Contemporary Art Archives

Building a modular archive


Archive Design
Information Architecture
Content Curation
Communication Design
Interface Design
Search System

Contemporary Art Archives is a scalable and modular search system solution documenting the most exciting contemporary artists, projects, publications, curators, galleries, institutions, and collections worldwide.

Contemporary Art Archives is a project based on the idea that search engines are not a map of what people think as much as a map of how they think. As such, the project is not a content repository per se but an instrument that enables connections and access to relational content through a complex hierarchy of keywords delivered within a simple, easy-to-use interface. It is an open-access tool that invites users and researchers to search and collect information in new ways, transforming the idea of categorial systems and archives into a process of personal inquiry. Contemporary Art Archives traces unconventional trajectories of interpretation, creates unexpected content relations, and enables users to explore their full potential to unlock associative thinking patterns. 

As an instrument that provides access to information and stimulates associative thinking, the project aims to shape a new understanding of complexity driven by how users create their search patterns and uncover previously unconnected yet highly relational information. We collaborate with a series of institutions, organizations, and research collectives to transform the platform into a critical tool for alternative archival practices based on principles of unpredictability as a method. Contemporary Art Archives counts more than 75k items in its open index repository, with an estimated 200k items available by 2024 and the potential to maximize recreative sourcing of knowledge. The project is conceived as a scalable model. It enables software intermediation via APIs and provides cross-operational capabilities to enrich the complex data entry tasks within the elegant, simplified engine solution. As an archival model and practice, the platform stimulates new types of research, interpretation, education, and public engagement, driving alternative associations and understandings of art.

As computational logic drives everything today and culture is increasingly determined by technologies, our ways of thinking, corroborating, and associating information need to change. In building the Contemporary Art Archives, we employ a strategy of sourcing and resemantization where ideas of efficiency, flexibility, modularity, and seriality embrace strangeness, ambiguity, instability, unpredictability, and diffraction. From this perspective, the archives are a radical object—a systematic strategy to dissimulate and deviate from primary functions and to reintroduce alterity and difference against standardization. As a radical object, the archives are essentially critical; interfaces, software, and interactivity define their framework, and their value lies in interaction design. The archives function as genotypes, objects whose specific qualities and structural realities have been abstracted, being used as elements of different types of questioning.

Contemporary Art Archives is a project currently in development and is expected to launch in 2023. Identity design developed in collaboration with Echo Branding © Stranger Projects OÜ, 2016 / 2021—2023. Sample designs of work in progress © Stranger Projects OÜ, 2016 / 2021-2023.

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