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Year:
2008
Publisher:
International Center of Photography & Steidl Publishers
Language:
english
Pages:
264 / 253
ISBN 10:
3865216226
ISBN 13:
9783865216229
File:
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Archive FeverUses of the Document in Contemporary Art-

by Okwui Enwezor-

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Archive Fever

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Archive Fever
Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art

Okwui Enwezor

International Center of Photography, New York
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Steidl

Published in conjunction with the exhibition Archive Fever: Uses of the Document
in Contemporary Art organized by Okwui Enwezor for the International Center of
Photography, New York
Exhibition dates: January 18-May 4 , 2008
This exhibition was made possible with lead support from the ICP Exhibitions Committee;
Robert and Gayle Greenhill, Robert and Meryl Meltzer, Jeffrey A. and Marjorie G . Rosen,
and Artur Walther. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York
City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional fund ing was provided by the British
Council, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and Fundaci6n/Colecci6n Jumex.
First edition 2008
Copublished by the International Center of Photography, New York, and
Steidl Publishers, G6ttingen, Germany

© 2008 for this edition: International Center of Photography, New York, and
Steidl Publishers, G6ttingen, Germany
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from
the International Center of Photography or from the individual copyright holders. All rights
reserved.
Director of Publications: Philomena Mariani
Design : Steidl Design/ Bernard Fischer, Julia Melzner
Cover Design : mgmt design, New York
Separations: Steidl's Digital Darkroom I Jonas Wettre, Ines Schumann
Production and Printing: Steidl, G6ttingen

~

lnlemalional Cemer of Pt>otog,aphy

1114 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 1 0036
www.1cp.org

STEiDL
Dustere Str. 4 I D-37073 Gottingen
Phone +49 551 -49 60 60 / Fax +49 551-49 60 649
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ISBN 978-3-86521 -622-9
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Contents
7

Director's Foreword

9

Curator's Acknowledgments

11

Archive Fever:
Photography Between History and the Monument

Okwui Enwezor
53

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258

Checklist of the Exhibition

262

Artist Index

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Director's Foreword

Photography's sheer ubiquity has shaped collective memory of social and cultural experiences to a
degree that pictures can often appear to function as a substitute for the experiences themselves.
Those born after the Civil Rights movement experience the dogs and hoses trained on African
Americans by police in Birmingham through Charles Moore's famous photographs for Life magazine.
Photographs and film footage of Allied soldiers liberating the concentration camps have powerfully
shaped our sense of the Holocaust. Tapping into this collective visual memory, the artists presented
in Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art mediate and interrogate such visceral
and loaded photographs, posing a range of questions and dilemmas about how we reconstruct and
interpret the past. These works question the assumption that the photographic archive is a collection
of "objective" documents and suggests how they shape our consciousness and function as tools of
power.

