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The archival context of contemporary practice: how might temporal artistic process function as trace within the archive?

Allan, Hannah Elizabeth (2015) The archival context of contemporary practice: how might temporal artistic process function as trace within the archive? Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The thesis positions my practice led research within the context of the archive, asking if the documents and artefacts of process might remain as independent artworks in their own right. Focusing on practice as a temporal action through performance practice, research focuses on notion of the trace - those aspects of the archive which might be overlooked, or not conform to traditional notions of the document. By identifying a taxonomy of the performance archive elements such as mythology and repetition have been explored, expanding our consideration of the potential form that the archive may take. Using the methodology of triangulation, the study combines knowledge from contemporary performance practices, the professional practice of the archivist, and theoretical debate around the archival form. In writing the thesis and parallel body of practice led research I have employed selected techniques of the archivist, whilst allowing the voice of the practitioner within the academic structure of the thesis. The study builds on existing research into the archives of performance practice, as an area of artistic activity which has reflected upon its own documentation process. The research answers different questions from those studies which seek to archive contemporary performance in such a way to accurately represent the original, instead, it constructs an archival-artwork which exists as an independent and evolving body of practice. The research produced functions within this structure of the archive due to its fluid nature, just as the traces of a practice are uncertain and open to interpretation, so the body which houses them is one which may exist in multiple contexts. By working with artistic process, rather than only performance events, the research and findings are applicable to a range of interdisciplinary practices, instead of those only engaged in the live action. The study offers methods for approaching the remains of these practices and considering their function in relation to the archive.

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