Eve Olney is an academic and media practitioner who explores her subjects through experimental ethnographic technique. Her current field of interest involves cultivating alternative methodological approaches to understanding archives and archival knowledge.
The National Sculpture Factory as a living archive
This proposed arts/research project moves beyond the framework of professional archival practices and instead captures and represents the day-to-day cultural experience of a public arts organisation within an ethnographic study of the National Sculpture Factory as a ‘living’ archive. Recent scholarship focuses on the exponential popularisation of archives – but here I consider the whole institution – administrative staff; technical staff; artists; artist’s spaces; offices; tools; artifacts; architecture; exhibitions – as a nexus that holistically compiles, contains and disseminates artistic practice to a wider social audience. Through both observational and participatory ethnographic methods I focus on how all aspects and agents involved in the NSF perform in relation to their defined roles on a daily basis. I will document these social exchanges through photography, sound recording and digital video. The purpose is to determine how information/knowledge/production is being performed/shared/constructed within both casual and formal ‘enactments of social relationships’ .
Too often the role of the archive is to preserve the past: this project will result in a film documenting how the NSF, as composed of people, artefacts and exhibitions, is a living archive that evolves, interacts and generates new knowledge, practices, and cultural forms in dialogue with the general public of the present and its resources from the past. The digital archive film will illustrate exchanges between actors (people and objects) and present them as classificatory systems of meaning – the methods by which I actually acquire knowledge in the field. These alternative taxonomies will guide the viewer’s understanding of the NSF as a living archive and legitimize the film’s archival status and present an innovative practice of digital archiving that fully exploits the potential of digital media as an artistic and culturally-generative medium.
This project is timely in creating an innovative testimony of the human infrastructure on which the NSF functions and conceptualises the archive as ‘a way of being’ within an archival film format that comprehensively represents institutional practice and policy, artefacts and artists as a living – ‘on-going, open-ended’ – archive and illustrates how archives are co-authored in concert with their social context and interactions.