Archive Fever asks us to reevaluate the accuracy of seemingly straightforward terms: "archival,"
"document," "photographic." The works presented here stretch the definitions of photography to include film and video, but also sculptural interpretations, large-scale installations, and hand-drawn
photo-based work. Expanding boundaries is a particular domain of the organizer of Archive Fever,
Okwui Enwezor. An internationally renowned curator of contemporary art and Adjunct Curator at ICP,
Mr. Enwezor has made an immense contribution to the global scope of ICP's exhibition programs,
beginning in 2006 with his Snap Judgments: Contemporary Issues in African Photography.
An exhibition as ambitious as Archive Fever would not be possible without the commitment of many
organizations and individuals. For their generous lead support, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to the ICP Exhibitions Committee, and to Robert and Gayle Greenhill and Jeffrey A. and Marjorie
G. Rosen. We are grateful also to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs for supporting this
exhibition and its public programs, and to Robert and Meryl Meltzer, Artur Walther, and the ICP
Publications Committee for their essential support. Additional funding was contributed by the British
Council and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. We thank these generous individuals and
agencies for enabling us to bring this ambitious project to fruition.
I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the many dedicated individuals who brought
this complex project to completion. They include Brian Wallis, ICP Director of Exhibitions and Chief
Curator; Assistant Curator Vanessa Rocco, who played an important role in coordinating the exhibition; researcher James Thomas and interns Marilia Fernandes and Yulia Tikhonova, who provided
invaluable assistance with myriad details of the exhibition and publication. I wish to express my gratitude to Philomena Mariani, Director of Publications, who supervised the preparation of the catalogue ;
E!iz~~eth VaryMe!flr,.,.eu i ~ ions Assistant; and our publicat:il@ty3~ritllffl"1 Gerhard Steidl, designers
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Bernard Fischer and Julia Melzner, and the entire staff at Steidl Publishing. I also wish to thank
Registrar Barbara Woytowicz; Todd McDaniel and Maanik Singh of the production staff for their work
on the exhibition; and Alicia Cheng and her colleagues at mgmt design, who expertly designed the
exhibition installation and its accompanying graphics.
Finally, I wish to extend my deepest thanks to the artists participating in Archive Fever. Their works
illuminate the workings of history, memory, mourning, and loss in these complex times.
Willis E. Hartshorn
Ehrenkranz Director

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Curator's Acknowledgments
An exhibition of this scope is realized with the assistance of persons too numerous to recount, but
I will try. At ICP, I thank Willis Hartshorn, Ehrenkranz Director, for his trust and commitment to the
projects on which I have worked at the museum. Likewise, I note with immense gratitude the pleasure
of working with Brian Wallis, Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator; I thank him for his unwavering
support in this and all my projects. As always, Brian's critical judgment and insight have proved invaluable. Arthur Walther and Meryl Meltzer, co-chairs of the Exhibitions Committee, provided the support
and enthusiasm that allowed this project to move forward. Vanessa Rocco, Assistant Curator, has
been a wonderful partner, managing all aspects of this exhibition from its inception. I thank her for her
collaboration. James Thomas, Researcher, has been invaluable in several projects on which he has
worked with me; for Archive Fever, he has more than exceeded the requirements of his task. Karen
Hansgen and Philomena Mariani have steered the publication beautifully; I am deeply indebted to their
commitment. Phil has my special gratitude for her unstinting editorial rigor and accommodation.
I thank Deputy Director Evan Kingsley and his development team for their many efforts and I thank
Phyllis Levine, Director of Communications, for her wisdom and advice. I also thank Suzanne Nicholas
for her education programming. Todd McDaniel, Maanik Singh, and Barbara Woytowicz worked tirelessly to produce the exhibition, as has Alicia Cheng and her colleagues at mgmt design. Deirdre
Donohue, Librarian, is always helpful in providing resources, and project interns Marilia Fernandes
and Yulia Tikhonova added crucial research and organizational support. I also thank my ICP colleagues Christopher Phillips, Edward Earle, Carol Squiers, and Kristen Lubben.
For their invaluable assistance, I thank the following : Marian Goodman, Lissa McClure, Catherine
Belloy, Karina Dashkalov, Rose Lord, and Hannah Klemm of the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York;
David Zwirner, Angela Choon, Cameron Shaw, and Jessica Eckert of David Zwirner Gallery, New York;
Mari Spirito, Barbara Corti, and Simon Greenberg of 303 Gallery, New York; Dirk Snauwaert, Wiels,
Brussels; Michelle Reyes, Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, New York; Deborah Wye and Emily
Talbot, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Paula Cooper, Steve Henry, and Sarah Baron of Paula
Cooper Gallery, New York; Matthew Gale and Catherine Clement, Tate Modern, London; Charlotte
Schepke and Samantha Swan, Frith Street Gallery, London; Barbara Gladstone and Miciah Hussey,
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York; Alex Galan, D.A .P., New York; Elizabeth Sussman and Anita
Duquette, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Jenny Grondin, Tracy Williams Ltd., New
York ; Jocelyn Davis, Zoe Leonard Studio; Abaseh Mirvali and Michel Blancsube, Jumex Collection,
Mexico City; Nancy Spector, Jodi Myers, and Kim Bush, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York ;
Martine d'Anglejan-Chatillon and Fran~ois Chantala, Thomas Dane Gallery, London; Antonio Homem
and Xan Price, Sonnabend Gallery, New York ; Vicki Gambill, The Broad Art Foundation, Santa
Monica; MicyN-erell, Lornl _.Qimpson Studio; Esa Epstein, SJ!r~ k jt~~tional , New York ; Suhanya
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Raffel, Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, Australia; Tom Sokolowski, Greg Burchard, and
Heather Kowalski at The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Malcolm Daniel, Douglas Eklund, Lucy
von Brachel, and Julie Zettel at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Antje Ehmann; Stet
de Seider and Ron Eijkman; Armelle Laborie, Momento!; Peter MacGill and Kimberly Jones,
Pace/MacGill, New York; Carlos Basualdo, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Francesco Bonami, Museum
of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Angela Smith Domzal, Wachovia. I want to thank my colleagues at
San Francisco Art Institute, especially Chris Bratton, Jennifer Stein, Jennifer Rissler, and Maggie
Moffitt.
On a personal note, I would like to thank my mother Bernadette Enwezor, sister Rita EnwezorUdorji, and friends and colleagues Chika Okeke-Agulu, Salah Hassan, Daniel Faust, Lea Green, Muna
El Fituri, and Terry Smith for their continued support.
As always, the artists are the reason why exhibitions happen. It has been my privilege to work with
this diverse group of artists, all the more so, for the beauty, power, and complexity of their visions,
ideas, and work. I extend my gratitude to all of them for their inspiration.
This book is dedicated to my daughter Uchenna Soraya Enwezor, who continues to delight and
inspire me, and to the memory of Linda Pace, whose philanthropic vision left behind a legacy of generosity and support for curators and artists.
Okwui Enwezor
December 2007

