Happening

Via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: A happening is a performance, event, or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art.
Happenings occur anywhere and are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience. Key elements of happenings are planned but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation. This new media art aspect to happenings eliminates the boundary between the artwork and its viewer.

Origins:

Allan Kaprow first coined the term “happening” in the spring of 1957 at an art picnic at George Segal‘s farm to describe the art pieces that were going on.[1] The first appearance in print was in Kaprow’s famous “Legacy of Jackson Pollock” essay that was published in 1958 but primarily written in 1956. “Happening” also appeared in print in one issue of the Rutgers Universityundergraduate literary magazine, Anthologist.[2]

 

Happenings are difficult to describe, in part because each one is unique and completely different from one another. One definition comes from Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort in The New Media Reader, “The term ‘Happening’ has been used to describe many performances and events, organized by Allan Kaprow and others during the 1950s and 1960s, including a number of theatrical productions that were traditionally scripted and invited only limited audience interaction.”[3] Another definition is, “a purposefully composed form of theatre in which diverse alogical elements, including nonmatrixed performing, are organized in a compartmented structure”.[4] However, Canadian theatre critic and playwright Gary Botting, who himself had “constructed” several happenings, wrote in 1972:

Happenings abandoned the matrix of story and plot for the equally complex matrix of incident and event.[5]

Happenings can be a form of participatory new media art, emphasizing an interaction between the performer and the audience.

…Later happenings had no set rules, only vague guidelines that the performers follow based on surrounding props. Unlike other forms of art, Happenings that allow chance to enter are ever-changing. When chance determines the path the performance will follow, there is no room for failure. As Kaprow wrote in his essay, “‘Happenings’ in the New York Scene”, “Visitors to a Happening are now and then not sure what has taken place, when it has ended, even when things have gone ‘wrong’. For when something goes ‘wrong’, something far more ‘right,’ more revelatory, has many times emerged”.[11]

The art thrives on an artist’s whim, with the comfort of giving their mistakes the benefit of the doubt. The art defines itself by the fact that it is a unique, one-time experience that depends on audience response. It cannot be bought or brought home.

Kaprow’s piece 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (1959) is commonly cited as the first happening, although that distinction is sometimes given to a 1952 performance of Theater Piece No. 1 at Black Mountain College by John Cage, one of Kaprow’s teachers in the mid-1950s.[12] Cage stood reading from a ladder, Charles Olson read from another ladder, Robert Rauschenberg showed some of his paintings and played wax cylinders of Édith Piaf on an Edison horn recorder, David Tudor performed on a prepared piano and Merce Cunningham danced.[13]

 

Contribution toward digital media

Allan Kaprow‘s and other artists of the 1950s and 1960s that performed these Happenings helped put “new media technology developments into context”.[25] The Happenings allowed other artists to create performances that would attract attention to the issue they wanted to portray. Currently happenings today can be found with Jazz in a whole new way through the artistic collaboration of renowned musicians American saxophonist David Liebman, French jazz pianist Jean-Marie Machado, and multimedia visual artist Barbara Januszkiewicz. their group Jazz Vision Trio[26] is using new media techniques and real-time improvising with jazz and art.

 


 

 

Considering the composition of an ‘event’ or ‘happening’, the main ‘actors’:

  • Environment &/or Architecture
    • How does it feel? smell? Is it day or night? Is it outside or inside? What time of the day is it?
  • Lighting (& shadows/colour)
    • Is there natural light or artificial light? If Artificial, how do you approach the treatment? Consider shadows.
  • Artworks / Tensile Structures
    • Is the work animated? What does this movement imply? Can people physically engage with it? What affect does the colour have on perception of the work?
  • Performers
    • Active/primary participants within the composition of the event. A common understanding of the overall composition should be present.
  • Audience
    • Observers who negotiate the event/space with their own independent perspective & agency.

 

Structural elements:

  • Theme
  • Timing

 

 

The environment, the artworks, the performers and the audience are threads that form the tapestry of a unique experience. 

