Multi-Voiced Archival Performances and Sun Ra/ El Saturn Collection

Brian Harnetty

Abstract


This article critically explores creative reinterpretations of a sonic archive. It focusses on the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection, a catalogue of the experimental jazz composer Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, 1914-93). In 2010 the collection’s caretakers commissioned visual artists, writers and musicians, including myself, to create new works based on the recordings. Each resulting work acts as an archival performance, understood here as any embodied reimagining and recontextualisation of the archive. Together, the works suggest a process of listening to and remixing the archive ‘from below’, rather than a singular, top-down authority of archival interpretation and power. I examine these works through analysis and artist interviews, noting a tension between appropriation and recontextualisation on one hand and archival stewardship and acknowledgement on the other. I observe how exchange, conflict, solidarity and accountability are all potentially present within each archival performance.


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ISSN: 1904-500X

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