Wednesday 10 June 2009

Art and Archives

There is a two-day conference coming up at the Monash Centre in Prato, Italy, 'Archive/Counter Archive', which sounds really interesting. The aim of the conference is to offer "fresh thinking and dialogues on the current relations between contemporary art and the archive. The focus of the conference has been shaped by the ways artists are responding to the archive, but also by the histories - and future possibilities - of practices of collecting and drawing" (quote from the announcement about the conference on Art & Education, link as above). It's not something that is really a part of my current job, hence the reason I'll be in Scotland in July and not Italy, but it's a use of Archives that seems to be increasingly common - or maybe it's always been there and it's just that I'm looking for it now. If anyone is going I'd love to hear about it!

Although I said it's not part of my job, working with artists is something that has been going on for some time now at Stirling University Archives. The Archivist Karl Magee has worked with The Changing Rooms Gallery in Stirling in the past and there is another exhibition coming up which I'm pretty excited about. It is an exhibition about John Grierson and Norman McLaren entitled 'Art is not a mirror, it's a hammer!' (an oft-quoted line by John Grierson). The exhibition is still in the planning stages but going by the information below it is going to be a great show

"Launching a long-term project with artists Katy Dove, Simon Yuill and Luke Fowler The Changing Room is working with the University of Stirling to investigate their Grierson and McLaren archives and develop new work in web, music and film. The exhibition presents an exploration of the lives of Stirling born filmmakers Norman McLaren and John Grierson as a starting point for the contemporary artists’ new works.
John Grierson, the ‘father of documentary’ and Norman McLaren, an Oscar-winning experimental filmmaker, animator and artist were brought up in Stirling and both attended Stirling High School. Grierson’s contribution to the development of film is well documented but he also had an important role in shaping McLaren’s career. In 1935, when McLaren was a student at the Glasgow School of Art, he won first prize at the Scottish Amateur Film Festival from a jury led by Grierson. The following year Grierson invited him to London to work in the creative hothouse that was the GPO film unit. Several years later Grierson brought McLaren to Canada and set him up with his own studio and full artistic freedom at the National Film Board, which Grierson had established in 1941. A string of international awards for McLaren’s pioneering, experimental work followed including an Oscar for his film Neighbours in 1953."

Both the John Grierson Archive and the Norman McLaren Archive are held at the University of Stirling. I have included an image below from the Norman McLaren Archive as it's such a beautiful letter, and a wonderful example of the wealth of material in the Archives. I love how he finishes the letter "P.S. the fighting is nowhere near this place" - I wonder if his reassurances to his mother worked, probably not!

Letter from Norman McLaren to his mother whilst he was in China, 1949
© Norman McLaren Collection, University of Stirling

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