A draft of a work by Robert Barry, a motorbike developed by the designer Philippe Starck, La Boîte-en-valis from Marcel Duchamp’s B-series, texts and publications from the group ZERO: The Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) consists of artistic works and sketches; letters and photographs; everyday items, furniture and design objects of the 20th century; collections of objects from the Bauhaus; photo documentaries from the Fluxus movement; documents of the Polish futurists and magazines of the international labor movement
At the core of the AdA is Egidio Marzona’s private collection, donated to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) in December 2016. As an archive, it provides an index of twentieth century aesthetic thinking and a record of the era’s sociopolitical ethics and utopian ideals, opening up questions regarding the constitution of an archive and its relation to contemporary shifts and developments.
Currently, the vast majority of items in the AdA are stored in A4-size office binders not organized according to standard archival practices; not chronologically, nor by type, nor by size. Instead, these folders condense instances, figures, and material into a format that dissolves traditional distinctions of medium and scale and offers instead a curated insight into a past moment, movement, or process.
In their totality, however, these folders constitute an alternative archival arrangement: referencing Hans Arp and El Lissitzky’s Kunstismen (1925), Marzona compiled his collection in line with the art historical –isms. His archive, from Art Nouveau to the “Neue Wilde” provides an almost complete cross section of the century.
As a gesture, the Archive Viewing engenders a constellation of moments that glimpse into the AdA’s massive holdings, whether to divulge a piece thereof, react to their historical claims, or to navigate their configurations. Nine artists research and work through their own strategies, methods, and questions along the narratives provided by the AdA, opening up individual perspectives on the collection. The AdA’s current structure and its present in-flux status compel a very specific research mode: direct encounters with its folders, its objects, and its collector are crucial. Still in the process of being inventoried, the archive currently offers no database from which to straightforwardly search for and easily locate precise objects, dates, names, or keywords. This obscurity however prompts instead the need to be present in the archive for research; an act of browsing that in itself catalyzes manifold searches and accidental confrontations. Through close encounters with the material and conversations with Marzona, the artists materialize in space these encounters with this archive-in-transformation. In their works, many of which have been specially conceived for the Archive Viewing, they place materials from the archive in exhibitionary, filmic, or performative dialogue.
Together, these contributions and archival material produce a dynamic setting that at the same time catalyzes the potentialities of the processes taking form within the AdA. A week-long program of readings, lectures, and guided tours offers further thematic insights into the extensive collection.