An ephemeral archive: Signs of Change

3:40 PM Posted by Ian Alden Russell
Here is the exhibition notice from a recent project by curator Dara Greenwald who spoke at Brown and RISD recently. In this project, Greenwald has brought together a group of disparate private and personal collections of ephemera from social and political movements of the 20th century. Although perhaps problematic for its structure and categorization of movements that were often in resistance to such structures of knowledge or limitations, Signs of Change potions towards an interesting possibility for ephemeral archives. That is a short-lived coalescence of matters and materials rather than a static institutional structure. Although Greenwald's work itself is not concerned with such epistemologies, the project presents a possible opportunity to discuss what might be effective strategies and sustainable grassroots relations that could be enacted to create disparate percolations of historical materials as ephemeral archives.


PITTSBURGH -- In Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now, hundreds of posters, photographs, moving images, audio clips, and ephemera bring to life over forty years of activism, political protest, and campaigns for social justice.

Curated by Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee, this important and timely exhibition surveys the creative work of dozens of international social movements. Signs of Change presents the creative outpourings of social movements, such as those for civil rights and black power in the United States; democracy in China; anti-apartheid in Africa; squatting in Europe; environmental activism and women's rights internationally; and the global AIDS crisis, as well as uprisings and protests, such as those for indigenous control of lands; against airport construction in Japan; and for radical social transformation in France.

The exhibition also explores the development of powerful counter-cultures that evolve beyond traditional politics and create distinct aesthetics, life-styles, and social organizations. Although histories of political groups and counter-cultures have been written, and political and activist shows have been held, this exhibition is a groundbreaking attempt to chronicle the artistic and cultural production of these movements. Signs of Change offers a chance to see relatively unknown or rarely seen works, and is intended to not only provide a historical framework for contemporary activism, but also to serve as an inspiration for the present and the future.


A series of conversations and reading groups bringing students and faculty at Brown University together with artists, researchers and professionals from a wide range of international and interdisciplinary perspectives, Archiving the Ephemeral is a valuable discursive space for researchers and practitioners concerned and critically engaged with the authoritative agency of the archive in the arts and humanities. More information [here].

Made possible by a grant from the Office of International Affairs, Brown University.


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