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ArchivorumArk by Stephen Biegel - Starting an Archive

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

The Artist's Wall. During our first meeting, the artist described the wall as her own "archive" of sorts. Having images and objects that inspire the work, it went through different arrangements and items periodically. Some of the paper materials the artist set aside for me were the past items from the wall

“How do you want to be remembered?” A daunting question, but one that an artist must think about frequently. Regardless of their response, the role of an archivist is to ensure that the artist's legacy is not just remembered but properly documented, safeguarded, and made accessible in a way that does justice to their unique vision. That's where I step in. Drawing from my experience in artist-focused archives and documenting my own artistic process, I try to bring a nuanced understanding of how to authentically represent an artist's ideas. However, creating a digital archive from the ground up, one of the goals of the “Archivorum Ark” project, was an imposing but thrilling task to begin. With Archivorum Ark’s intention of documenting a living and actively working artist, I could tell this archive was going to be a little different than the ones I had worked in previously. Belén Uriel is a mixed medium sculptor living in Lisbon, and when we first met in her studio, she was hesitant about the archive. One of the first questions she asked me: “Was there that much to document?” It was a valid concern, given that all her physical works were already professionally photographed and accessible. However, in my line of work, I knew that the finished pieces were only the surface level of understanding the artistic process. For instance, if there were to be a question regarding the intent of the work, the artist could currently answer it with ease, as Belén serves as the primary source of knowledge. However, that will not always be the case. One purpose of an archive is to act as a primary source when the artist is unable to do so. It is my goal as an archivist to make a database equivalent to that of Belén herself answering a question. To fully comprehend the breadth of her work, we needed a way to capture how the artist thinks. With this in mind, I saw two directions on how to proceed: record the methodologies of the work and document the artist herself.

In my next post, we’ll look into my approach of documenting the artist, and how highlighting personality within an archive leads to a better understanding of the artistic process.

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