CCCS — An Archive
The Mac, Birmingham / Cadbury Research Library / Birmingham University, Jan - June 2014

We were invited to be artists-in-residence at Birmingham University to work with an archive that was set up to mark the 50th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS)

Under the directorship of first Richard Hoggart and then Stuart Hall and Richard Johnson, the CCCS, active from 1964-2002 at Birmingham University, operated in-between the academic disciplines of literary criticism, sociology, history and anthropology. Rather than focus on ‘high’ culture, the members worked as a collective to carry out group research on areas of popular culture such as chart music, television programmes and advertising. The Centre had few members of staff and much of the work it produced was the result of collaborations between students, who often came from backgrounds that were under-represented in universities.

The archive of the CCCS, housed in the Cadbury Research Library at Birmingham University, is made up of material donated by staff and students who were affiliated to CCCS during its 38-year existence. The essays, memos, magazines and other ephemera in the archive began as an important material dimension to the CCCS experiment in cultural studies – they were circulated and re-circulated, annotated, compared and argued over.

Our work was a response to the form and content of this evolving archive, as well as its lacunae and limits. As artists in residence at the university over six months, the work developed out of our research in and experience of the archive, against a backdrop of heightened campus politics (Defend Education Birmingham) and chance encounters with others working at the university.

Like the project of the CCCS, our project combined elements of creative and discursive writing, conversation, public events and short-run publications. These included an open round-table discussion about a 9-metre community newspaper, as part of the university’s Arts & Science Festival and a pop-up exhibition of placards (created by university staff members) held at the site of recent protests on campus.

Our blog of the research process and our response to the archive whilst undertaking the residency is at: www.cccs-anarchive.tumblr.com

The final products of our residency: a series of eight pamphlets exploring particular areas of interest in the CCCS archive, and an installation highlighting the sometimes overlooked contribution of the CCCS’s own workforce – their secretaries – were exhibited at the MAC Birmingham, in May-June 2014 as part of the group show CCCS 50 Years On.

Like all our pieces in this project, our biographical intervention in the exhibition catalogue – in place of an artist statement - took its cue from the archive’s themes and aesthetics and the research process itself.