A residential installation and public program as part of BOOKSHELVES, a collaborative literary residency program in the storefront of 3307 W Washington Blvd. This program centers on a sculpture of moveable shelves that contain the personal library collection of artist and 3307 director Amanda Martin Katz. Katz invites other artists, writers, and curators to rearrange the collection’s ontology and structural design for two-month collaborative “thought residencies.”
An Archive-in-Residence explores how individual mythologies of privately amassed collections can register as historic, and how a socially reflexive culture of archiving may destabilize traditional methods for assigning value to collected objects.
The curator and art historian Ann Harezlak has re-homed her personal collection of exhibition-related ephemera within the reading room at 3307 W Washington Blvd, which she has transformed into an institution-esque archival setting. Her collection consists of printed matter such as press releases, private view cards, artists’ statements, CVs, invitations, and posters gathered from exhibitions and public art programs she has either produced or physically attended over the past fifteen years. These “secondary materials,” which describe, disseminate, and provide historical evidence of the conditions of exhibition-making, are here positioned as primary documents for interpretive study. Visitors are invited to engage these art-adjacent materials by reimagining their means of categorization, creating new taxonomies and vocabularies to delineate Harezlak’s archive-in-flux while discovering the projects and propositions it contains.
Each re-organization is recorded and displayed for the next visitor to encounter and, potentially, to re-order. At the close of her residency, the social record of these re-categorizations will be entered into the archive itself, reflecting the values, urgencies, and predilections of the micro-communities that participated in this temporary happening. In asking visitors to consider the creative process of collecting, storing, and organizing as a curatorial or artistic act, Harezlak’s reading environment provides an opportunity to question the role our personal interests and biases play in the forming of public historical narratives.
I am a Curator and an Art Historian and, having the fever, I am an Archivist. The Archive, as concrete material and ontological construct, is the method and medium by which my creative practice has traversed disciplines over these past ten years. I am compelled by the Archive: to organize, to interpret, to find value. I archive to produce and to reproduce alternative understandings of origin, order, and authority.
I tug at the spines along my personal bookshelves. These texts are adjuncts to my practice, offering critical frameworks, exhibition constructs, and even titles for past projects. They are instruments used for mapping the conditions of my labor and the development of my manifesto. They offer questions such as, “how do you look historically at the present?”; “how do digital technologies that allow Archives to be flexible systems (rather than stable entities) affect our relationship to the past?”; and, under what conditions can an archive become unarchival and/or a-archival?”
When relocating overseas, I had to actively edit my book collection, considering each text from the simultaneous viewpoints of weight and essentiality. I designated value based on influence, canonicity, enjoyment, and provocation. In these pages I see not only my choices but the people who have informed and continue to shape pathways for both my independent professional practice and the unfolding of my singular identity. These texts are objects that cannot be deaccessioned, as each time they are reopened within a new context they become a new site for inquiry.
Now, looking at my own archive, my boxes of exhibition ephemera collected from projects I physically attended or personally worked on, I ask questions about content, context, and how we develop networks of exchange. But my collaboration with the material alone is not enough. What are the moral and ethical aspects of collaboration within the process of archiving—particularly when the material is re-homed within an institution—when the conversations regarding its categorization reveal differences in cultural and historical values?
While I am an Art Historian and I am an Archivist, in the context of the 3307 BOOKSHELVES residency I am first a Rememberer. But is my archive useful only to me? How can a personal archive consider others? One can determine the contents and conditions of their collection, though the original narrator is ultimately not the audience of her own materials; it is posterity who will re-inscribe and reanimate the Archive with their future need.
The archival reading room environment was designed and built collaboratively by Harezlak and 3307 director Amanda Martin Katz. The linen book weights were hand-sewn by the textile artist Kerry Smith and designed upon consultation with Getty Research Institute conservator Melissa Huddleston. Katz’s plant collection flanks the librarian desk, providing the sense of a “living archive” while not affecting the sterility of Harezlak’s collection. A hallmark of Harezlak’s exhibition-making is the composition of a “catalytic moment” upon arriving at the site. Here, each of the materials that separately constitute the reading room (wood, white paint, linen, ceramic planter, and hoya obovata plant) appear layered in the 3307 storefront window. The plinth and display table continuously appear in Harezlak’s exhibition projects, kindly shifting their use-values accordingly.
photos by Bridget Batch & Frances Iacuzzi
The panel discussion “Accessioning Access: Social Reflexivity within Archival Practice,” explored relationships between authority, organization, and user-ship within emerging archival practices. As the way information is organized informs how it is comprehended, what are the responsibilities of archivists and other history-makers in writing socially reflexive public narratives? How does organization determine user-ship, and how can archival systems be open to culturally-informed lexical shifts in their vocabularies? Who are we archiving for?
This conversation, moderated by BOOKSHELVES resident Ann Harezlak, brought together the varying perspectives of Jessica Gambling, Museum Archivist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Karly Wildenhaus, arts researcher and library worker, and Amanda Martin Katz, director of 3307 W Washington Blvd. Together they explored processes of systemic organization to reveal how hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion function. In our current cultural climate, it is necessary that we understand these processes in order to invent intersectional schemas that write truly reflective social histories.