Institutional Garbage: At Work in the Archive

Sean Dickerson
6 Sessions »Tuesdays, March 24- April 28

6:30-9:30pm | 16C | $295


Materials List

"The typewriter, the card index, and the filing cabinet: these are technologies and modalities of the archive. To the bureaucrat, archives contain little more than garbage, paperwork no longer needed; to the historian, on the other hand, the archive's content stands as a quasi-objective correlative of the "living" past."  Sven Spieker, The Big Archive: Art From Bureaucracy

As critical thinking has questioned the authority and practices of the archive, artists and curators have taken to creative approaches to archiving and the use of the archive as a site of creative practice. This class focuses on the multiple uses, meanings, and structures of archival work in contemporary art and exhibition making. Together we will consider how documentation (ephemera, photography, audio/video, oral history, etc.) functions in traditional archival collections and as a newly constituted artistic practice beginning in the 1960s. We will devote special interest to Bay Area art projects (Bonnie Sherk, Paul Kos, Jo Hanson, Suzanne Lacy, the programs at 80 Langton Street) that have used documentation for personal, political, and social purposes. The class will include lectures, readings and discussions, visiting artists, and one off-campus field trip to a local archive. Students will create a final project or presentation based upon their interest in the topic.

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Sean Dickerson is a writer and archivist living in Oakland, California. He has worked for public and private collections, including the Oakland Museum of California, the African American Museum & Library at Oakland, and the Oakland Public Library. His research interests include the relationship of memory and documents, exhibition histories, institutional politics, public space, and social practice. Currently he is researching the Bay Area Black Artists (BABA) Collective and the work of the Oakland Museum's Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild.