“Engaging the Archive” will broadly examine the function and value of the concept of the book within the archive and the context of the contemporary moment. Due to developments in hardware and software the printed word has become a fragmented and open-ended artifact. Various key signifiers of meaning in relation to the materiality of the book have been drastically altered in our highly digitised era. This exhibition will attempt to reframe the institutional relationship to the materiality of the book and attempt to challenge the viewers’ assumptions and expectations of text and image.

The book holds special value within the academic context because of its link to the collection, curation, preservation and presentation of knowledge. The links between these practices will be examined by responding to key texts within the historical and theoretical terrain. Creating interventions in specific sites like libraries and universities will highlight the role these institutions play. Each specific site will have its own set of curatorial challenges as well as its own historical significance in relation to the local context and the specific content it archives.

Various texts have been published that explore the history of the printed word in relation to the development of society, economics and history. “Engaging the Archive” will attempt to engage these multiple histories in an open-ended and nuanced way to illicit viewer interest and generate reinterpretations of existing texts and ideas. This will be done by visually drawing together a diverse set of references to echo the complex nature of the book. The referenced time period ranges from the oldest existing piece of handmade paper dated 399 AD, Gutenberg’s movable type innovations, Xerox machines, Epub encoding for tablet devices and the sacred space texts occupy in fiction novels ranging from the medieval to the post-apocalyptic environment.

Exhibition details

Exhibition Opens: Friday 19 June

Exhibition Social Event: Wednesday 29 July @ 16:00

Opening Speaker: Shamil Jeppie

Venue: LCK Ulwazi Training Room (Knowledge Commons) –  UCT Chancellor Oppenheimer Library, UCT Upper Campus

Closing dates:

30 June – The Cape Town Central Library

30 July – The Bellville Public Library

30 July – UCT Chancellor Oppenheimer Library – Research Wing Level 4 & Level 5

For information about walkabouts and workshops contact – fabian.saptouw@gmail.com