The Blackaeonium Project: Workspace/Keeping-Place - An Archival Continuum of Creative Practice

PhD by Research Project, Lisa Cianci, 2012

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The Blackaeonium research project involves the development of an online system to store elements of artworks as an ongoing personal archive that also works as a creative framework for continuing development of new artworks. The creative works produced through the Blackaeonium archival system (itself the first creative project), demonstrate possibilities for working with the archive creatively and provide a model of possibility for creative practitioners to consider actively incorporating archival methods into processes for making and documenting artworks and related creative content. This research is partially a response to the increasingly urgent activity surrounding the development of a range of digital preservation strategies and systems by cultural institutions, recognising that much of our cultural and creative works will otherwise become lost forever.

The project has been undertaken to demonstrate the potential of empowering artists (firstly myself, and then others) to conduct our own documentation/archival practice within our creative practice (outside/beyond institutional selection), working with our “archives in the wild”. The artworks and supporting content developed through this research have followed a set of processes and methods developed by understanding and gaining knowledge from working in multidisciplinary fields of practice, and from the creative act, the archival act, and the practice-based research methodology that underpins the entire project.

The research involved my own art practice as the main case study. Other artists and guest audience members became participants in various parts of the project to further test my proposition that meaningful and deliberate keeping and documentation of selected content, and the creative act of recombination that happens through juxtaposition, remix and experimentation with content elements, can be harnessed as a method of preservation using an “archival continuum” framework to make this process more explicit through documentation.

Developing a creative project over a number of years revealed that the work undertaken throughout the project has employed methods and processes that attempt to stave off or at least delay the inevitable “archival entropy” inherent in our archives and systems by applying energy to the creative archival assemblage held in an online digital system through various means: the archival act; the creative act; and to a lesser extent, through the act of educating others about combining archival and creative acts.

The challenges of combining the archival act and the creative act in a practice-based methodology revealed tensions such as the granularity of archival description necessary for creative works, the definition of the “artwork” within the context of the “archival assemblage”, selection and documentation processes suitable for artists, resistance to archiving by artists, and requirements for potential future stakeholders.

Artists who understand the archival continuum and can apply it to creative practice (to our process, our content and the frameworks we use to present our work), through both archival documentation and the practices of reuse, remix and recombination, will be better able to keep our content live and alive in the archival assemblage. This can both maximise access to content at all dimensions of the archival continuum for artistic creative uses, and can enable creative work to be accessible and meaningful to others through space and time.

The Blackaeonium archival system, as a framework and structure enabling creative outcomes, demonstrates what is possible when working with the archive and variable media content in a continuum of creative practice. This project forms a link in the chain of developmental research undertaken by artists, archivists and curators that will benefit those working in the field to preserve and make accessible ephemeral and variable media artworks.

The research has shown, in demonstrated creative project work, supported by research and examples from the fields of practice, that artist involvement in the documentation of our work is more effective than relying on professional documentation alone. Artwork that comes with artist-created documentation will be more accessible, meaningful and useful for institutional and non-institutional stakeholders in future. Most importantly, the research has shown that it's possible to create artworks through the processes developed in this research project.



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created 01/12/2011
last modified 30/07/2012