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Martha Wilson’s Archives Featured on Hyperallergic

Posted on April 15, 2015


Martha Wilson at the exhibition Martha Wilson: Downtown, NYU Fales Library and Special Collections, 2015.

A recent Hyperallergic article discusses artist Martha Wilson’s particular modes of archiving her performance pieces in relation to the IC exhibition Martha Wilson: Downtown at the NYU Fales Library. It notes that ‘the practices of using first-person accounts or oral histories, ephemera and grassroots archives, as well as alternative publishers, have long been core strategies for feminists seeking to document and preserve histories that have been ignored or mischaracterized by institutions.’

The piece explores the ways in which Wilson utilizes archiving as a survival strategy in both the personal and public domain: as a fervent diarist; as a collector of over 13,000 artists’ books and periodicals (eventually acquired by MoMA); as the founder of Franklin Furnace; and more recently, by building a digital archive of events and performances for the organization.

Regarding the artist’s use of archiving as a survival mechanism, writer Alexis Clements states:


Perhaps that’s the key to this strategy and what makes it so fascinating: Wilson, like Schneeman, is demonstrating and embodying methodologies for grappling with what others find too messy and confusing to confront through the act of narrating her own archive. Some will dismiss these narrations as too personal or too close to the subject, but we know by now that objectivity is, at best, an illusion. The fact that so many people who have done so much for the arts are forced into the position of writing their own histories remains galling and problematic. But as an act of resistance and a strategy for demanding attention by the sheer weight of their accomplishments, it’s clear that the archive remains a powerful tool.


To read the full article, please visit the Hyperallergic website, here.

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