Corinne Wahlberg, 4 February 2014

I held a session on Archiving and Documentation during this year’s Devoted and

Disgruntled 9, an open space event organized by Improbable Theatre and hosted at

York Hall in Mile End. Here are my notes from the session.

Not just for academics!

What do you currently do?

What do you want to improve?

Is your documentation web ready? Do you have a digital Archive?

How are your social media archives? Do you have a history of engagement?

What about posterity? Do you care?

One of my practices is documentation. We help with photos, videos, text, and

research. I see producing and art making through the lens of archiving, specifically

digital archiving and building a reputation online.

As artists, we share stories. So, why not share the larger story online? Not just your

work, but the story of you. Being online is interacting with the world. It also helps you

build a strong, valuable relationship with your audience.

So, in academia, we were forced to do documentation. We are asked to create a lot of

work on top of our performance development and be creative with it. In our

professional practice, we need to strike a balance between making work and

documenting work, but in a practical, more useful way.

One thing that might make this easier is when you bring in an outside eye. An

“audience” eye, someone who has that perspective. This can help you build

documentation that is appealing to an audience.

I’ve been reading a book about Documentation, Disappearance And The

Representation of Live Performance by Matthew Reason.

I’ve been reading about representing live performance through digital means and

those implications. Reason talks about this. So does Philip Auslander (‘Live

Performance In A Mediatized Culture’) and Peggy Phelan (‘The Ontology of

Performance: Representation Without Reproduction’).

I’ve also been speaking with the V&A about documentation and archiving, specifically

about processing digital information.

So, digital archiving. I see the most practical tool to document your work is through a

website, a blog, and social media. It is organised by things by keywords, tags, and

categories. It is shareable, searchable, and it tells a story in the order that the viewer

chooses to view it.

So, what is difficult about documentation and archiving? For one, you need a long

term strategy. You need a strategy, a methodology, and a location (physical or digital)

where it’s all going to stay. You need to keep a record of everything that happens, how

it develops, how people communicate, how you communicate privately and publicly.

It’s incredibly daunting, but the real work is in the editing. It’s in the careful curation of

information presented elegantly. That’s one of the things that trained archivists handle.

For building a social media archive, video and images are a must. The industry is

shifting or has shifted to be extremely reliant on visuals. Capture images from the

rehearsal and production. Even generating images of things that inspire you can be

both reflective and promotional…like on Instagram or Pinterest.

Should it be messy? Artists love messiness. Well… so do audiences. Even funding

bodies. Because it shows you develop, you change, and you overcome obstacles to

meet objectives. So don’t worry about it looking ‘perfect.’ Just make sure that your

platforms and websites represent you best. A clean and simple design will probably

showcase your work better.

People also want to get to know you and know that you care….care about the subject,

care about them. This is what is so great about social media. It gives you a way to

develop super audience members. It also leave a trace-archive of your engagement

with your audience community, making it appealing to other audiences that search for

the same sort of thing.

Other short thoughts on documentation and archiving:

- One conversation I had was interest in developing a database of theatre companies,

specifically documenting their process. If you compile all of this information into a

database, emerging companies can look at examples of companies, their process,

their projects, their history.

- Punchdrunk commodified artifacts by allowing their audiences to purchase objects

from the shows. Old sets and props can be sold or auctioned off. It’s a way of bringing

the archive into your home!

- One interesting company that could offer something unique to theatre archiving is

Scan Labs. Take a 3D image of the site or the building for something impressive.

Lastly, some actions came out of this session. One, people like my approach to digital

producing and archiving, so I am going to start working with some people. The other is

that I started talking about my business background and my tube/train reading list. I

think I’m going to start a business book club for artists.

Thank you to Catalina Mihai, Aimee Corbett and Vanessa Hammick of Drawn to Stars,

Alex Rand, and others who came to this session!


Documentation, Archiving, archive, documenting, archives, documentation, archiving

Comments: 1

Li-E Chen, 10 May 2014

Hi Corinne

Thank you for your post. I wanted to go to your session at the D&D9 I heard Archiving & Documentation but I was at

elsewhere and missed it. I am very interested in the relationship between ‘trace’ and ‘art’ in artists' documentation.

Both in art and digital sectors, producing digital documentation and archiving materials are now often for commercial

purposes. The production of ‘trace making’ only serve the purpose of commercial markets, rather than art itself.

Someone said, “Documentation, records, archives are traces, not art.” I wonder why many artists are focusing and making

‘traces’ of their arts instead of doing art. (This is like we might be focusing on recording moments of our life instead of

experiencing life.) After reading this text below, I started to understand more why traces of art documentation are not art,

and why music records are not music. Documentation, music records, traces of references are all secondary, not primary in

artists' mind.

I wonder how artists challenge the ‘art goes within’ rather than ‘art from within’ when they make documentation of their

works. Any thoughts? Hope there is a list of artists who I can find references to the art of documentation in ‘art goes within’.

Here is the reference from John Cage's Silence in Chapter “Lecture on Something”.

‘For instance: someone said, “Art should come from within; then it is profound.”

But it seems to me Art goes within, and I don’t see the need for “should” or “then” or “it” or “pro-found.”

When Arts comes from within, which is what it was for so long doing,

it be-came a thing which seemed to elevate the man who made it a-bove those who ob-served it or

heard it and the artist was considered a genius or given a rating:

First, Second, No Good, until finally riding in a bus or subway:

so proudly he signs his work like a manufactuer

But since everything’s changing,

art’s now going in and it is of the utmost importance not to make a thing but rather to make nothing.

And how is this done? Done by making something which then goes in and reminds us of nothing.

It is im-portant that this something be just something, finitely something;

then very simply it goes in and becomes infinitely nothing.

It seems we are living. …‘