An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives

A project by Irit Rogoff and Nora Sternfeld for freethought
Commissioned by the Bergen Assembly, 2016

What are the lives of exhibitions? Are exhibitions microcosms of the worlds one inhabits? Are exhibitions the sum of the works exhibited? The traces of the research done for them? The great issues they can point to? How does one think about exhibitions? What does one take away from them into other thoughts, other worlds?  

Reflecting on these questions, An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives offers a meditation on exhibitions’ lasting influence by means of an exercise in listening. The archive speaks to and about exhibitions which⎯albeit not equally recognized in terms of status or importance by conventional art history⎯have made a difference to the thinking and working practices of those who have encountered them, both then and now. 

An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives assembles narratives of significant personal moments with exhibitions from 14 viewers from around the globe who together produce a veritable polyphony of revelation. Some of these exhibitions take place in institutions (museums and galleries) and others are institutions themselves (biennials and international fairs). By exceeding beyond the institutions that engendered them, they gain an independent life and link into the substance infrastructures of the viewers’ lives. This becomes evident as each contributor to the archive describes a pivotal moment in their life and a shift in their understanding through an encounter with a particular exhibition. In unhinging exhibitions from their quantitative-economic impact as a means of measuring their worth, as has become customary, An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives asks viewers what they thought they saw; what they felt; what distant worlds were hinted at; and what meaningful things were revealed about their immediate environment. 

As an archive, An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives performs a counter-cartography of the art world, pointing out that significant experiences are enabled not by great international reputations or canonized and spectacular curation, but rather by the exhibition’s ability to affect people’s lives and change perceptions. 

It is in this spirit, to take An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives further, that the public is invited to contribute video interviews about exhibitions that affected their lives. In order to join, please follow this protocol.  

An Anecdoted Archive of Exhibition Lives was first presented as an exhibition at Bergen Assembly, Bergen in 2016. This digital rendering of the project has been realized by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht in 2021 to inaugurate the Spectral Infrastructure (2021−2023) research trajectory with freethought at BAK.

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

interviewed by Nora Sternfeld


Jesse Jones

interviewed by Sarah Pierce


Kader Attia

interviewed by Doreen Mende


Zultan Ará

interviewed by Farbod Fakharzadeh & Niko Nurmi


Relli De Vries

interviewed by Irit Rogoff


Ruth Beckermann

interviewed by Nora Sternfeld


Ivet Ćurlin

interviewed by Emily Pethick


Pedro Bernardo

interviewed by Carolina Rito

Caldas da Rainha

Sanaa Gateja

Interviewed by Rocca Gutteridge


Bruno Zhu

interviewed by Joni Zhu


Theo Eshetu

interviewed by Doreen Mende


Pedro Bandeira

interviewed by Ines Moreira


Elvira Dyangani Ose

interviewed by Irit Rogoff


Sara Gebran

interviewed by Irit Rogoff