 

 

 

Latvian Diaspora

Research into a cultural void.

 

History of immigration from Latvia 

(via Museum Victoria)

“…With the annexation of Latvia by the Soviet Union after World War II, large numbers of Latvians came to Australia as displaced persons under the International Refugee Organization’s re-settlement program.

Between 1947 and 1952, 19,700 Latvian refugees arrived in Australia. In Victoria, the Latvia-born population increased from 108 people in 1947 to 5,693 in 1954. At that time many were required to work in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs to fulfil their two-year contracts with the Australian Government under the terms of their migration.”

History of Latvia

(via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

World War II

Soviet occupation

“In the spring of 1941, the Soviet central government began planning the mass deportation of anti-Soviet elements from the occupied Baltic states. In preparation, General Ivan Serov, Deputy People’s Commissar of Public Security of the Soviet Union, signed the Serov Instructions, “Regarding the Procedure for Carrying out the Deportation of Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.” During the night of 13–14 June 1941, 15,424 inhabitants of Latvia — including 1,771 Jews and 742 ethnic Russians — were deported to camps and special settlements, mostly in Siberia.[31] 35,000 people were deported in the first year of Soviet occupation (131,500 across the Baltics).”

Occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany (1941–1944)

“The Nazi invasion, launched a week later, cut short immediate plans to deport several hundred thousand more from the Baltics. Nazi troops occupied Riga on July 1, 1941. Immediately after the installment of German authority, a process of eliminating the Jewish and Gypsy population began, with many killings taking place in Rumbula. The killings were committed by the Einsatzgruppe A, the Wehrmacht and Marines (in Liepāja), as well as by Latvian collaborators, including the 500-1,500 members of the infamous Arajs Commando (which alone killed around 26,000 Jews) and the 2,000 or more Latvian members of the SD.[32][33] By the end of 1941 almost the entire Jewish population was killed or placed in the concentration camps. In addition, some 25,000 Jews were brought from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic, of whom around 20,000 were killed. The Holocaust claimed approximately 85,000 lives in Latvia,[32] the vast majority of whom were Jews.

A large number of Latvians resisted the German occupation.”

Soviet era, 1944-1990

Stalinist terror

“The first post-war years were marked by particularly dismal and sombre events in the fate of the Latvian nation. On March 25, 1949, 43,000 rural residents (“kulaks“) and Latvian patriots (“nationalists”) were deported to Siberia in a sweeping repressive Operation Priboi in all three Baltic States, which was carefully planned and approved in Moscow already on January 29, 1949. All together 120,000 Latvian inhabitants were imprisoned or deported to Soviet concentration camps (the Gulag). Some managed to escape arrest and joined the partisans.”

 “…In the post-war period, Latvia was forced to adopt Soviet farming methods and the economic infrastructure developed in the 1920s and 1930s was eradicated. Rural areas were forced into collectivisation. The massive influx of labourers, administrators, military personnel and their dependents from Russia and other Soviet republics started. By 1959 about 400,000 persons arrived from other Soviet republics and the ethnic Latvian population had fallen to 62%.[34] An extensive programme to impose bilingualism was initiated in Latvia, limiting the use of Latvian language in favor of Russian. All of the minority schools (JewishPolishBelarusianEstonianLithuanian) were closed down leaving only two languages of instructions in the schools- Latvian and Russian.[35] The Russian language were taught notably, as well as Russian literature, music and history of Soviet Union (actually- history of Russia).”

30.  see text of ultimatum; text in Latvian: I.Grava-Kreituse, I.Feldmanis, J.Goldmanis, A.Stranga. (1995). Latvijas okupācija un aneksija 1939-1940: Dokumenti un materiāli. (The Occupation and Annexation of Latvia: 1939-1940. Documents and Materials.). Preses nams. pp. 340–342.

