Archives are used
to store and preserve public documents and records. The word archive derives from
the Greek arkheion. Jacques Derrida defines arkheion as "initially a house,
a domicile, an address, the residence of the superior magistrates, the archontes
) The citizens who thus held and signified political power were considered
to possess the right to make or to represent the law. On account of their publicly
recognized authority, it is at their home, in that place which is their house
(private house, family house, or employees house), that documents are filed."*
The archontes are the keepers and guardians of the depot and
have the power to interpret the archives."** At the archive, place and law,
topology and nomology intersect. Furthermore Derrida elaborates, the archive serves
as a place of consignation, of gathering. "By consignation, we do not only
mean, in the ordinary sense of the word, the act of assigning residence or of
entrusting so as to put into reserve (to consign, to deposit), in a place and
on a substrate, but here the act of consigning through gathering together signs.
) The archontic principle of the archive is also a principle of consignation,
that is, of gathering together. ***
The artist group Szuper Gallery installed their Lift Archive in the foyer of a
public authority building which, not ostensibly being an archive, serves the purpose
of producing documents for archives. In addition to this we can find points of
reference to Derridas historic derivative: the district authority bound
by the legislative body and the judicature operates within the realm of existing
laws and possesses therefore a certain amount of interpretative power. This power
is directed not just towards the public sanctioning of the private sector such
as the registrations of births, deaths, marriages and landed property, but above
all towards resident rights.The stamp of the authority works like an entrance
ticket for the public space that is nevertheless not open to everyone even though
the word "public" suggests this.
By choosing this location for the Lift Archive Szuper Gallery make various references.
While the district authority is responsible for public law and order the Lift
Archive deals with art in the public space, a phenomena which has increasingly
established itself during the last two decades within the discourse of art. Being
a public manifestation public art underlies the regulations of public order but
at the same time occupies a special position. The issue of freedom to express
ones opinion whose execution is regulated by the district authority and
the issue of legally guaranteed freedom of art intersect, but are not identical.
The Lift Archive is what it addresses, public art. It was created within the scope
of traditional public art following recommendations by the municipal art commission.
It represents a novelty in Munich, as it is not a completed work of art but a
structural object. For the next few years it will operate like an archive, it
will acquire new material and hold events, thereby seeking public discourse. The
historical point of departure of public art lay in artists leaving museums and
galleries in order to anchor themselves, context and space-specifically, outside
of institutionalised exhibition spaces. It might at first glance seem contradictory
that Szuper Gallery insist on locating the Lift Archive in an autonomous art space.
A competition, another Szuper Gallery project running parallel to the Lift Archive,
invites architects to design a transportable gallery. The structure of the Lift
Archive represents a derivative of the "White Cube", a contained, autonomous
and neutral exhibition space. The dialectical
punch line of the Lift Archive lies within its transformation from a "White
Cube" into a "Glass Cube": on one hand the Lift Archive is autonomous
and contained, on the other hand transparent, functional and site-specifically
mimetic. A glass cube mounted onto the lift catches the transparency of the glazed
foyer and makes it possible for the archive to be seen not only from the foyer
but also from the street. When the archive is raised the viewer is denied access.
In this position the archive plays with the notion of an ideal art, art raised
to an intellectual sphere, an idealistic level which is counteracted by the mechanism
of the lift. In its raised position the space can not be entered. It becomes the
showcase for the archive but functions like a three-dimensional picture of a room,
which is reminiscent of a meeting room and therefore evokes a sense of privacy.
Installed in the foyer of the district authority the room in the glass cube operates
like an implant but as an archive it also relates to the archival air which surrounds
The autonomous reference to the given context is part of an artistic strategy,
which Szuper Gallery has pursued in a number of other contexts. As a result the
prevailing powers within these contexts were challenged and vexed. For example
at the Munich stockmarket Szuper Gallery organised English texts by business guru
Georges Soros to be read by two Ukrainian, non-English speaking children. At the
offices of the London financial news agency Bloomberg Szuper Gallery acted in
a completely irrational and pointless manner, which contrasted the surroundings
economical and medial rationality. The seemingly absurd actions affected the surroundings
and as a result it was unclear who or what was actually irrational, the surroundings
or the performers. A series of photographs could be seen as a key work to understand
this artistic strategy. It shows the members of Szuper Gallery in a private living
room dressed in police uniforms, leather gear as worn by the German motorbike
police. The public power represented by the police clashes with the private surroundings.
It is difficult to decode the poses of the police. Are they just doing their duty,
are they relaxing, or are they fashion models? The presence of public power in
a private space results in an insoluble irritation. The interpretative power on
which archives are based on proves to be powerless in this designed hermetic state-of-emergency.
The furniture of the Lift Archive gives it a touch of privacy. Being situated
in the foyer of the district authority this privacy invites the general public
to enter. The latent secret of the archive is broken. What Derrida identifies
in reference to the gathering of signs at archives reflects itself in the meeting
of people at the Lift Archive. Being an exhibit the Lift Archive addresses the
general public, also through the various opening events and the Internet. A website
and Internet access allow the public a dialogic participation. This participation
becomes in return a part of the Lift Archive.
* Jacques Derrida, Dem Archiv verschrieben, Berlin 1997, S.11
(translation: Doris Kroth)