Louise Curham uses her art and her expertise as an archivist to explore how we can look after things we can’t digitise. Louise invites us to think about the wisdom that accompanies things we want to keep and how we can pass that on.

 Louise writes:

 Keeping heritage can be a difficult business. Our commonsense assumption is that the internet and digital systems will save and store everything, but some things don’t digitise well. Here’s an example: under the nom-de-plume of ‘Teaching and Learning Cinema’, an artist-colleague and I re-enact Expanded Cinema, a form of live art that involves film projection and performance. One of our projects re-enacts a seminal British expanded cinema work, Guy Sherwin’s Man With Mirror (1976). When we first made this re-enactment, we produced a user’s manual. We recently tested the manual with Australian artist Laura Hindmarsh. 

Laura’s experience shows that the ‘item’ Man With Mirror is an example of heritage that can’t be comprehensively recorded and transferred textually or diagrammatically.   It includes a batch of ‘embodied data’ that needs  body-to-body transmission, passing on in person from one user to the next. For Laura to carry out her own re-enactment, despite the diligent instructions in the manual, she relied upon information conveyed in-person in real time from my colleague Lucas and I, as indeed, before her, Lucas and I had relied upon information from Guy Sherwin to make our re-enactment.  What this means is that we need to keep the things, and the wisdom that goes with them.

 Louise is a researcher in the CCCR at UC, and until very recently, Louise was an archivist in theAustralian Government. As an artist, she specialises in obsolete technology. Louise trained in film, later in live arts and archives. Both live arts and archives continue to run parallel in her career. Currently finalising her PhD at the University of Canberra, Louise’s research draws together art and archives, exploring how we keep things we can’t digitise. The data set for this research takes the form of performance art re-enactments from the 1970s.

As a government archivist, Louise worked on setting policy and curating future archives. As a consultant archivist Louise has conducted significance assessments on several seminal small arts collections. In live art, Louise performs with obsolete media such as 16mm and super 8mm film. She collaborates with luminaries in Australian contemporary, classical and jazz music, in key venues and festivals in Australia and internationally. Louise’s films are in the collections of the region’s film archives. 

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