31. Elmārs Pelkaus, ed. (2001). Aizvestie: 1941. gada 14. jūnijā (in Latvian, English, and Russian). Riga: Latvijas Valsts arhīvs; Nordik. ISBN 9984-675-55-6OCLC 52264782.

32.  Ezergailis, A. The Holocaust in Latvia, 1996

34. Bleiere, Daina; Ilgvars Butulis; Antonijs Zunda; Aivars Stranga; Inesis Feldmanis (2006). History of Latvia : the 20th centuryRigaJumava. p. 418. ISBN 9984-38-038-6OCLC 70240317.

 

Diaspora

(via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

diaspora (from Greek διασπορά, “scattering, dispersion”)[1] is a scattered population whose origin lies within a smaller geographic locale.

 

Latvian diaspora

(via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
“The Latvian diaspora consists of Latvian nationals who lived outside of Latvia during the Soviet occupation. As more than 200,000 Latvian citizens died during World War II and the Nazi occupation, thousands of Latvians fled the country to become the diaspora. When these Latvian displaced persons came to the United States and other western countries, they saw in the subsequent Soviet occupation of their homeland, an effort to eradicate Latvian culture.”
“…As far as the visual arts, in Latvia there are three main institutions responsible for maintaining information on artists of the Diaspora: the Latvian National Museum of Art, the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art and the Latvian Artist’s Union. Together, they have begun to complete the history of European art.
Latvian art historian Janis Siliņš, in 1990, described the movement to which Mark RothkoJānis KalmīteLucia PekaMārtiņš Krūmiņš and other Latvian-Americans belong as “those artists who amidst the changing trends of contemporary art, after thirty years in exile and emigration, as still basically close to and developing the traditions of their homeland art – of the ‘Latvian or Riga School

 

DIASPORA IN CONTEXT: CONNECTIONS IN A FRAGMENTED WORLD

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)

Duration – 2 September to 3 December 1995

ARTISTS:

Imants Tillers, Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Bernhard Blume, Carlo Carra, Giorgio de Chirico, Mike Kelley, Vytautas Landsbergis, Colin McCahon, Unto Pusa, Arnulf Rainer, Nicholas Roerich, Isidore Tillers

GUEST CURATOR:

Marketta Seppälä

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

“This exhibition took the large-scale painting Diaspora (1992) by Imants Tillers as the starting point for an exploration of the complex processes in his work and its relationship to a broader art context. Tillers’ creative practice was revealed by presenting this work together with its sources in works by other artists.

Tillers borrows images from various sources, such as international art magazines and catalogues, merging images by artists he greatly admires, whilst also incorporating sources specific to his Latvian heritage. In doing so he mixes systems of meaning in works which have an often resistant, wilful character of rupture, dispersal, splicing and re-formation. Tillers forms entirely new contexts for the images he uses, showing that they have no essentialist meaning, and that all images are open to re-reading and re-contextualisation.

Tillers produced Diaspora (1992) in response to the unexpected collapse of communism in Latvia in 1991. The work was designed to be shown either as a complete whole, or separated into individual panels as a series of paintings, an exhibition. Rather than presenting a retrospective of his twenty-year career, Tillers’ recontextualised Diaspora for the MCA, assembling it into a single work of art and exhibiting it alongside relevant works from 1989-1995 which led the way to and evolved from Diaspora. The whole exhibition, therefore, was a powerful comment on the collapse of communism in Latvia and the resulting social change.”

 

Latvian Diaspora Artists:

 

Mark Rothko

(Via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
 Mark Rothko (/ˈrɒθk/), born Markus Yakovlevich Rotkovich (RussianМа́ркус Я́ковлевич Ротко́вичLatvianMarkuss Rotkovičs; September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970), was an American painter of Russian* Jewish descent. Although Rothko himself refused to adhere to any art movement, he is generally identified as an abstract expressionist.

* Mark Rothko was born in DvinskVitebsk Governorate, in the Russian Empire (today Daugavpils in Latvia).

