Collective exhibition. National museum of Fine arts (Building of Cuban Art), Trocadero street between Monserrate and Zulueta, Old Havana / May 2017

The archive archive, tautology of an exhibition

(...) the question of the archive is not a question of the past (...) of a concept related to the past that may or may not be available to us, an archivable concept of the archive. It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise, of a responsibility for tomorrow. The file if we want to know what it means, we will only know it in
future times (...)¹
Jacques Derrida

The concept of archive in the art world was introduced in the second half of the 20th century, specifically in the late 1960s and beyond (2). Several art theorists and historians have devoted their studies to archiving as a notion linked to conceptual art, and in particular to works that allude to individual, collective-cultural and historical memory. Museums have also been categorized as archives because of their mission to establish value codes for what is collected and to reject information not contained in the conformation of their collections, that which for Boris Groys (3), remains in the profane space.

Archive collection has its genesis in an idea associated with the two that have already been enunciated: if a museum is an archive crammed with different categories of information and contemporary art has a tendency towards archival work, how far-fetched would it be to create a small collection that acts as a new archive of the archive? It is an obvious tautology, but in short tautology is also an extended resource in the most contemporary productions, therefore it does not cease to be in consonance with the very spirit of an exhibition that seeks to look at the past with eyes of the future. Thus, these artists were invited to establish their own scrutiny within the Museum's archive, providing a corpus of works that allude to the memory and history of the institution, valued from a new correspondence between the past, present and future.

This initiative, which adds to the spirit of continuing to establish connections between the National Museum of Fine Arts and the production of the youngest artists, results in the rescue and socialization of a volume of information submerged between the static collections of an archive and collective amnesia. To carry out this function within the dynamics of the Museum, it has required the effort and support of the staff who have information in their domains; and it is then that this Archive Collection became a memento for all those involved.

Without agreement, each artist chose a different path to conceive their judgment and flow within the logic of the archive. Some chose the role of historian or archaeologist, in an effort to bring to light concrete data within the collections. This is the case of the work of Ariamna Contino and Alex Hernández, where the origins of the collections are analyzed and which results in an installation whose volumes correspond to the real values identified in their research in the Registration and Inventory Department, and under the tutelage of a curator (4).

David Beltrán, who concentrated on the fragments of history, intervened in a work from the collection together with the Department of Restoration and proposed to recreate the strata of history-incarnated in this case in the work of art itself-, decontaminated from any supposition, starting from a scientific instrument and from his own pictorial exercise. The result is three new landscapes that remained hidden from view in Enrique Crucet's painting.

Leandro Feal has used an existing photographic record or collection in the collection to store it together with his own collection of images of the works in the permanent rooms. In this way he creates an atlas-like inventory at different times, where the artist seeks to superimpose new reading essays on the photography of works of art, dialoguing with aesthetic codes implicit in the details.

Jorge & larry's work seeks an intermediate point between memory as an archive and writing, thus providing a performance starring a sort of fictitious character derived from interviews with certain people who have transited or even transit through the life of the Museum. Although it starts from a Freudian premise in which the psyche is an archive from which nothing can be definitively eliminated, the work has the seal of this collective by apparently banalizing what is contained in memory, while behind the staging we discover a strong eagerness to humanize an institution stagnant behind a quasi-sacred image.

Following the impulse of collaboration and involvement between history and the very architecture of the archive, Yornel Martínez has put in the hands of five writers a fertile ground of information at the disposal of their own inquiry. The purpose lies in constructing fictional stories based on guidelines signed by the artist, where he is given a different approach to historical narratives and to the very logic of the archive.

Celia & Yunior's proposal echoes Michel Foucault's theory that the archive is given by "fragments, regions and levels". They analyse -quoting Anna María Guasch- "methodically the discourses in their multiple existence" with the intention of "locating and describing the differences of the differences" (5) and thus delve into details, as may be the case of the Museum's Public Discourse as a reflection of the different cultural policies immersed in its centenary existence. Meanwhile, on the same string of dynamiting politics, Levi Orta conceives a work that will live in the archive and that establishes a point of view on the weaknesses in the instrumentation of artists' labor rights.

The plurality of the proposals, both in their arguments and in the formal solutions, is related to the diversity of problems that can be articulated from the signed theme. The space in the courtyard corresponds to the magnitude of the information contained, but it also allows sufficient air to be given to the works in such a way that they coexist without contaminating each other. This archive collection is intended to be visited and read, but also to coexist harmoniously in a space that shares other functions, giving life to the archive as memory, honouring the history of this institution and providing references to the Museum as a unique system that breathes for itself while containing the largest art archive in the country.

1 Jacques Derrida: Archive Illness:
a Freudian impression. Trotta, Madrid,
1997, p 36.
2 For more information on the genesis and evolution of this theme see: Anna María Guasch: Art and Archive, 1920-2010. Genealogies, typologies and discontinuities. Ediciones Akal, S.A., Madrid, 2011.
3 Boris Groys: Under suspicion, a media phenomenology. Pre-Textos, Valencia, 2008. p. 11.
4 Refers to Delia M. López Campistrous, who has been researching the origins of the collections for her Master's and PhD theses for years.
5 Anna Maria Guasch. Op. cit., p. 47.