One of the readings for my critical theory class was book, The Archive. The book is broken up into various writings about all different types of archives; I began to sense humor in its construction. I am reading about a particular archive, in a book titled “The Archive,” in essence making this, The Archive, an archive of archives. Essentially an archive to the second or third power, but I digress, this is not a paper about math, it’s about archives.
A particular piece, an excerpt from “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again),” caught my interest. It was physical, even though I could not touch it, I could relate to it. I could create it myself—except I am not Andy Warhol. The chances are if I engaged in this process, unless (or until) I attain such status, my archive would likely end up at the local thrift shop.
It should also be noted that an archive, as I understand it, only becomes one once it is declared so by a reputable person (a curator for example). Archives often employ set parameters and classification systems that decipher the organization of various documents and records, not necessarily just objects. A regular person can’t just throw a bunch of stuff in a box and expect it to be deemed an archive. One must attain a significant amount of social or political status before this is even a possibility. This is not to make a general presumption that people may not engage in archival practices.
An older woman, who collects antiques, catalogs her collection through documentation and even uses serial numbers as a function to track the pieces, is a collector. Her archive, if it were ever to be considered as such, would be the records and documents she kept regarding the collection. I have come to understand the archival process as one totally based in whoever declares it to be as such and those who control what it is.
As an example, whoever is controlling the government is controlling the National Archive. It is safe to say many archives within the National Archive are there because they were declared an archive by the government who decided that information needed to be archived. An interesting thing about the National Archive is the keeping of records of every tweet ever tweeted. In the midst all of the political documentation, you have Twitter. To tweet or not to tweet?
In the meantime, am I expected to believe those documents and records are solid examples of American History which represent the truth? Shall I ignorantly accept these well preserved documents just because the government, my government, says so? The National Archive is fascinating and deceitful, a perfect representation of the United States of America. It is safe to say, this process will continue to bend to the desires of those in control for generations to come. Hopefully, my paper will become part of an archive and all will be lost. In an effort not to overwhelmingly depress myself with the reality of that situation, I shall digress to the earlier archive, relative to Andy Warhol.
While reading this particular excerpt (“The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), Warhol is discussing the creation of his own archive; he truly wanted to keep record of everything he came into contact with. Yet, he discusses a condemnation of closets while presenting a glorification of open, clean space. He believes all should all be thrown into a box and sent away, never to be seen again. He initially started with trunks claiming that Tennessee Williams once engaged in this same process, and eventually settled on the uniformity of the cardboard box as he adjusted his practice. At the end of each month he would send the box off, labeled with the month and year, to a storage facility in New Jersey. Warhol is engaging in an archival type of process by labeling them with that particular information. This allows the boxes to chronologically organize themselves over time. Though, he contradictorily confesses, as we can all relate, he does not want to truly throw anything away because he may need to use it for something, someday. This is the sickness of all artists. His theory is that once it is gone, it does not matter if it is lost.
The process of how things ended-up in the box was described; when Warhol’s mail would arrive, he would sit, examine it, take the stamps off, put the stamps in an envelope with all the other stamps, open the mail, categorize it (fan mail, bills, exhibition invitations, etc.) by placing it into the appropriate piles. Once completed, it would all be thrown into the box. The box was easily accessible; it resided next to his desk and was replaced with another upon its shipment. I do not believe he accessed the boxes once they were shipped out. He continued with this practice for approximately thirty years and accumulated six hundred ten boxes. They are all housed at the Warhol Museum in Pennsylvania and are currently undergoing an archival process all their own. On the Warhol Museum’s website, I explored a box—TC21.72. The serial “TC” is an acronym for, “Time Capsules,” which is what this particular collection is titled. The “21” is the boxes’ chronological number, and the “72” references the year. This is the coding assigned by the museum, not by Warhol. Inside of this particular “Time Capsule,” are drawings by his mother Julia, phone messages, financial records, invoices, a photograph of when he was shot along with the newspaper clipping of the same photo, letters, addressed envelopes, an exhibition announcement for Johns and Rauschenberg, and a kitty cat card. The museum is currently working to archive all of the boxes.
I sometimes imagine what Warhol would have done with modern technology. All these boxes would be on memory sticks and take up a lot less space. Though Warhol’s intentions may have been what we see, he may be misrepresented. The archival process seems to be authentic and true with the various classification systems and entire government buildings dedicated to the preservation of the many types of archives. However, I believe that with the involvement of a human variable, the creation of an archive or the preservation of an archive will in some way be convoluted. This is not to deny history, rather recognize the presence of the individual within the archival process. How do I know the assistant curator did not take a document for their personal collection while privately cataloging the documents?

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