Sara Callahan is an art historian focused on post-war art and photography. Her research interests include the notion of the archive in contemporary art theory and practice and the circulation of images over time and between different contexts.
She defended my dissertation "The Archive Art Phenomenon: History and Critique at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century" in March 2018. It is currently being reworked into a book, to be published at the end of 2021 by Manchester University Press.
The archive has been a buzzword in the humanities, cultural studies and art discourse for several decades; the term has functioned in part as a marker of a theoretical complex of ideas tied to knowledge production, aesthetics and methodological processes. The dissertation analyses the ways in which the notion of the archive migrated to an art context by the turn of the twenty-first century, but rather than adding to the numerous overviews of archival art, the study examines how the underlying logic of the archive is enmeshed with the most fundamental structural and temporal aspects of contemporary art. The archive art phenomenon is shown to build on postmodernist critique of stable truth-claims and meta-narratives, and engages with history via pastiche and appropriation as well as with its material traces. The archive art phenomenon is considered both in terms of its specifically art historical context where it exemplifies the current paradigm of “the contemporary” and so-called postconceptual practices, as well as its grounding in wider regimes of historicity and structures of thought. Ultimately the study seeks to answer why the concept of the archive becomes ubiquitous in art discourse at the turn of the twenty-first century; its functions, as well as the deeper implications of referencing the notion of the archive within a contemporary art context.
After receiving her PhD, Callahan has been teaching and supervising students at Bachelor and MA levels in Art History and Curating. She is currently working on a postdoctoral project on the circulation of 19th-century photographs in contemporary visual culture.