The Counter-Archive

  • Paul Grace

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the effect of social trauma on representation and epistemology.
Trauma is considered here to be the catalyst for an evolution of symbolic transactions
that accommodate lived experience and provide social orientation. I explore the cultural
transmission of the traumatic ‘invisible’ of human experience, through an analysis of the
strategies of artists whose works mimic archival forms.
The Archival.
The first half of the thesis examines philosophical models of the archive as they occur in
the writings of Foucault and Derrida. Chapter one is an appraisal of Foucault’s model of
the archive in The Archaeology of Knowledge, as an engine of epistemic regulation. This
model, with its emphasis on the transaction of discursive positivities is scrutinised
through the lens of subsequent psychoanalytical critique that affirms the transmissibility
of ‘non-knowledge’. Chapter two extends this idea, and links it more directly to visual
photographic practices in an examination of Derrida’s Archive Fever. A dialectical
relationship of continual conflict is proposed between an external, archontic Archive d’
L’Autre, and a psychic archive of memory, trace, experience and embodiment.
Transactions of Darkness.
The second half of the thesis examines visual practices in the light of these theoretical
conclusions. The idea of an aesthetics of resistance to an ideologically appropriated
symbolic order is developed, in which that which cannot be conveyed as representational
positivity may be carried in ‘darkness’ through counter-Archival strategies. In chapters
three and four respectively, an examination of works which recontextualise photographs
taken in proximity to social conflict, by Thomas Hirschhorn and Teresa Margolles are
taken to exemplify the grammar of these strategies. The implications for the formation of
future subjectivities of the cultural models provided by such works are developed in the
conclusion. Counter-Archival procedures are proposed as models for a means of
reconfiguring hegemonic horizons of meaning.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorPaul Dave (Supervisor) & Simon Morris (Supervisor)

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