Re-framing the Archives and Artmaking at CalArts

Kathy Carbone


Archives continue to be cornerstones in contemporary art practice. This paper discusses the pedagogical approaches, lived experiences, and outcomes of an experimental course for undergraduate and graduate art students entitled Archives and Artmaking. Developed and taught in Spring 2016 at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) by institute archivist Kathy Carbone, students in the course learned how to find and critically analyze primary materials; were introduced to archival principles, practices, and theory; surveyed the archival artmaking practices and artwork of various contemporary artists; and, utilized the CalArts Institute Archives—the final repository for official university records and related materials that document the collective memory of CalArts as well as the Chouinard Art School and the Los Angeles Music Conservatory (two institutions that merged in the 1960s to form CalArts)—as a space and source for artistic inquiry and production. Through reflections on the course by both instructor and students, this paper explores ways in which the students approached and understood archives and re-framed and created new visual and sonic landscapes with archival materials and CalArts’ history. The paper also contemplates a university archives not only as a place for research but also as a dynamic art laboratory for experiential and participatory learning, creative investigation and experimentation, and affective encounters between a university’s past and present.


Kathy Carbone earned her Ph.D. in Information Studies, with a focus in Archival Studies, at UCLA in May of 2017. She is currently the institute archivist, performing arts librarian, and a faculty member in the Herb Alpert School of Music at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where she teaches courses in archives and artmaking and music research and writing methods. Her research interests include contemporary art productions with archives; affect, movement, and agency in regard to records; social justice practices in the arts and archives; and, archival ethnography and pedagogy. She holds an MLIS from Kent State University, an MA in Dance and Music and a BFA in Dance from Ohio University.