Inspiration from mythology

“Fearing that modern American painting had reached a conceptual dead end, Rothko was intent upon exploring subjects other than urban and nature scenes. He sought subjects that would complement his growing interest with form, space, and color. The world crisis of war lent this search an immediacy because he insisted that the new subject matter have a social impact, yet be able to transcend the confines of current political symbols and values. In his essay “The Romantics Were Prompted,” published in 1949, Rothko argued that the “archaic artist … found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods” in much the same way that modern man found intermediaries in Fascism and the Communist Party. For Rothko, “without monsters and gods, art cannot enact a drama.”[28]

Rothko’s use of mythology as a commentary on current history was not novel. Rothko, Gottlieb, and Newman read and discussed the works of Freud and Jung – in particular their theories concerning dreams and the archetypes of the collective unconscious – and they understood mythological symbols as images that operate in a space of human consciousness that transcends specific history and culture.[29] Rothko later said that his artistic approach was “reformed” by his study of the “dramatic themes of myth.”

Rothko’s “multiforms”

“The year 1946 saw the creation of Rothko’s transitional “multiform” paintings. The term “multiform” has been applied by art critics; this word was never used by Rothko himself, yet it is an accurate description of these paintings. Several of them, including No. 18 and Untitled (both 1948), are less transitional than fully realized. Rothko himself described these paintings as possessing a more organic structure and as self-contained units of human expression. For him, these blurred blocks of various colors, devoid of landscape or the human figure, let alone myth and symbol, possessed their own life force. They contained a “breath of life” he found lacking in most figurative painting of the era. They filled with possibility, whereas his experimentation with mythological symbolism had become a tired formula. The “multiforms” brought Rothko to a realization of his mature, signature style, the only style Rothko would never fully abandon.

In the middle of this crucial period of transition, Rothko had been impressed by Clyfford Still‘s abstract fields of color, which were influenced in part by the landscapes of Still’s native North Dakota.[42]

Philippe Halsman

(Via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Philippe Halsman (LatvianFilips Halsmans; 2 May 1906 – 25 June 1979) was an American portrait photographer. He was born in Riga in the part of the Russian Empire which later became Latvia, and died in New York City.”

“…Halsman commented, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.”[5]The photographer developed a philosophy of jump photography, which he called jumpology.[6] He published Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book in 1959, which contained a tongue-in-cheek discussion of jumpology and 178 photographs of celebrity jumpers.

His 1961 book Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas, discussed ways for photographers to produce unusual pieces of work by following six rules:

“the rule of the direct approach,”
“the rule of the unusual technique,”
“the rule of the added unusual feature,”
“the rule of the missing feature,”
“the rule of compounded features,”
“the rule of the literal or ideographic method.”

 

Dalí Atomicus (1948) by Halsman in an unretouched version, showing the devices which held up the various props and missing the painting in the frame on the easel.

 

IMANTS TILLERS one world many visions 

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
14 JULY – 16 October 2006

“The more we look at his paintings, the more pervasive Tillers’s own presence becomes, not only through his very particular method of painting but also through constant references to the artist’s role and his shifting identity.”
Nicholas Baume1

Themes

“…Tillers’ interest in cross-cultural issues would come to the fore in his Diaspora series in the following decade, these earlier works reveal that his preoccupation with the shifting nature of our personal and collective identities and displacements was apparent in the mid 1980s, as it had been from the beginning of the canvasboard system.”

Nicholas Baume, ‘Where truth is no stranger to fiction: Imants Tillers, Kangaroo blank 1988’, in Creating Australia, two hundred years of art: 1788–1988, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide: International Cultural Corporation of Australia Ltd and Art Gallery Board of South Australia, 1988, p.227.

Betty Churcher, in Imants Tillers: Venice Biennale 1986 Australia, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide: Art Gallery Board of South Australia and the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, Sydney, 1986, p.54.

