For more than thirty years now, I have been diligently gathering materials—photographs, videos, catalogues, booklets, and invitations—on the activities of contemporary Moscow artists. Since 1989, I have collected information on more than two hundred and twenty exhibitions of Russian art in the West. This is unique material, given the fact that it is a record of an important period—Russian culture’s entrance in the West in the years after perestroika.
The main question that arises for me is how to preserve all of this material. The first and most natural answer would seem to be to continue collecting the material in the hope that in time Russian culture will develop an interest in itself, and that there will emerge money and people, who will take it upon themselves to process this material. However, as an artist I understand perfectly well the archival tendency toward effacement, so my method (the second way) is based on the active utilization of the material and its implementation in the context of the body of Today.
I have in mind that situation in which the archiving and the presentation merge into a single whole—at times becoming unclear where the material ends, and the commentary begins. The collected documents are then shamelessly included in other exhibitions, publications, and installations, once more crossing over into the category of the work of art. Thus a more complex figure of cultural preservation is created. It can be called “a personal, dynamic archive.” Such a non-traditional form is more difficult for the Archive-Alien to digest and hide in the concealed organs of its bloating body. The archivist-artist plays the role of Odysseus in this situation—running from all who attempt to leave him in one or another dead end or descriptive framework. At the same time a mythological narrative fabric is created that removes the real archival materials into the realm of poetry. The Archive of culture always verges on the poetic-mythological. Paradoxically, omissions, inaccuracies, errors, and manipulations, along with the feelings and emotions of those who describe various events, provide the Archive with greater opportunities to preserve its materials. (Vadim Zakharov)