April 23, 2014

Artists, Archives, Accumulation

Fresh off reading Rad and Hungry's "The Fine Line Between Hoarding and Collecting," I'm wondering, IS there a line to tread?  How is it possible?! I feel somewhere in between my dad's pack rat tendencies and my mom's whirl-through-the-house-and-throw-everything-out anti-clutter stance.  As an artist I treasure my (sometimes embarrassing) old work and my sketchbooks and journals to see how I've changed and evolved over the years.  And in the midst of our digital lives, I am clinging to correspondence on pieces of paper, as they become rare specimens!

Bus & train tickets from my year abroad and bundles of letters.

Beyond collections that can be clearly organized, how do you decide what to save?  I am so fascinated to learn how other people structure their archives, and their criteria for selecting which pieces of their life and work will be tucked away for the future.  I'm paring down my boxes and boxes now, preparing to move and ready to consolidate my holdings. I have recurring anxiety dreams about moving where I just have TOO MUCH STUFF and some of it just has to be abandoned.  So I get the urge to purge... and then I open up these boxes and I find amaaaazing things, and how could I possibly part with them?!

My family before I existed.

Is it weird to wonder if I should be saving things for someone other than myself?  I certainly hope nobody wants to read my private angsty journals, but what about art stuff? What if someone wants to study me?  I love the storytelling of seeing artists' notes and process and personal lives alongside their work... But does any artist actually decide while they are alive that anyone will give a shit about that stuff?  Maybe just a descendant I don't know yet!  I collect the work of my great-grandmother Agnes and every piece of it is solid gold to me.

A book cover and a magazine page with fashion illustrations, by Agnes Heisler Barton!

Is there joy to be found in discovering digital archives?  I just can't imagine putting a cd or flash drive in the computer and having the same wave of amazement as finding a box of real, actual photographs printed on paper.  But paper is unstable and takes up way more space.  Should we put a couple of really cool prints with every digital storage device we file away to make sure someone knows THERE IS JUICY STUFF IN HERE?  I've finally thrown out most of the garbage I made in art school. But I'm sure as shit not getting rid of childhood photos!

Tiny me in olden times.

I'm feeling very accomplished that I've consolidated and reduced my collection of important pieces of paper down to what can be crammed in two large plastic totes.  No more cardboard boxes or stray plastic folders labeled "stuff to keep."  But that only covers pieces of paper up to 2004, (when I graduated college), so everything newer than that is still the hot mess that fills the bookshelves of my studio.  I still don't have a plan!

How do YOU decide what to keep and what to toss?  If you make art, how much of your own work, sketchbooks, feedback, press clippings do you keep?  If you have offspring, how much of their schoolwork and tiny genius art projects do you keep?  Do you coordinate with the rest of your extended family on the state of your archives and who has access to photos and artifacts?  Do you save all correspondence, or only the greatest hits, or only from the people who wrote to you most?  Do you have any time periods in your life that take up more space in your archive storage than others?  What do you store digitally?  Do you keep things in a safe, or cardboard boxes, or giant tupperware? For whose future entertainment do you save things?  Tell me!  I'm so curious to hear what your systems are and how you decide what makes the cut.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I'm moving too, and to a much smaller place with almost no storage. A bit scary for an artist! I have about 2-3 large plastic bins of photos and memorabilia that I can't give up. I'm hoping to get them all in cute photo boxes on bookshelves for display!