Parallel history? The Archive and the Performative in the Kunsthalle Bern
For a century now, the Kunsthalle Bern dedicates itself to questioning and shaping of contemporaneity in art through the format of exhibition making. To achieve this, the institution and its successive actors articulate discourses, displays, event formats and rhythms. What is left behind by these activities is not a collection of artworks, but an archive made of various series: correspondence, press, catalogues, flyers, posters, videos. The navigating and assembling of the various material artefacts that constitute the archive allow the emergence of narratives of short duration and long time. On the occasion of the hundred years of the institution, the archive of the Kunsthalle Bern gained attention in various ways. Efforts of conservation, inventarisation, mediation and digitization have been conducted, allowing the complexification of until now little questioned myths, revealing the vastness and consistency of the still rarely consulted sources, the lack of information in other regions of the history. This work on the archive participates in a general recent tendency of similar art institutions. One of the principal reasons for the actual interest in the archive is the collusion of its concept with the emergence of digital technologies. The rapid change in means of recording and storage affects the notion of the archive to the core, revealing by this act the historicity of the archive itself. Thinking of the dialectical relation of technologies with the archive, I have been particularly drawn to the study of a period that seemed to address our moment from afar. In the 1960s, the discourse of the institution reclaimed the transformation the fixed space of exhibiting to the experience of the lively space of event, meeting demands of expanded art practices and of leisure industry. In this democratic impulse, notions of dynamism, liveliness, publicness, interactivity, proximity were central. The post-war episode is certainly important. It shows a certain synchronicity between the technologies of communication and storage that made it possible for performative activity to take the central stage. In the archive of the Kunsthalle Bern, other material traces point towards other interesting structuring conditions between what is archived and what once happened. Discussing that relation may allow us to open the problematic chiasma of archiving performance, from their opposition to their mutual dependency.
- Parallelgeschichte? Das Archiv und das Performative in der Kunsthalle Bern