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At Work in the Archive

At Work in the Archive

A Call for Papers for a conference to be held on 8-9 May, 2014 in the School of Art History and World Art Studies, Sainsbury Institute for Art, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Contemporary art has an intense interest in the archive, both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. This ‘archival impulse' as Hal Foster called it, raises questions regarding the powerful (mal)functions of the archive in our project of modernity and go beyond any narrow disciplinary interest. This art addresses questions regarding the possibilities of truth, testimony and mourning through the archive. Amongst European and American artists working on the archive, we can count such celebrated artists as Susan Hiller, Christian Boltanski, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Wall, Mark Dion, Tacita Dean, Taryn Simon and Thomas Hirschhorn.

At Work in the Archive Website

At this conference, we aim to examine how artists have engaged with the archive in order to explore decolonial futures. This problematic, to be timely, should be situated in a context of postcolonial fatigue. Whilst early liberation ideologies are being recycled, many postcolonial subjects have abandoned the postcolonial project and have resigned themselves to what the anthropologist Charles Piot has termed ‘nostalgia for the future'. In this context a new impulse to rethink decolonial futures is required. Such an impulse may be found in the archival work of those artists whose critique of the archive yields a decolonial subjectivity. Addressing the archive as medium, postcolonial artists work through its materiality in order to rethink the temporality of the postcolony. They are ‘at work in the archive'.

Situating the initiative in the postcolony, this conference will examine the work of artists from the global South such as Georges Adéagbo, Sammy Baloji, Samuel Fosso, Walid Raad, and from former settler colonies, such as Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge, Shigeyuki Kihara, Kent Monkman, Jeffrey Thomas, Doris Salcedo and Kara Walker. Papers are invited that address the work of these and other postcolonial artists and their engagement with the archive.

Please submit your (maximum) 300-word proposal for an unpublished paper and a short CV (maximum 2 pages) by 15 December 2013 to Ferdinand de Jong ( and Rania Jaber ( Acceptance of your paper will be notified by 15 January 2014. For a limited number of speakers, especially from the Global South, travel and accommodation will be taken in charge by the AHRC Research Network ‘Utopian Archives'.

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