“Past Present: A Conversation Between Fareed Armaly and Julie Ault.”


Julie Ault: We should touch on the conundrum of historical presentation, of making past present (a new tense?). Lines of questioning contour the ground. What spirit steers historical inquiry? How is narration or giving account conceived and achieved? How are contexts evoked and freshly created? How do spectatorial, artistic, curatorial, institutional, and presentational roles and aspirations coalesce? How do we do justice to a subject terrain and its complex interacting strata in and for the present? Looking to another field, natural artifacts embody era. Rock formations, for instance, are capable of revealing the interactions of forces that configured them as well as their own influence on their surround. A rock formation evidences complex events in or across time, but geologists (geological method and sensibility) are responsible for decoding what happened and for telling stories about those events, for constructing histories.

Fareed Armaly: I’m thinking even further afield to eras and rock formations. During the last decade two concepts emerged regarding the history of now classic albums. A live format develops, where famous bands reform for a set of concerts to perform one complete album exactly as it sounded. Meanwhile, a new “making of” TV documentary format analyzes classic albums, returning to the original master tapes, excavating layers of tracks with producers and, if possible, the musicians responsible. Albums are rarely documents of one live recording event but an artifact created in layers over time in the studio, in a variety of processes where what you stated (. . .capable of revealing the interactions of forces. . .) is applicable. These current options acknowledge both audio- and necrophile. The historical vinyl artifact is now split along being treated as a perfect live recreation of the album or forensically examining the master recording process. I’d contrast that to the sense of historical vinyl in use by the end of the nineteen-seventies, joint expressions of a commemorative listening and the archeological, forensic search for a sound within, only empowered in a performative bricolage, a historical index erupting (sample, scratch, breaks, and so on) as materialist building blocks for a new contemporary voice.”