 

 

Life Stories as Cultural Heritage: the Latvian Diaspora
Baiba Bela

Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia

“Life stories are a significant part of the cultural heritage of the Baltic diaspora. Life stories tell about historical events of the diaspora from a subjective, personal viewpoint. Furthermore – life stories are important not only as testimonies of history, but they themselves play an important role in the diaspora communities, particularly in the preservation and transmission of national identity.

The paper focuses on the collection and research of life stories of Latvia within the National Oral History (LNOH) project, with particular emphasis on the collections and research of Latvian diaspora narratives.”

 

MUSEUM VICTORIA COLLECTIONS

A Latvian Weaving Collection: the Apinis Family

Summary

“The Apinis weaving collection contains over 150 objects made and used by Latvian migrants, Anna, Ervin and Anita Apinis, in the maintenance of traditional skills and cultural heritage associated with the artistic practice of weaving. It includes brought objects, examples of weaving, photographs and audio visual oral histories. It has been acquired by Museum Victoria in stages since the relationship with the family was first established as part of the immigration and artistic practice project in 1992.”

Author: Ms Michelle Stevenson

3D Web

Inspired by Tomás Saraceno’s research in mapping 3D spider webs, this work is an experiment in exploring netted tensile structures and how they sit in space. In reference to the legacy of Frei Otto, I term the study ‘experiments in form-finding’.

 

3d web

Render 1
1cm hook
radius of 9
Acrylic yarn
1.6m x 1.6m x 1.6m
Locations; Mayfield Studio & University of Newcastle, Callaghan Campus.

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Render 2
4mm hook
radius of 12
Mercerised Cotton
1.2m x 1.2m x 1.2m
Location; Mayfield Studio

 

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Render 3
1cm hook
radius of 12
Crochet Cotton
2.4m x 2.4m x 2.4m
Location; The University of Newcastle, Callaghan Campus

outdoorsculpture

 

Test installation of Render 1, 2 & 3.

 

Temporary site-specific crochet installation at the University of Newcastle, 3.30-4.30pm, May 23rd, 2016.

I would like to acknowledge the Awabakal people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to elders of the Awabakal nation past and present.

Sound & Image Production by Louisa Magrics, 2016

Contemporary Art Research, Perth

Kinetic Street Art by Phil Gamblen, PerthFlux

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Art Gallery of WA

Alex Spremburg, Recover

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Howard Taylor, Twisted Figure

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IMG_1222 IMG_1224

 

Galliano Fardin, Polarities 1

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Galliano Fardin, Turn

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Robert Hunter, Untitled

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IMG_1233 IMG_1235

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Ian Burn, This is Not Political

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IMG_1239

 

Robert Rooney, Superknit 2

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Alexander Calder, Triangular

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Paper Mountain Gallery, ARI

 

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Toilet door (& wall), Perth Cultural Persinct

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Year 12 Exhibition, Art Gallery of Western Australia

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Molecular Geometry

Day 2 in Perth for PICA Hatched Prize, went for a walk and came across this artwork;

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Permanent public artwork: ALBERT FACEY HOUSE – Perth. WA. AustraliaLED strips, Delrin plastic, brass ball bearings, audio connectors, aluminum, vynal, 12 volt power supply and ac Motor and gearbox800 x 800 x 1500mm (LxWxH)

Carbon Sun. 2012 is an allegorical sun; a tetrahedric structure suspended within a phase of historic utopian allotropes.*

The geo-synthetic-sun-structure ‘CARBON SUN. 2012’ is an illuminated wire-frame diamond structure with a cuboctahedron at its centre. It employs the tetrahedric geometry of the Carbon atom to create an allegorical sun. This infinitely expandable Isotropic Vector Matrix System consists of forty-four internally illuminated plastic tubes; linked together by fifteen plastic facetted nodes. The tubes are Delrin plastic, wrapped in UV treated coloured vinyl and illuminated by a 12 volt 800 lumen LED lighting system. Inside each Delrin node is a spherical brass electrical conducting core, which supplies power through out the sculpture. The work is suspended from a stainless steel support tube that rotates a single revolution every 24 minutes.

via the artist’s website 

 

 

** Allotropy or allotropism (from Greek ἄλλος (allos), meaning “other”, and τρόπος (tropos), meaning “manner, form”) is the property of some chemical elements to exist in two or more different forms, in the same physical state, known as allotropes of these elements.

