INSITE Archive






Donna Conwell


Beginning in 2007, a team led by curator Donna Conwell and Merete Kjaer was engaged to develop a digital platform to preserve documents related to INSITE’s first five versions presented in the San Diego/Tijuana border region—1992, 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2005. The product was the INSITE archive—the result of over two years of institutional research that, using print and digital material, documents more than 200 artistic projects and programs that INSITE had completed up to that time. In addition to photographs, texts, and plans, it includes videos and recordings of dozens of hours of public programs and events. Finalized in late 2009, the INSITE archive was made possible, in large part, through a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Ultimately, the archive was donated to both the Special Collections Library at the University of California San Diego (original source material) and to Arkheia, a repository of art-related archives from Latin America housed at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC) in Mexico City. Thanks to the painstaking work of the archive team, the documentation at UC San Diego and Arkheia has, and will continue to be, the primary source from which to study the trajectory of INSITE as well as the dramatic cultural and political shifts that occurred in the region from 1990–2005. In turn, the development of this online platform (the site of what we are now referring to as the INSITE Archive) would have been virtually impossible without the early digitization and organization of material from the first five INSITEs.


Rather than serving as a static depository, the inSite archive will embody a process of active engagement in the present. It will seek to be a conversation not a statement. It will incorporate strategies to enable the collaborative ongoing co-creation and activation of the archive, requiring the participation of the insider and the outsider, the professional and the amateur, the official and the unofficial, the national and the local. It will include the conflation of diverse sources, ranging from oral testimony, documentary traces, memoir, biography, and natural history, and will involve juxtapositions and interpenetrations of the historical and the contemporary, the political and the poetic. The inSite Archive is conceived as a co-authored body of knowledge and an ongoing active space for inquiry. As such it will incorporate diverse perspectives and voices, and initiate various processes to elicit an on- going engagement with, and activation of, the archive in the present.

Rather than delineating and codifying inSite as a stable and permanent institution, the inSite archive will be conceived as a further exercise in inSite’s ongoing temporal and experimental project to explore public or contextual art practice in the specific context of the San Diego-Tijuana border region. The archive project will seek to further expand the inSite network, linking with diverse communities, practitioners, and theorists both locally and globally.

—Donna Conwell