January 19, 2023 – April 6, 2023
Pratt Institute Libraries

200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Image courtesy of the event organizer.

Image courtesy of the event organizer.

Accompanying this hybrid online/onsite exhibition of archival documents are a series of events taking place both online and onsite. These include including a virtual tour with curator Elly Clarke and Franklin Furnace founder Martha Wilson; a live remake of the very first Franklin Furnace Future of the Present netcast by Halona Hilbertz from 1998; a public workshop presented as a performance by Pratt professor and archivist Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez; a live collaboration between Pratt Institute Professor Kim Bobier’s BFA students at Pratt and Elly Clarke’s MFA Curating students from Goldsmiths, University of  London; and a closing panel. Details follow below. 

Dragging the Archive is an online/onsite exhibition of materials from the early cyber years of Franklin Furnace Archive, 1996-2002, taking place across three floors of the landmarked Library at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 1976 in artist Martha Wilson’s living loft in Tribeca, Franklin Furnace Archive continues to this day to support the production, presentation, and preservation of what was once known as ‘ephemeral art’ – which included artists’ books and live performance. In the mid 1990s, Franklin Furnace transferred its collection of artists’ books to MoMA, NY, sold its physical space, and Wilson made the decision to ‘go cyber’. This major shift ushered in a series of live ‘Netcast’ performances which were presented via Real Player over buffering, dial up networks, and broadcast out of Pseudo Studios in lower Manhattan. Franklin Furnace thus became one of the first arts organizations (anywhere) to support live art on the world wide web. In 1998, 22-year-old Elly Clarke arrived as a student intern at Franklin Furnace, and began to bear witness to, and provide youthful critique of, these new modes and methods of performance. Twenty-five years later, Clarke returns to the Archive to display fragments of what she (re)encountered during a research trip in 2019, and again just now in 2022-23. Clarke’s selections will be exhibited alongside extracts from her personal diaries and letters from the 1990s. 

Installed in museum vitrines across three levels of Pratt Library, Dragging the Archive: re:encounters with the early cyber years of Franklin Furnace, is an exhibition designed to be encountered in any order – (pro)posing a starting point for interactions with faxes, slides, videos and the heavy boxes in which these materials have been p/reserved. The ex:position is an invitation: to discuss, respond, and reflect. And to be involved: by zooming in via QR codes, that give greater clarity to fading faxes, the detail of the slides, the YES / NO / YES notes scribbled on the edges of a rejected proposal dug out of deep storage. Visitors are invited to share their reactions to these objects: online via the specially built website, and on site via the old-fashioned visitor’s book you’ll find on the second floor. 

In physics, drag is a force that pulls in two directions at once: forwards, and back; up, and down. It is also both a performance – with the possibility of transformation – and a burden, or resistance. Within the context of this archive, how to hold this tension? How to re:present evidence of a time, an event, a happening, a performance – as well as the major institutional shift taken by Franklin Furnace at this time – out of the physical and digital matter that remains? How best to present an entire storage box of phone messages received for the Founding Director over lunch? Clarke’s response is to present the logbooks as found in storage, as a readymade sculpture titled ‘Missed Calls, 1984-1988.’

Live at the Library, now in its 8th year, is an annual art exhibition and programming series collaboration between Pratt Institute Library and Franklin Furnace Archive. Curated by Elly Clarke with design by Yunjia Yuan, Live at the Library VIII is presented with the support of Michael Asher Foundation; Hollinger Metal Edge Archival Storage Materials, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs;The New York State Council on the Arts,  with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; Pratt Institute; The Silicon Valley Community Foundation; and the Board of Directors, members, and friends of Franklin Furnace Archive. And Elly Clarke’s PhD funders CHASE Doctoral Training Programme. 

On view: January 19 – April 6, 2023
Opening reception: Thursday, January 19, 2023, 5-7 pm

Dragging the Workshop

An in-person interactive workshop led by Pratt Institute Archivist Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez on finding meaning in the archive. Working with and around objects highlighted through the current Live at the Library exhibition Dragging the Archive, participants are invited to look beyond the content of an archive in order to focus on its structure, context, and significance. Collectively and collaboratively, participants and facilitator will reflect on how meaning is constructed through a contextualization and critique of the archive and its processes. Instead of asking: What is this?, we will ask: Who created it? Who kept it? Why? What does this mean to me?

Participants will leave with an understanding of how to gather and interpret information in a variety of formats – including photographs, correspondence, and ephemera, and an appreciation of how seemingly static records can influence our (very alive!) interpretations of events, people, histories, and relationships.

Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez is the Institute Archivist at Pratt, where she also teaches a course on archival theory and practice. This event is open to the public and free to attend, with a maximum of 20 places.

This event is presented as part of Dragging the Archive: A personal (re)encounter with Franklin Furnace’s Cyber Beginnings by Elly Clarke – the 8th Live at the Library collaboration between Franklin Furnace and Pratt Institute.

January 25, 2023, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm ET