Installation Art and the Practices of Archivalism

A new study by David Houston Jones, published by Routledge

About the Book

On the leading edge of trauma and archival studies, this timely book engages with the recent growth in visual projects that respond to the archive, focusing in particular on installation art. It traces a line of argument from practitioners who explicitly depict the archive (Samuel Beckett, Christian Boltanski, Art & Language, Walid Raad) to those whose materials and practices are archival (Miroslaw Balka, Jean-Luc Godard, Silvia Kolbowski, Boltanski, Atom Egoyan). Jones considers in particular the widespread nostalgia for ‘archival’ media such as analogue photographs and film. He analyses the innovative strategies by which such artefacts are incorporated, examining five distinct types of archival practice: the intermedial, testimonial, personal, relational and monumentalist.


“This is a deeply compelling book. David Jones takes us into the quick of archive fever, exploring a range of artworks which exist in or refer to real archives, and allow reflection on our compulsion to archive and the rethinking of memory that theories of the archive allow. In a turn to Pierre Nora this book moves particularly to consider artists’ interest in remnants, in material traces and the culture of remains. The illuminating series of chapters, beautifully titled – ‘Intermedial’, ‘Testimonial’, ‘Relational’, ‘Personal’, ‘Sublime’ – offers a taxonomy of archivalist practice. The interpretations yielded, of major artworks by Samuel Beckett, Christian Boltanski, Miroslaw Balka, Atom Egoyan and others, are gripping, deft, melancholy and disarming. In fine theoretical readings and measured discussions of the individual projects David Jones shows here, so brilliantly, how archive art engages major current questions of human memory and ethics.”

– Emma Wilson, Cambridge University, UK

Find out more about this title at the Routledge website.

You can also follow David Houston Jones on Twitter @davidhoustonjon.

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