Lingnan University organises The Performing Archive: Deep Archival Engagement as Artistic Practice

  • Event Highlights

Issue No. 72 Oct 2017

Lingnan University’s Department of Cultural Studies and Kwan Fong Cultural Research and Development Programme, in collaboration with Asia Art Archive, present a series of activities entitled “The Performing Archive: Deep Archival Engagement as Artistic Practice” to investigate how archives perform history.


An archive, by common assumption, is an assembly of information to be used for governance.  However, in recent years, official archives have been increasingly revealed as flawed with their data contaminated and distorted.  The rise of independent archives, assembled by individuals and small institutions, has become an important part of the struggle to keep public memory alive.


As a result, major innovations have taken place in the very practice of archiving – by artists, activists and academics - that have transformed our engagement with what an archive is, what it contains, how it is both accessed and inhabited.  The archive is also an environment, needing skills that combine navigating the everyday with the ability to read beyond the surface of yellowed paper and decaying celluloid.  Replacing the clarity of hindsight is a new and opposite desire: to re-muddy history, to show how the past continues to live in the present, to explore the entanglement of erasure, amnesia, visibility, and invisibility.


Based on the concept of access rights, the series of activities explores how we gradually change our concept on the nature of archive and its social roles.  It coincides with the presence of Prof Ackbar Abbas from University of California, Irvine at Lingnan University, and is designed to engage with his recent writings.  Over the years, Prof Abbas has drawn attention to ways by which to read into what is there as well as that which is missing, erased, or invisible to a certain kind of gaze.  Such an approach is crucial to understanding how the archive plays out today, as a formal entity and as an informal agglomeration.


Activities cover exhibitions, workshops, screenings and masterclasses led by scholars, filmmakers, artists and researchers from across cultural studies, film theory, art history, and public policy and advocacy.  Interested parties can click here to visit the relevant website of Department of Cultural Studies.