Archive – Un inventaire sans fin

How to deal with 50 years of institutional history?

Project description

Since the opening in 1962, the Goethe-Institut Paris has tried to document its activities (photos, administrative documents, audio recordings). Recently some artistic approaches focus on the investigation and interpretation of archive material. Archives are rarely complete neither transparent; they are the result of (individual) selection, loss and conservation.
The aim of the project “Archive – Un inventaire sans fin” was to deal in a creative, interactive and participative way with 50 years of institutional history. Within a one month residency program a group of seven upcoming German artists was invited to screen the archive and to treat and interpret the material from different artistic angles. The result was a contemporary exhibition of photographs, interactive installations, video art and performances as well as participative elements that invited the audience to contribute to the story of the Goethe-Institut.
The invited artists created a fictive reconstruction of missing archive material and interpreted the existing documents in an artistic way. They worked like archaeologists and had to deal with antiqued systems and data mediums. The exhibition was produced and shown in the entire building of the Goethe-Institut – not only in the official venues but also in spots of the actual archive like the attic or the basement.

How was the project innovative?

For the first time the Goethe-Institut Paris involved the audience in a very interactive way. They contributed with their personal stories, experiences, photos. The collected material was presented in the exhibition and on the website. Furthermore the audience became interesting insights of the Goethe-Institut as the exhibition was shown in non-public and normally not accessible areas of the Goethe-Institut. Last but not least the audience had the possibility to be part of some art works – for example in the case of the interactive installation of historical sound documents which could be controlled and piloted by the visitor himself.

How is the project linked to the theme of 20th century European memory?

The project questioned the importance of memory and archives today and offered an artistic dimension of dealing with the problem of lack of material.


Goethe-Institut Paris, France
Katharina Scriba