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Archive Fever: Photography Between History and the Monument
Okwui Enwezor

The archive is first the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements
as unique events. But the archive is also that which determines that all these things said do not accumulate endlessly in an amorphous mass, nor are they inscribed in an unbroken linearity, nor do they
disappear at the mercy of chance external accidents; but they are grouped together in distinct figures,
composed together in accordance with multiple relations, maintained or blurred in accordance with
specific regularities; that which determines that they do not withdraw at the same pace in time, but
shine, as it were, like stars, some that seem close to us shining brightly from far off, while others that
are in fact close to us are already growing pale.

-Michel Foucault 1

No single definition can convey the complexities of a concept like the archive such as are contained in
Foucault's ruminations on the subject. The standard view of the archive oftentimes evokes a dim,
musty place full of drawers, filing cabinets, and shelves laden with old documents, an inert repository
of historical artifacts against the archive as an active, regulatory discursive system. It is this latter formulation of the archive that has engaged the attention of so many contemporary artists in recent years.

Archive Fever explores the ways in which artists have appropriated, interpreted, reconfigured, and
interrogated archival structures and archival materials. The principal vehicles of these artistic practices-photography and film-are also preeminent forms of archival material. The exhibition engages
with various modes of artistic production in which the traffic in photographic and filmic documents is
not simply emblematic of the development of a vast mass-media enterprise. Rather, it delves into critical transactions predicated on opening up new pictorial and historiographic experiences against the
exactitude of the photographic trace.

