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Charles Merewether





Lecture // 13 November 2010 @ ARGOS // 20:30 - 22:30

'Archival Malpractice'

Archives are considered in a generally benign manner as offering a positive place of reference. However, many archives have been constructed by those who have committed crimes against humanity. What are we to do with their existence? Should they be kept, maintained and opened to the public or destroyed? The Stasi archives are one such case amongst many. Representing a vast repository of files on East German citizens, it has been kept and is available for viewing by those who apply to see particular files about themselves or a family member. What was discovered, however, were reports and documents shaped by misinformation, and the fabrication of profiles and histories that had little to do with the course of events or individuals involved. Such instances provoke us to ask, what is the value of these histories to us today? In certain respects, these archives are paralleled by the fate overshadowing the existence of monuments commemorating leaders who acted against people of their own country or those of others. The response has often been to erase such monuments, a judgment spontaneously made by people at a time of change. Alternatively, the response has been to save such monuments as belonging to an era and regime that has been overthrown. 'Archival Malpractice' presents a discussion of the construction and existence of an archive made by the Khmer Rouge regime during their dictatorial regime in the late 1970s in Cambodia. The archive was composed of testimonials, documents and photographs of prisoners held at Tuol Sleng prison. Following the overthrow of the regime, the prison was transformed into a museum in which the archive was kept and displayed as a record and memorial to those who were tortured or died during this period. The paper represents the material evidence in order not only to acquire recognition of this history but to ask the viewer about the meaning and significance of it being shown today to those such as ourselves. Charles Merewether is an art historian and curator. He is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. He has curated exhibitions and published widely on modernism and contemporary art in Europe, East Asia, Australia and both North America and the Americas.
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