Michael Barraco Q&A | SOMA Summer 2016

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Each SOMA Summer is organized around a specific conceptual framework that is studied throughout the course. Taking Derrida’s “Archive Fever” as a pint of reference, this year will focus on the use and production of documents in contemporary art. For this year’s program, we asked three questions to each participant. 


En los meses de julio y agosto de cada año, SOMA organiza un programa de verano internacional con duración de ocho semanas. El programa dirigido por Carla Herrera-Prats, se imparte en inglés y reúne a un grupo de expositores y artistas interesados en modelos pedagógicos de varias latitudes. Cada año SOMA Summer se enfoca en el desarrollo de un tema en específico. En un ambiente de trabajo intenso, los participantes tienen acceso a conferencias, entrevistas individuales y visitas de estudio de artistas activos en el ámbito artístico internacional.

Michael Barraco interviewed by Nefertari Juárez

– Is there a particular approach to the concept of archive into your work?

MB: Yes, I've always had a deep interest in niche collector run spaces whether they be focused libraries, alternative museums, indie video stores, junk shops, medical collections, or residential hoardings.  I used to shift through these places looking for materials and inspiration, but it quickly became apparent that the individual objects in these holdings completely lost their magic once separated from the narrative of their collection, and the best collections functioned as works of art in their own right.  I've since approached the role of an artist through the lens of an archivist/curator/collector. I'm interested in historical figures who wore many hats such as Charles Wilson Peale, but wonder how that approach could be made relevant in an age of dire environmental crises and changes in mass media.  
The last year I've taken my new found love for ornithology and used it to explore the way birds function as symbolic vessels for everything we hold important while we apathetically transform their environment in traumatic ways. I use such forms as an interactive jukebox, radio show, and a community image share website as a way to explore these themes through familiar forms people are comfortable interacting with.  Recently I've been interested in the book as a form that can approach a subject from multiple angles.

– Do you have any theoretical references on the concept of archive? Are you reading anything to help you out with that? 

MB: At the moment I've been obsessed with the specific archive of the  United States Patent and Trademark Office and have been researching everything I can to understand its relationship to Biology, specifically I've been reading Kaushik Sunder Rajan's Biocapital - The Constitution of Postgenomic Life. We're in a terrifying time where due to the advances in genetic engineering life can be represented in abstract informational terms that can be commodified and sold as a database.  The Museum of Post-Natural History recently released a catalogue of all the patents issued on living organisms by the United States.  

– If you were to choose any visual material on the concept of archive, which one would you pick?

(see the above image) 




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