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Information Retrieval
Dialogues on Archiving

London 2001

29 June 3pm - 8pm, The King's Library, British Museum

Alan Read and Michael Landy

A fear of transience, a feeling of loss, dust, and the short-lived nature of digital information (Error 404, document not found) all drive the urge to archive. But the desire for a world without storage problems, for a solid architecture, in which all text and imagery will be housed forever, must fail: the archive is not infinite. Even if the stores survive, the data, the objects of our interpretation, like memory, require permanent and active renewal. Just as our lives can be thought of as an archive, in which a passing moment, a one-night stand, a snapshot stashed away in the subconscious might one day acquire great significance, each archive possesses its own unconscious, the entirety of its contents never fully revealed.

In Information Retrieval, specialists meet for a private dialogue about archiving, broadcast live in a public video-installation. It is an invitation to observe and listen in via head-phones, to contribute via messengers, and take part in a 'live archive-roadshow'. Together, the different conversations will compose the 'script' for the second phase of the project.

The King's Library in the British Museum is regarded as one of the grandest public rooms in Europe. It was built to house the library of King George III, which formed the nucleus of the British Library and is now on display at its new premises at St Pancras.

A concept by Hannah Hurtzig, theatre producer and curator working in Berlin, and Heike Roms, Project Consultant, from Cardiff.

3.00 - 4.00 - Rebecca Schneider and Joshua Sofaer
4.00 - 4.15 - Phelim McDermott
4.15 - 5.15 - Iain Sinclair and Lawrence Norfolk
5.15 - 5.30 - Phelim McDermott
5.30 - 6.30 - Dorothy Sheridan and Alan Read
6.30 - 6.45 - Phelim Mc Dermott
6.45 - 7.45 - Michael Landy and Steve Miles

Michael Landy. In his public art installation, Break Down, (C&A, Oxford Street, Artangel commission), Landy spent two weeks shredding the entirety of his personal possessions - 7,006 items in total - leaving nothing but a written inventory of his life.

Phelim McDermott is one of the creators of Shockheaded Peter and of Lifegame, in which the memories of an audience-member were improvised in a live performance.

Author Lawrence Norfolk's acclaimed novels, including Lemprière's Dictionary, create meticulously researched historical worlds in which an encyclopaedic knowledge and classical mythology merge with contemporary theory to compose a fictionalized archive of the past.

Alan Read, Professor of Theatre Studies at Roehampton is the author of Theatre and Everyday Life, a study of the relationship between theatre and the undocumented experience of the quotidian.

Rebecca Schneider, Assistant Professor of Theater, Cornell University, USA, has recently turned her interest to the place of the embodied and ephemeral practice of performance within the culture of the archive.

Dorothy Sheridan, Director of the Mass-Observation Archive, University of Sussex. The Mass-Observation project was founded in 1937 with the aim of creating an anthropology of ourselves by documenting the everyday life of the British people.

In books like Downriver and Lights Out For The Territory, novelist and poet Iain Sinclair wanders through London, a pedestrian archivist of the city, gathering the minutiae of its stories, characters and locales.

Joshua Sofaer is a live artist who has experimented with archaeological and archival practices in 'digging up' and displaying the forgotten pasts of our childhood..

Steve Miles, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Plymouth University and author of 'Consumerism as a Way of Life', studies the meanings with which consumers endow the everyday objects of their consumption.

Join the event at anytime between 3pm and 8pm.

Commissioned and presented by LIFT

The project is developed in co-operation with the Goethe Institut London, The Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, The Institute of Romance Studies, University of London. With thanks to: Barbara Honrath - Goethe Institut London, Lois Keidan, Michael Morris - Artangel. The video recordings of the conversations will be available at the library of the Goethe Institut and the Wiener Library.