In the context of a work placement at Het Firmament for the Postgraduate course in Archiving: Heritage Management and Modern Document Management at the VUB in Brussels, a study was carried out into the contents of the archives of performance artists and what criteria are used to preserve the archive. As a practical example the archive of choreographer Ugo Dehaes was analysed to obtain an idea of what is actually produced and preserved during the creation and performance of a dance production. On the basis of this discussion and an examination of the physical archive, it was possible to extend the existing list of what the archive of performance artists contains. During the examination of the material, the physical archive was classified, cleaned, repacked and labelled, before being stored in one place.
- Introductory conversation with Ugo Dehaes: 11 February 2014
- Examination of preserved archive material, by production: 11 February 2014
- Classification and packing: 12 February 2014
Ugo Dehaes is the type of artist who likes to retain as many traces of his creations as possible. The urge to document and archive his work grew partly from the frustration that there was virtually nothing left of the period in which he danced with Damaged Goods (1998-2001).
The material kept by Ugo Dehaes from his dance productions was semi-classified, by production, in a number of ring-binders and boxes, spread over numerous rooms in his apartment. It was his wish to classify this by production and store the material in marked archive boxes in one place, to make it easier to find everything.
- Classification of preserved material, by production
- Packing in archive boxes
- Storage of boxes in one place
- Obtain insight into what performance artists' archives contain
- Obtain insight into why the archive is preserved
- Registration at Archiefbank Vlaanderen
- Defining the problem
- 1.1. Getting an impression of the diversity of the preserved material and why it was preserved
- 1.2. Getting some insight into the wishes of the artist
- 2.1. Preparation (centralising the material + identifying the material by production)
- 2.2. Classifying
1. Defining the problem
1.1. Getting an impression of the diversity of the preserved material and why it was preserved
The first step was to get some idea of the scope of the archive. Ugo Dehaes gave us a guided tour of his archive with explanations about various items. Together with him we also looked at two productions, piece by piece. This was used to further supplement the list 'What your archive could be'.
1.2. Getting some insight into the wishes of the artist
Ugo Dehaes is a choreographer and co-founder of kwaadbloed vzw. Since 2000, when kwaadbloed was set up, he has created one full-length performance every two years. This has meant that the archive has slowly and gradually grown into its current form. Ugo keeps the whole archive in his private home.
To get an idea of Ugo’s expectations and vision as regards his archive, we conducted an in-depth interview. From this it transpired that Ugo is the emotional collecting type that wants to preserve as many traces of his creations as possible. We also gained some insight into the most essential items of various productions. Together with Ugo we devised a plan to classify, clean, pack, label and centralise the archive.
For the purposes of classification, the material was first put in one place and then two productions were selected, which were then examined item by item. This enabled us to see what the archive contained and what sort of classification was required.
The archive was classified by production. Within the productions a distinction was made between promotion, press and creative material. The business and administrative archive, photos and recordings are not kept in the production boxes.
Any elements that could damage the archive were removed. The criterion for removing staples, folders and other materials that could damage the archive was that it had to remain physically clear that these archive pieces belonged together and that no context was lost in the process. Wherever possible plastic folders were replaced by paper folders and/or cardboard boxes.
4. Packing in archive boxes
The archive was placed in suitable archive boxes. These archive boxes were then labelled on the basis of their contents. That included the title of the production as well as an indication as to whether the box also contained creative, press and/or promotional material of this production.
5. Centralising in one place
The archive was then put in one suitable place. There it was classified in chronological order.
6.1. Registration at Archiefbank Vlaanderen
The kwaadbloed archive is kept in Ugo Dehaes’ private apartment. To ensure that the research world, heritage sector and other interested parties are aware of the archive’s existence, it was decided to disclose it at the highest level in the Archiefbank Vlaanderen.
During the guided tour and further research into the archive, the obligatory and optional fields of ISAD(G) were filled in.
Were the desired results obtained?
- Ugo Dehaes’ archive gave a very full picture of what archive material was created during the creation and representation of a production.
- On the basis of the introductory conversation it was possible to filter the predominant reasons for preserving the archive.
- The Ugo Dehaes archive was classified, cleaned, packed in suitable archive boxes and centralised in one space.
- The full archive was described, but has not yet been entered into the Archiefbank Vlaanderen.
Conclusions and attention points
- Due to previous loss of archive material, the artist was very aware of a desire to archive the traces of past productions. Emotional attachment and potential re-use is also an important reason why this artist wants to preserve the archive.
- The classification of the archive required very little effort, but makes the archive significantly more accessible.
- Repacking the archive enabled space to be created.
- Make sure that there is enough working space for cleaning, classifying and re-packing the archive.