December 2007, PERFORMING THE ARCHIVE Origin of the hand of the spirit and the shark-fin bathing cap

December 2007, PERFORMING THE ARCHIVE Origin of the hand of the spirit and the shark-fin bathing cap


by Vincent Trasov (Berlin/ Vancouver)

The Great Learning
Origin of the hand of the spirit and the shark-fin bathing cap

Morris/Trasov Archive:


Founded in 1969 by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov the Image Bank helped facilitate the exchange of ideas, images and information between artists through the use of the postal system. Image Bank compiled and printed address and image request lists that were sent to participants through the mail creating an open ended decentralized method of networking. The possibilities inherent in this kind of activity are limited only by the imagination, so it is not hard to draw parallels between the pioneering work of the Image Bank with mail art and the later development of email and internet. As the Image Bank acted as both a clearing house and depository Morris and Trasov realized the importance of creating an archive to document and preserve the material accumulated from their activities. Morris/Trasov Archive was created in 1990. It is housed at Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, UBC Vancouver.


Since the inception of the archive in 1990 Morris and Trasov have pondered the creation of a database that would link all the items by a common thread. While at The Banff Centre as mentors for a residency on the future of idea art in autumn 2006, Morris and Trasov proposed a creative approach to the problem of creating a database that could complement and expand upon a formal database established by librarian and archivist. Derrida and Foucault, as well as many other humanists and social scientists have made creative and theoretical formulations about the archive and initiated a broadly interdisciplinary approach to the nature of the archive, its functions and its fate. Morris and Trasov propose to perform the archive by taking items and linking them to others, reworking and channelling them into a narrative which in turn would allow for new conclusions and further elaborations beyond their accession numbers and descriptions in the database. The performance is a media event involving the presence of the artists using a combination of items from the archive with a DVD presentation, demonstration and narrative.

“The Great Learning” was performed by Morris and Trasov at Western Front Society, Vancouver, October 20, 2007 as part of the LIVE Performance Art Biennale, a two week festival of over 30 performances from artists all over the world.The title is from a piece by Cornelius Cardew, performed at Western Front March 15, 1974. The subtitle of Morris’ and Trasov’s performance was “the origin of the hand of the spirit and the shark fin bathing cap”. The performance explored the origins, history and use of the two props, central to exploring the strategies of intervention and appropriation in the 1970s. It was the premiere performance and the first of many planned for various venues to promote and expand upon the understanding and accessibility of the Morris/Trasov Archive as the lifework of the artists.

Vincent Trasov November 2007
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Vincent Trasov (L) (Pictured with Michael Morris)

 Vincent Trasov (L) (pictured with Michael Morris) is an artist, curator and writer in Berlin . The Morris/Trasov archive is located in the Belkin Gallery at UBC, Vancouver.

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