Reactor

Museum as Hub? Creating a Living Archive

by An Xiao on January 4, 2013

A screenshot of the Asia Art Archive, which features Roberto Chabet’s work

LOS ANGELES — Archival work as an art form? Visit any prolific artist’s studio and you’ll see the intense need for archiving their work for a future age. This is particularly true, I think, for artists practicing outside the world’s major art centers, where extensive media and established institutions help create an informal archive, if simply through press coverage, writings, and photos.

Detail of a stunning mirror installation recreated for Hong Kong’s Osage Gallery in conjunction with the Hong Kong Art Fair. (image by An Xiao for Hyperallergic). (click to enlarge)

Which is why I was excited to see The Chabet Archive featured in the New Museum. I’ve written about Chabet before. Widely considered the father of conceptual art in the Philippines, he has enjoyed increased attention as of late thanks to the tireless efforts of Ringo Bunoan and Hong Kong-based Asia Art Archive. Speaking of the Archive’s launch, she hoped that “I can inspire the next generation of artists/archivists so that they can continue and build on this work which we have started.”

In the New Museum’s write-up, Assistant Curator Ryan Inouye reflected on the idea of the museum as a hub:

In 2009, after a year of intensively reviewing materials with Chabet, Bunoan began to think about an approach to archiving his work that could encompass his unrealized ideas and works that had never been shown, no longer existed, or were poorly documented. For her own exhibition, Bunoan decided to work with Chabet on an exhibition of remounted or newly realized works that would foreground collaboration and memory — disregarding questions of authorship and originality, which are hallmark concerns of the institutional archive.

The result? A living archive, one composed as much of a digital and print collection as a series of exhibitions. Bunoan’s decision to re-create classic Chabet works that were no longer extant was a critical move, I think, and one that made the artist’s work come to life in the venues I was able to visit in both Manila and Hong Kong.

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