Liftarchiv


The Liftarchiv

Article

Heinz Shütz

September, 2005


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 employee‘s house), that documents are filed.”1

The archontes are the keepers and guardians of the depot and … “they have the power to interpret the archives.”2 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.3

The artist group Szuper Gallery installed their Liftarchiv 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 Derrida’s 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 Liftarchiv Szuper Gallery make various references. While the district authority is responsible for public law and order the Liftarchiv 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 one’s opinion whose execution is regulated by the district authority and the issue of legally guaranteed freedom of art intersect, but are not identical. The Liftarchiv 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 Liftarchiv in an autonomous art space.A competition, another Szuper Gallery project running parallel to the Liftarchiv, invites architects to design a transportable gallery. The structure of the Liftarchiv represents a derivative of the “White Cube”, a contained, autonomous and neutral exhibition space. The dialectical punch line of the Liftarchiv lies within its transformation from a “White Cube” into a “Glass Cube”: on one hand the Liftarchiv 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 public authorities. 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, nonEnglish 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 surrounding’s 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 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 Liftarchiv 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 Liftarchiv. Being an exhibit the Liftarchiv addresses the general public, also through the various opening events and the Internet.A website allows the public a dialogic participation.This participation becomes in return a part of the Liftarchiv.

  1. Jacques Derrida, Dem Archive verschrieben, Berlin 1997, S.11 

  2. S.11 

  3. S.13