Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats visited Tulsa for the first time and conducted a workshop for the Philbrook Museum of Art in conjunction with their All Access Areas series on Friday, March 16th. The workshop, which included a lecture by Keats, a guided tour through archival material selected by Philbrook curators, and a hands-on workshop of generating prototypes for the consideration of archival practices within a larger scope of deep time, produced a thought-provoking and humorous foray into archival practices. Keats’ workshop folded well within the Philbrook Museum’s current exhibition Museum Confidential, which playfully examines the archive as a way to consider contemporary viewpoints and trends on curation, preservation, collecting, and- ultimately- archival futurity. Museum Director Scott Stulen is not alone in this kind of practice: Art historian and critic Terry Smith discusses museum practices with Claire Bishop in his text Talking Contemporary Curating. The two discuss museological playfulness, or radical upending of traditional methodologies of museum practices. Specifically, Bishop cites the Van Abbermuseum’s work in experimental exhibition practices which deal with their archive stating that the Van Abbemuseum “offers new apparatuses of exhibition display as a vehicle of historical consciousness.” (149) Keats’ workshop also considered historical consciousness through working with selections from the Philbrook’s collection and re-imagining forms of preservation, as conceived by, the future. This collapse offered viewer/participants insight into how our contemporary conditions, imaginaries, and biases ultimately play a role in the heavy business of decision-making with regard to how/why preservation/archive(s) manifest.
Through Keats’ prototype-practice, he suggests that the role of the artist may offer alternative modes of process and production for traditional academic research methods- emphasizing the importance of speculation as both method and product. Keats guided workshop attendees through his process, connecting modes of preservation to museum studies: the practice of copying, for example, and its relationship to extending the life/aura(?) of the object. From this perspective, I considered these preservationist desires within the scope of ephemeral practices. In performance, we discuss the (un)importance of the document, and the various ways the document operates/fails/changes and speaks back+against the temporal/spatial condition of its first form. Reenacting, or “covering,” an other's performance piece, whether that be a song, dance, or canonized performance offers both a site for homage and challenge for the initial production. The body producing the re-make is always composed within inherently different conditions (this includes, also, if the creator of the performance re-performs the work). As Keats suggests, however, this tension is productive: it has the potential to posit new forms of knowledge-production; which, in the case of the workshop Friday night, materialized as hot glued craft-objects.