Sara Callahan

Sara Callahan

vik. Lektor, programkoordinator

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Works at Department of Culture and Aesthetics
Telephone 08-16 33 50
Visiting address Frescativägen 22B-26
Room 516
Postal address Institutionen för kultur och estetik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Sara Callahan works as Associate professor of Curating art and Art History at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics.

Callahan has contributed to the 2018 anthology The Power of the In-Between: Intermediality as a Tool for Aesthetic Analysis and Critical Reflection (2018)

Together with Anna-Maria Hällgren and Charlotta Krispinsson, she organized the session "A Farewell to Critique? Reconsidering Critique as Art Historical Method" at the Nordik Conference for Art Historians, Copenhagen, October 25-27, 2018.


Sara enrolled in the PhD program at Stockholm University in 2013. Prior to this she completed a Master (Magister) degree in Art History, Södertörn University (Stockholm). MA theses: Tracing shadows: the "analogue" and the indexical sign-status of the photographic object. (2013). She also has a BA in Religious Studies from King’s College (London), and a BFA with Art Theory and Art History, NSCAD University (Halifax, Canada).


Sara Callahan defended her dissertation  The Archive Art Phenomenon: History and Critique at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century on March 23 2018.

The dissertation investigates the relationship between art and archive at the turn of the twenty-first century. The object of study is the phenomenon of archive art, understood as a combination of theories of the archive, artworks, and different kinds of texts (catalogues, scholarly articles, critical essays, etc.) delineating the art here called archive art. The study has been conducted by cross-reading the different elements that make up the phenomenon of archive art with various discourses and developments both within and outside the artworld. It investigates how the archive became a ubiquitous reference in art discourse and the functions and implications the notion has within an art context.

Each of the dissertation’s six chapters adds to and builds on the previous, thereby examining an increasingly thickening web of conceptual relations. Chapter I examines five texts about archive art written between 1995 and 2008. Chapter II outlines writings about archives from other disciplines frequently referenced in art discourse, and shows how this “archive theory” (including works by Foucault, Derrida and others) overlaps in many ways with the Institutional Theory of Art. Chapter III analyses the archive art phenomenon by juxtaposing three different aspects of the tension between materiality and immateriality: the artwork as object or idea; connotations of analogue and digital technology; and different notions of traditional and poststructural forms of history writing. Chapter IV is concerned with the role of the artist as historian, archivist and researcher, and examines how the discourse around studio-based research overlaps with the different modes of historical truth-claims outlined in the previous chapter. This chapter also analyses references to research as process and form in archive art discourse. Chapter V examines different kinds of critique of institutions and shows how the archive art phenomenon intersects with a critical paradigm in the academy and beyond. Chapter VI ties together many results of the previous discussions by analysing the archive art phenomenon within a broader historical context. The chapter shows that history, the presumed subject of much archive art, can also be considered indicative of a shift away from a grounding of the art object within a teleological art history, toward an institutionally defined concept of art as an archival structure. In that sense the archive art phenomenon is analysed both as a resistance to, and a symptom of, what some have called the presentism of the current era.  

The archive is an example of what Mieke Bal terms a “travelling concept”, as it moves between and within disciplines and contexts. The ubiquity of the concept in art discourse is part of a broader “turn” to the archive, however, this study shows that the archive takes on meaning specific to the contemporary artworld. The notion of the archive here functions as a short-cut for theorizing artists’ interest in the material traces of the past (the concrete, “dusty” archive) as well as their critical investigation of the post-1960s artworld (the archive as metaphor and structure). What may seem like a mere trend within contemporary art discourse, is thus shown to have functions and implications that interlock with the conceptual grounding of contemporary art.

Supervisors: Professor Anna Dahlgren and Professor Dan Karlholm





Curating Art

Kandidatkurs Konstvetenskap

Visuella Studier

Konstvetenskap I

Samtidens kritik


Last updated: January 15, 2019

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