Public Record

Another way that artists have critiqued society's institutions is by turning to the public record as material, theme, or strategy. In these cases, artists strive to make visible relevant information—declassified government documents, court transcripts, old newspaper headlines, or magazine advertisements—with an awareness of what has historically been included or excluded, readily available or "off the record." As important is the artists' insistence on the possibility for reinterpretation or new understandings brought to light in response to our shifting historical context. Some projects provide a way to preserve and sustain positions that might be eliminated or obscured over time. These works are, in other words, a way of keeping information about a historical event or cultural phenomenon circulating in the public domain. This allows for the possibility of sustained public debate about subjects that might otherwise not be given their deserved place within the historical or contemporary record—whether because of cultural amnesia or deliberate omission. In addition, such works can operate in the present, posing questions about what we think we are seeing as events unfold in real time and are assigned value and judged. Visibility here assumes a particular urgency, making us aware of how powerful information and representation can be. 

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citation for this page
"Public Record." Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology Digital Archive. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2017. https://​hammer.ucla.edu/​take-it-or-leave-it/​art/​themes/​public-record/​.