Penn State

Simone Osthoff - Professor of Art and Critical Studies, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry

Author: Leanne Shapton

Book Description:

Archives are the basis upon which the historical past has been constructed by among other disciplines art history, museology, aesthetic philosophy, art practice, and art criticism. Traditionally understood as a container of artifacts and documents that represents artist’s lives, time periods, and cultures, the archive is usually structured by a scientific and forensic analytical logic based on proof (as in courtrooms), and organized according to a progressive chronology.

Contemporary artists, however, often disrupt this model archive by approaching it as a medium, and thus erasing traditional boundaries between artifact and representation, fiction and non-fiction. An example is Leanne Shapton’s book. Written and designed in the form of an actual auction catalogue, it renders a four-year relationship between a fictitious couple—Hal Morris, a 40ish British photographer, and Lenore Doolan, a New York Times food columnist in her late 20s—trough the couple's accumulated relics and memorabilia. This original book (a novel? a graphic novel? a fictional catalogue?) throws light upon the social and affective life of everyday objects, while suggesting we approach the archive with fresh eyes and forensic imagination. 

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