Alia Ahmad

DIG: SoAH MRes Exhibition 2020

Alia Ahmad

Alia Ahmad
DIG SoAH MRes Exhibition 2020
May 13-27th 2020
Van Gogh House, San Mei Gallery, London

DIG 2020

When we think of an archive, we think of digging or excavating the past to support our understanding of the present. How might we think about the process of historical research differently? Can we find models for different futures rather than seeking ‘authenticity’ in the past? What happens if we seek radical histories, extraordinary objects or experimental models of the past?  How do ideas, thoughts, presences and practices become canonised as art, or as historically important events or artefacts? 21 researchers from the RCA MRes School of Arts and Humanities Pathway were invited to visit Van Gogh House (VGH) in Kennington, London before the pandemic. VGH is a recently conserved terraced house in SW London where Van Gogh lived for a year between 1873 to 1874, aged 20, to work at the London branch of art dealers Coupil & Cie. The house contains archival material from his time in the UK as well as material from the entire lifespan of the house. The researchers responded by making a zine and an online exhibition for VGH’s ‘sister’ gallery San Mei Gallery. From a visit to this archive, the researchers in turn, have made work that adds to that archive asking questions of what an archive is, does or could do.    The motif of a vertical cosmos: sky, earth, underworld – was gradually secularised from the enlightenment onwards. Excavation was cast in mythological terms. Heroic journeying into the deep became a central motif of science and the humanities in the West; digging ever more deeply to recover the truth about the past. Freud used archaeology as a model in the development of psychoanalysis, and as an analogy of the mind. London is a world centre for museums, archives and collections which are now exclusively viewed online in the midst of the current international crisis caused by Covid 19.   

Each researcher has made a work to be viewed online superimposed on San Mei Gallery’s floorplan. Additionally each contributor has selected an artefact from an online archive in London, or elsewhere, that has acted as an intoxicant to their research, and made a response to it for the publication.