CalRBS Curated Special Topics: Artists and Archives

Curator: Sean Pessin, CalRBS Project Manager

Course Summary:

The CalRBS Curated Courses welcome a range of speakers in one subject area. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the course topic from a variety of expert professional perspectives.

Instructors and instructional session abstracts:

Day 1 – Led by Katherine Agyemaa Agard


I want to talk about personal archives and inheritances. I want to talk about loss, gaps and erasure. How is memory recovered? What is the role of (when things are like), what is the line between cultural appropriation when one attempts to recover memory from a distorted public archive? What are the lines and rules between the private and the personal to do so? What does it mean, under all of these considerations, to make something public?

I will talk about family archives, scrapbooks, artist books and drawers full of paper; collage; painting and theories of abstraction, memory, representation and historical specificity, searching for lost things; oral history; theories of forgetting; paraphrasing and ways of recording, inaccuracy in copying and questions about original. Readings and source materials will come from fiction, poetry, and film, and many questions will be included.

Day 2 – Poet-Librarians in the Archives, led by Michalle Gould


In this session, we will discuss the intersection between libraries and archives and creative work. We will talk about how artists can make use of libraries and archives to inform their practice and how librarians and archivists can open up their spaces to artists and encourage their collections to be used to produce richer and more well-researched poems, stories, novels, films, and even visual and multidisciplinary art. The instructor will discuss her own experience using library and archive materials to generate fiction and poetry and we will use the course session time to workshop finding materials that will be useful to the participants. The course is designed to be collaborative and to generate new ideas for creative pathways in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Day 3 – Led by Amanda Martin Katz



Day 4 – Led by Sarah Russin


This session will focus on a discussion around archival use at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), the longest-running contemporary artist space in LA. In 2018 The Getty Research Institute acquired The LACE Archives in recognition of the organization’s 40th anniversary. What were the challenges for a small institution such as LACE in developing their archives over the decades, and what is the interplay between the physical objects and the digital documentation?

We will touch on four exhibition case studies to generate conversation together as a group around these questions:

1. How was the Archival Impulse: 40 Years at LACE, which was on view for three years, conceived and organized?

2. In what ways have LACE curators used outside archives as the basis for exhibitions, such as Emory Douglas: Bold Visual Language

3. and El Teatro Campesino: 1965-1975?

4. How did LACE’s Chief Curator of the summer 2021 exhibition, Intergalactix: against isolation /contra el aisalmiento, use the LACE Archives to inform and engage with the project?

We will discuss how writers, curators, and artists have used the LACE Archives for inspiration and research. What next – what are the strategies for building on the digital archives that are instantly available to the public?