Photography and the Archive
What are the aesthetic and historical issues that govern photography's relation to the archive? From
its inception, the photographic record has manifested "the appearance of a statement as a unique
event." Every photographic image has been endowed with this principle of uniqueness. Within that
principle lies the kernel of the idea of the photograph as an archival record, as an analogue of a substantiated real or putative fact present in nature. The capacity for mechanical inscription and the order
of direct reference that links the photograph with the indisputable fact of its subject's existence are
e~'bck ~boto-g:ru1und film. The capacity for accuratQr~ er'i&ffi'A,.._the ability to establish dis0net?P
igi
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Enwezor

12

tinct relations of time and event, image and statement, have come to define the terms of archival production proper to the language of those mechanical mediums, each of which give new phenomenological account of the world as image. Photography is simultaneously the documentary evidence and
the archival record of such transactions. Because the camera is literally an archiving machine, every
photograph, every film is a priori an archival object. This is the fundamental reason why photography
and film are often archival records, documents and pictorial testimonies of the existence of a recorded fact, an excess of the seen. The infinitely reproducible, duplicatable image, whether a still picture
or a moving image, derived from a negative or digital camera, becomes, in the realm of its mechanical
reproduction or digital distribution or multiple projection, a truly archival image. Accordingly, over time,
the photographic image has become an object of complex fascination and thus appropriated for myriad institutional, industrial, and cultural purposes-governmental propaganda, advertising, fashion,
entertainment, personal commemoration, art. These uses make photography and film critical instruments of archival modernity.
When Walter Benjamin published his essay on art 2 in the 1930s, photography had been in use for a
century. His reflections took up more than the question of aura; he was concerned with how the shift
from the hand-fashioned image to the mechanically produced and infinitely reproducible image manifests a wholly new mode of pictorial distribution, a shift not only indexical but temporal. Because
eye/hand coordination organized by the camera gave reality a different look, the liberation of the hand
from image making had a deep impact on questions of cognition and action. This change of artistic
and pictorial parameters became a specific phenomenon of modernity. The advent of mechanical
reproduction initiated an archival formation that would overtake all relations to the photographic
record: the systems of production and distribution and, more recently, the processes of permanent
digital archivization and inscription. Since Kodak's invention of commercial processing capacity at the
end of the nineteenth century, the photographic analogue derived from the negative has not only generated an endless stream of faithful reproductions-calling into question the foundational claims of
originality on which the pictorial aura of hand-fashioned images depended-it also set the entire world
of users into a feverish pace of pictorial generation and accumulation. This archival madness, a "burning with desire" to transpose nature into a pictorial fact, and consequently into an archival system, is
succinctly expressed in a letter written by Louis Daguerre to his business partner Nicephore Niepce:
"I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature." 3 Many other desires soon followed,
and would go beyond nature; they would encapsulate the entire mode of thinking the world framed
within a picture. The desire to make a photograph, to document an event, to compose statements as
unique events, is directly related to the aspiration to produce an archive. The character of this archive
is captured in W. J. T. Mitchell's notion of "the surplus value of images, "4 in which the photograph also
enters the world of the commodity. The traffic in the photograph ic arch ive rests on the assumption of
the surplus value that an image~

