Parenthetic Exercises: Archiving the Studio

Curator's Statement 

My curatorial-experiment is titled ‘Archiving the Studio’. Usually archiving or record-keeping is applied to things, materials, objects, but in order to challenge and explore the idea of archiving as a form of writing, I want to investigate its relationship with space. Archiving spaces is a term that we come across in the digital or technological world – for example, an auto-message that pops up when our inbox is full, and asks us to auto-archive to free the space. Such automated sifting of data takes us to another aspect of archiving where the archived data disappears from the various space lists, and is no longer reachable from the default quick search. Archived spaces become non-editable.

Archiving a physical space is rather a difficult and abstract proposition, primarily because it does not convey a definite meaning. Does it simply imply a storage space, a godown, or recording / annotating what exists in a particular space, very much like police-recording the details of a house/road where an accident has taken place? Does archiving a space necessarily indicate its conversion into an archive, and its closure as an inhabited living space? What if one were to archive a living space? For me, this possibility suggests the simultaneity of two continuous contradictory processes – firstly archiving, which is a labour-intensive and never-ending process of documenting, record-keeping, categorizing, giving access; and the second cycle is of inhabitation: the everyday changing dynamic that animates any living-working space. The tensions generated by their simultaneous occurrence interests me, and an important  aspect to deal with. The element of rebellion against the archival conditions is present within the site itself. Here, the site that I’m proposing is – ARTIST’s STUDIO.

Studio is a site of rigorous practice. Studio as a structural entity (organised or disorganized) is what I want to deal with, that proposes the possibilities of exploring and pushing the indexical nature of archiving. From the artworks being produced to everything inside the studio space – the materials used (brush, colours, scrap, random objects) to the stock-images in artists’ computers to books and other referential material to elapsing Time. I’m going to annotate it all. 



Having worked as an archivist and dealt with Collections (of Indian modern and contemporary art), and the processes of documentation, I want to treat ‘archiving’ as a form of writing, and the basic element of this proposed curatorial project. As I propose to turn the visits to artists’ studios into a curatorial experiment of reading, and attempting to archive private interior spaces of artistic production/creation, my strategy is to set-up or initiate certain archival processes of recording Duration – so log book, inventory-sheets of the materials in the studio-space, biographies of the co-workers / assistants, reference images, the conversations, recorded alibis, of press-clippings that the artist keeps, photo-documentation etc. are some of the many means that I’m going to employ to record, which are going to play an important role. Perhaps, create indexes – of things I see, of things that perhaps become visible after the conversation, of things that the artist gives me access to, of things that were meant to be hidden. Repetition is one of many acts that will be constantly performed. Engaging myself in noting down everything, which might be sometimes important and at other times futile. . I will be the agency through which everything will be channelized. Here, I want to think of quantifiable Time in a studio. The challenge of archiving the Time in a solid space. 



I’m planning to enter the site with the institutional trope of archival processes that are supposed to generate cultural and historical value that will be challenged, and appropriated. Through this project, I also attempt to configure the position of a curator as a researcher, an archivist, an artist (because the culminating installation will not present any artist’s work, but the artist himself/herself via the studio space, processed by me, see DISSEMINATION), or the researcher-curator as a parasite. As I develop my ways of negotiating the studio space of chosen artists, the undercurrent of this process is complete elimination of the artist’s voice and presence from that space. I want to erase that presence, and keep it outside the premise of the installation (final-display). And, work on the possibilities that what such an archive of an artist’ studio can reflect individually, or collectively of different artist’s studios. 

                                                                                                                             Akansha Rastogi, 2011