MA at UCL, with a particular interest in colonial records relating to the British Empire held in the UK, especially South Asian colonial records. She is currently writing her dissertation on British Archive Institutions and accessing the South Asian colonial records they hold. She has previously worked in the cultural sector in UK National Libraries as Project Manager / Documents Online Manager on digitization projects. Twitter handle: @CarterAlia

Farah Yameen is an oral historian and archives professional from India. She works with digital archives of the contemporary to make research accessible and available through archival interventions. She is also one of the founding members of the Milli Collective, a consortium of professionals nurturing archives in India. 

Marina Georgiou is a part-time student on the Archives & Records Management MA at UCL. She joined the Migrated Archives working group due to an interest in critical and ethical archival practices around displaced colonial records. She has worked for UK archives in the cultural sector and delivers workshops exploring the potential of archival research when art and archiving meet.