Related topics
One of his [Buckminsterfullerene] designs of a geodesic dome structure bears great resemblance to C ; as a result, the discoverers of the allotrope named the newfound molecule after him. Wikipedia
Many nonmetals have less stable allotropes, with either nonmetallic or metallic properties. Wikipedia
ExploreNonmetal
Polymorphism can potentially be found in any crystalline material including polymers, minerals, and metals, and is related to allotropy, which refers to chemical elements. Wikipedia

 

 

Michel Foucault

 

This is Not a Pipe

Foucault, Michel. “This is Not a Pipe.”, edited by James Harkness. Quantum Books, 2008.

Original Publication: Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Excerpt – Chapter 6: Non-affirmative Painting.

Separation between linguistic signs and plastic elements; equivalence of resemblance and affirmation. These two principles constituted the tension in classical painting, because the second reintroduced discourse (affirmation exists only where there is speech) into an art from which the linguistic element was rigorously excluded. Hence the fact that classical painting spoke – and spoke constantly – while constituting itself entirely outside language; hence the fact that it rested silently in a discursive space; hence the fact that it provided, beneath itself, a kind of common ground where it could restore the bonds of signs and the image. Magritte knits verbal signs and plastic elements together, but without referring them to a prior isotopism. He skirts the base of affirmative discourse on which resemblance calmly reposes, and he brings pure similitudes and nonaffirmative verbal statements into play within the instability of a disoriented volume and an unmapped space. A process whose formulation is in some sense given by Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

  1. To employ a calligram where are found, simultaneously present and visible, image, text, resemblance, affirmation and their common ground.
  2. Then suddenly to open up, so that the calligram immediately decomposes and disappears, leaving as a trace only its own absence.
  3. To allow discourse to collapse of its own weight and to acquire the visible shape of letters. Letters which, insofar as they are drawn, enter into an uncertain, indefinite relation, confused with the drawing itself – but minus any area to serve as a common ground.
  4. To allow similitudes, on the other to multiply of themselves, to be born from their own vapour and to rise endlessly into an ether where they refer to nothing more than themselves.
  5. To verify clearly, at the end of the operation, that the precipitate has changed colour, that it has gone from black to white, that the “This is a pipe” silently hidden in the mimetic representation has become the “This is not a pipe” of circulating similitudes.

A day will come when, by means of similitude relayed indefinitely along the length of a series, the image itself, along with the name it bears, will lose its identity. Campbell, Campbell, Campbell.

truth

Truth is a major theme in Foucault’s work, in particular in the context of its relations with power, knowledge and the subject. He argues that truth is an event which takes place in history. It is something that ‘happens’, and is produced by various techniques (the ‘technology’ of truth) rather than something that already exists and is simply waiting to be discovered. Foucault argues that ‘the effect of truth’ he wants to produce consists in ‘showing that the real is polemical’. Foucault further notes that he is not interested in ‘telling the truth’, in his writing; rather, he is interested in inviting people to have a particular experience for themselves.
– Clare O’Farrell 2007

 

