Laura Hilton-Smith, our Collections Assistant, writes; many artists have been inspired by the contents and collections of archives. However, some have used archival practices such as collecting, listing and cataloguing to inform and create their work
One such project is Folk Archive (2005) by artists Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane. Deller and Kane spent 6 years collecting examples of contemporary British folk art to show creative practice from outside of the traditional art world. Their collection includes flower arrangements, embroidered wrestling costumes, memorials to Princess Diana and burger van signs. The Folk Archive collection documents folk practices, celebrations and customs in the UK in a way that echoes our own Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture.
You can read more about Folk Archive and see images of some of the fascinating items here.
In their book Inventory (2008) artists Kasper Andreasen and Tine Melzer created a visual record of the objects around them. They collected everyday items from the kitchen, desk, drawers and cupboards and traced around them, once face up and once face down. As a result, these domestic, mundane objects are represented and inventoried in a series of beautiful abstract lines and shapes. Our Artists’ Book collection includes a copy of Inventory.
The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1993-1996) is the work of artist Zoe Leonard and filmmaker Cheryl Dunye. The collection documents the life of black lesbian blues singer Fae Richards through candid family photographs, film stills and publicity shots. Her life as a Hollywood starlet, the effects of racism and the Civil Rights era on her career, her teenage years and old age are all documented. However Fae Richards is entirely fictional. All 82 photographs were carefully staged using period make-up, clothing and lighting. By fabricating this fictional archive Leonard and Dunye highlight equivalent real-life stories that have gone undocumented and forgotten.
You can read more about The Fae Richards Photo Archive here.
I’ve also included archival practices in my own artwork. Working with collections of items such as Japanese textiles and woodblock prints I was inspired to create my own archive using items that I collected in Japan. Museum of Japan contains over 300 items including train tickets, supermarket receipts, carrier bags, drinks labels, museum leaflets, sweet wrappers and sound recordings. By collecting, listing, arranging and cataloguing these throwaway items I hope to capture and store my memories of these cherished trips to Japan.
You can read more about Museum of Japan here.
Tickets and receipt from the Museum of Japan. Images courtesty of Laura Hilton-Smith.