The Artist in the Archive: Adam Pendleton: Who Is Queen?
In this exclusive feature for members, MoMA’s chief archivist explores how the Museum’s history feeds into the artist’s monumental installation.
Sep 24, 2021
My odyssey with Adam Pendleton began some eight years ago, when he held an Annenberg Artist Research Residency at The Museum of Modern Art. Central to his interest was the deep documentary holdings of our Archives, and he and I had many a conversation about the archival collections, the stories they hold, the omissions they reflect, and their potential for reuse, either to interpret history or to actively frame engagement with today. This was thrilling to me, because as an archivist, I firmly believe in the power of historical documents to help us understand our past, and in so doing to more productively envision how we want to build our future. On a daily basis, our work contributes to the production of knowledge and scholarship created by writers, historians, curators, and others. But some of the most exhilarating points of my career have been collaborations with creative producers, including visual artists. Chief among these has been the years-long engagement with Adam Pendleton.
Adam’s keen curiosity, insight, and critique, not to mention his ever-generative approach, have provided me much inspiration. Our initial conversations centered on Adam’s interest in undertaking a possible project related to the 1970s avant-garde magazine Avalanche, the archives of which we hold. But over the years his interest shifted, with his artistic process fomenting something else altogether, leading ultimately to Adam Pendleton: Who Is Queen?. Organized by Stuart Comer, with Danielle A. Jackson, Gee Wesley, and Veronika Molnar, Who Is Queen?, like so much of Pendleton’s work that is guided by his concept of Black Dada, benefits from harvesting and remixing many types of media across culture and history to address the subject of Blackness: photographs, critical texts, unpublished documents, music, and audio recordings of lectures, panel discussions, and poetry readings. Among that vast sampling from the world, I’m sharing six moments from past MoMA exhibitions that in some way inform or inspire Who Is Queen?.
Installation view of Adam Pendleton: Who Is Queen?, on view September 18, 2021–January 30, 2022