The Archæology of Knowledge

… These problems may be summed up in a word: the questioning of the document. Of course, it is obvious enough that ever since a discipline such as history has existed, documents have been used, questioned, and have given rise to questions; scholars have asked not only what these documents meant, but also whether they were telling the truth, and by what right they could claim to be doing so, whether they were sincere or deliberately misleading, well informed or ignorant, authentic or tampered with. But each of these questions, and all this critical concern, pointed to one and the same end: the reconstitution, on the basis of what the documents say, and sometimes merely hint at, of the past from which they emanate and which has now disappeared far behind them; the document was always treated as the language of a voice since reduced to silence, its fragile, but possibly decipherable trace. Now, through a mutation that is not of very recent origin, but which has still not come to an end, history has altered its position in relation to the document: it has taken as its primary task, not the interpretation of the document, nor the attempt to decide whether it is telling the truth or what is its expressive value, but to work on it from within and to develop it: history now organises the document, divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines unities, describes relations. The document, then, is no longer for history an inert material through which it tries to reconstitute what men have done or said, the events of which only the trace remains; history is now trying to define within the documentary material itself unities, totalities, series, relations. History must be detached from the image that satisfied it for so long, and through which it found its anthropological justification: that of an age-old collective consciousness that made use of material documents to refresh its memory; history is the work expended on material documentation (books, texts, accounts, registers, acts, buildings, institutions, laws, techniques, objects, customs, etc.) that exists, in every time and place, in every society, either in a spontaneous or in a consciously organised form. The document is not the fortunate tool of a history that is primarily and fundamentally memory; history is one way in which a society recognises and develops a mass of documentation with which it is inextricably linked.

To be brief, then, let us say that history, in its traditional form, undertook to ‘memorise’ the monuments of the past, transform them into documents, and lend speech to those traces which, in themselves, are often not verbal, or which say in silence something other than what they actually say; in our time, history is that which transforms documents into monuments. In that area where, in the past, history deciphered the traces left by men, it now deploys a mass of elements that have to be grouped, made relevant, placed in relation to one another to form totalities. There was a time when archaeology, as a discipline devoted to silent monuments, inert traces, objects without context, and things left by the past, aspired to the condition of history, and attained meaning only through the restitution of a historical discourse; it might be said, to play on words a little, that in our time history aspires to the condition of archaeology, to the intrinsic description of the monument.

This has several consequences. First of all, there is the surface effect already mentioned: the proliferation of discontinuities in the history of ideas, and the emergence of long periods in history proper. in fact, in its traditional form, history proper was concerned to define relations (of simple causality, of circular determination, of antagonism, of expression) between facts or dated events: the series being known, it was simply a question of defining the position of each element in relation to the other elements in the series. The problem now is to constitute series: to define the elements proper to each series, to fix its boundaries, to reveal its own specific type of relations, to formulate its laws, and, beyond this, to describe the relations between different series, thus constituting series of series, or ‘tables’: hence the ever-increasing number of strata, and the need to distinguish them, the specificity of their time and chronologies; hence the need to distinguish not only important events (with a long chain of consequences) and less important ones, but types of events at quite different levels (some very brief, others of average duration, like the development of a particular technique, or a scarcity of money, and others of a long-term nature, like a demographic equilibrium or the gradual adjustment of an economy to climatic change); hence the possibility of revealing series with widely spaced intervals formed by rare or repetitive events. The appearance of long periods in the history of today is not a return to the philosophers of history, to the great ages of the world, or to the periodisation dictated by the rise and fall of civilisations; it is the effect of the methodologically concerted development of series. In the history of ideas, of thought and of the sciences, the same mutation has brought about the opposite effect; it has broken up the long series formed by the progress of consciousness, or the teleology of reason, or the evolution of human thought; it has questioned the themes of convergence and culmination; it has doubted the possibility of creating totalities. It has led to the individualisation of different series, which are juxtaposed to one another, follow one another, overlap and intersect, without one being able to reduce them to a linear schema. Thus, in place of the continuous chronology of reason, which was invariably traced back to some inaccessible origin, there have appeared scales that are sometimes very brief, distinct from one another, irreducible to a single law, scales that bear a type of history peculiar to each one, and which cannot be reduced to the general model of a consciousness that acquires, progresses, and remembers.

  • Source:The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), publ. Routledge, 1972. Excerpt from the first 3 chapters of main body of work.