Thoughts on Archiving E:vent Projects and Events

Cecilia Wee & Colm Lally

"Since antiquity and the Renaissance, mnemotechnical storage has linked memory to space. But nowadays the static residential archive as permanent storage is being replaced by dynamic temporal storage, the time-based archive as a topological place of permanent data transfer."1

E:vent works with artists, curators and collaborators on an artistic programme that includes art exhibitions, performances and screenings. The programme is delivered using collections of events, which overlap and interlink allowing each field of activity to be revisited and reformed by the artist and the viewer. The idea is to create a series of constructed sites where things unfold, potentially unresolved but rather considered through an ongoing process.

When thinking how I would go about archiving the E:vent project I wanted to avoid a static archive document. I proposed instead two strategies: the first is a conversation in the tradition of the Irish seanachai, the keeper of oral history; the second is an information architecture diagram, in the tradition of the software designer. Both archivers, seanachai and software designer use a dynamic temporal storage system to historicise events. Colm Lally, E:vent Gallery.

The following text is written by Cecilia Wee with audio files of a conversation between Cecilia and Colm.

Actions are a subclass of events and these can be attributed to authors whose agency nests within a chain of causes and effects. At other times, the actions are not intended and as such are mistakes2 . Colm Lally talks about embracing the possibility of failure or mistakes during the term of the E:vent project. This entails more than a question of being the agent responsible for an action; rather, a mistake can be viewed as prompting a revealing or unmasking of another prospect that is in turn explored, developed and interpreted. As the action of archiving is often retrospective, the archon (custodian of documents) must call on his memory to help interpret and categorise past events for storage as information. The archon has hermeneutic right over the archive - if mistakes are included, their histories may be subject to editing and documentary evidence carefully selected.

Given E:vent's attention to ideas of distribution and networkedness, it is perhaps at this point necessary to consider the space and physicality of the archive. In Archive Fever, Derrida tells us that 'the archive' originally refers to both the responsibilities of the archons and a physical place for stockpiling documents3 . By simultaneously mapping out tangible and interpretative space, the archive functions as institutional arbiter of information about a body politic. Derrida suggests that the archivolithic principle demands that the archive is coherent, transparent and self-perpetuating. Moreover, it tends to suppress diversity of content for simplicity of order. Limitations of physical space within the archive have thus sometimes lent an ideological aspect to a subject's inclusion in an archive, particularly with regards to older mechanisms of archiving that materialise memory through media such as paper, wax or tape. Such documentary means have been accused of depressing the multivocality, ephemerality and subjective character of event narratives. Increasingly, contemporary techniques and interfaces that appropriate aspects of the structure of memory have been included and gained favour in contemporary art histories. In this sense, the conventional configuration of the exhibition catalogue is in opposition to digital space, where the democratisation of bandwidth can be said to enable a democratisation of voice.

Through the creation of a space for multiple voices to articulate individual histories, the dual-layered archive structure proposed by E:vent may be viewed as challenging traditional power hierarchies. However, one of the problematics of this proposition is shown up in the previous sentence by the identification of both archon and structure archived as having the same name. Despite the potential for varied perspectives to exist in the theoretically endless expanse of digital archival space, the archiving tendency, which identifies itself with the institution it archives, can be said to be guilty of eliminating heterogeneity to that which is necessary and significant. After all, irrespective of whether those from outside the institution participate in the archive, the _archon _retains a purpose as guardian of documents and thus becomes solicitor of responses. Moreover, the _archon _holds the responsibilities of preservation and access. Differentiated from a resource or collection, the archive has a responsibility to guard the histories of events that have existed, do exist and any that may exist in the future for future generations (if not in perpetuity). As a source of memories for the future, the archive plays an important role in the presentation of an institution's cultural and social position. Hence, decision-making about the archive's content and form will always be at least partly ideological.


  1. Wolfgang Ernst 'The Archive As Metaphor' (No)Memory, Open, Nr.7 (2004) pp.49-50

  2. Donald Davidson. 'Agency', Essays on Actions & Events (Clarendon, Oxford, 2001) pp.43-61

  3. Jacques Derrida. Archive Fever -- A Freudian Impression (tr. Eric Prenowitz) (Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1996) p.16-7