For alle the good that men may rippe and glene Wasted is in outrageous aray. — Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes (1412)
Roberto Valaco: Collector? . . .Scavenger( . )
As our research perhaps insinuates, Valaco appears to have sustained a diligent practice of collecting throughout his transcontinental odyssey. His methods, nevertheless, were idiosyncratic to such a degree that to deem Valaco a “collector” in any conventional sense would be to strain the limits of circumspection. This stems as much from his apparent nomadism as it does from his probable destitution. Be that as it may, neither of these conditions can detract from the strange rigor of Valaco’s methods of acquisition, which might more properly belong to the techniques of the scavenger, or yet more precisely, to those of the gleaner, in the sense of one who gathers up or scrapes together all manner of discarded things, albeit in small quantities, if only to save them temporarily from some further or future waste, before discarding them again himself.
Neither systematic nor encyclopaedic, Valaco’s modus operandi in fact betrays a certain, vigorous caprice, whether addressed to found images, appropriated texts, re-contextualized objects, or reconfigured concepts. We might even go so far as to discern in Valaco’s process of experimental accumulation a strategy of radical specularity with respect to the archive, insofar as it seems to crystallize, on a miniature scale, the profoundly random nature—so often disavowed by the Archivists and the Historians—of the material substrate of any archive. Indeed, Valaco would appear in practice to have espoused the idea that an archive qua archive stands always in dysmorphic relation to that historiographical regime which would deign to impose an exhaustive narrative intelligibility (read: a systematic and encyclopaedic order) upon what amounts, in the final analysis, to a web of arbitrary relationships distributed across an array of indiscriminate data. What appears to govern Valaco’s practice as scavenger or gleaner, then, is a kind of categorical, synoptic principle, according to which the only presiding ligature in the artifactual record (the “evidence gleaned,” as it were) is the contrived, unitary, yet altogether ephemeral locus shared by the constituent elements of the collection. Valaco’s, in other words, is a method of acquisition at once random and selective.
By that token, the Valaco Archive Project is less an archive of adjudications on the Archive as such, than a retro-archivization of another, immanently speculative archive: a randomly selective re-classification of items formerly assembled according to an order at once scrupulous and indiscernible.