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The proliferation of the snapshot, of domestic photographic production, clarifies this process.
However, we know that in this guise of image production-its crudest, most sentimental form-the
making of a photograph is part of a constant construction of aide-memoires, a gigantic machine of
time travel, as much teleological as technological. Stanley Cavell describes this in relation to automatism, 5 a mechanism through which we return to the past, compiling indexes of comparisons and tables
of facts that generate their own public and private meanings. The snapshot that documents scenes of
life's many turns-birthdays, holidays, and events of all kinds-perhaps exemplifies the most prominent aspect of the private motivations for image making, for it not only records that burning desire for
the archival, it also wields a formidable ethnographic meaning. The photographic image, then, can be
likened to an anthropological space in which to observe and study the way members and institutions
of a society reflect their relationship to it. From family albums to police files to the digital files on
Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, mobile phones, digital cameras, computer hard drives,
and assorted file-sharing programs, a vast, shapeless empire of images has accrued. Organizing and
making sense of them in any kind of standard unity is today impossible. At the same time, we have witnessed the collapse of the wall between amateur and professional, private and public, as everyday
users become distributors of archival content across an unregulated field of image sharing. 6 In this
prosaic form, the photograph becomes the sovereign analogue of identity, memory, and history, joining past and present, virtual and real, thus giving the photographic document the aura of an anthropological artifact and the authority of a social instrument.
Beyond the realm of the snapshot is another empire-an imperium, to be specific-connected to a
more regulative, bureaucratic, institutional order that invigilates and exercises control over bodies and
identities. It was this order whose repressive function in the nineteenth century would combine
Auguste Comte's philosophical positivism and a hermeneutics of power, along with the system toterritorialize and unify knowledge from diverse sources, imbuing the system with scientific authenticity,
even if its unity was fictive. Positivism fueled the emergence of many quasi-scientific photographic
endeavors, one such being Alphonse Bertillon's police archives in Paris, in which he elaborated a
series of standardized tests and measurements to decipher the "criminal type." In his seminal essay
"The Body and the Archive," 7 Allan Sekula reflects on the work of Bertillon, and of the English statistician and pioneer of eugenics Francis Galton, both of whom discovered in photography an instrument
of social control and differentiation underwritten by dubious scientific principles. Their projects,
Sekula writes, "constitute two methodological poles of the positivist attempts to define and regulate
social deviance."8 The criminal (for Bertillon) and the racially inferior (for Galton) exist in the netherworld of the photographic archive, and when they do assume a prominent place in that archive, it is
only to dissociate them, to insist on and illuminate their difference, their archival apartness from normal society.

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14

Archive as Form

The photographic archive is one of the many ways in which archival production has been developed
within the context of art. Marcel Duchamp's miniaturization of his entire corpus into a deluxe edition of
reproductions, organized and codified in an archival system cum mobile museum titled La boi'te-envalise (1935-41 ) ,9 is certainly not the first of such programmatic engagements of the work of art as

archive, but it remains one of the most rigorous. Ever since he fashioned this ur-museum in a suitcase,
there has existed a fascination within art with the procedures of the museum as archive, 10 as a site of
reflection on the prodigious output of historical artifacts, images, and the various taxonomies that govern their relationship to one another. By faithfully creating reproductions of his works that approximate
photographic facsimiles, and at the same time creating the conditions for their organization and
reception as an oeuvre and an archive, Duchamp appeared to have been grappling with a dilemma,
one which placed his works "between tradition and oblivion," to borrow an apt phrase from Foucault. 11
La bo,te-en-valise is not only a sly critique of the museum as institution and the artwork as artifact, it

is fundamentally also about form and concept, as "it reveals the rules of a practice that enable statements both to survive and to undergo regular modification. It is the general system of the formation
and transformation of statements." 12 Decades later, such a system was amplified by Marcel

Broodthaers in his Musee d'Art Moderne, Department des Aigles (1968). 13 If the framework for
Duchamp's box is the myth of a coherent monographic artistic identity, Broodthaers's endless iteration of photographic copies of eagles and associated objects positioned his archive not in a logic of
homogeneous unity but in a field of nonhierarchical heterogeneity. According to Rosalind Krauss,
Broodthaers's gambit ushered in what she terms the post-medium condition. 14
Writing about Gerhard Richter's Atlas (1964-present), an open-ended compendium of photographic panels and tableaux initiated by the artist as a reflection on the relationship between the photographic and historiographic, Benjamin Buchloh implicitly recognizes that the principle of collectivization-an important function of museums and archives-has been integral to photography's disciplinary method from its inception. Projects such as Atlas, he notes, have "taken as the principles of a
given work's formal organization photography's innate structural order (its condition as archive) in
conjunction with its seemingly infinite multiplicity, capacity for serialization, and aspiration toward
comprehensive totality . . ." 15 Buchloh casts doubt, however, on the historical coherence of such
practices, labeling them "unclassifiable within the typology and terminology of avant-garde art history, "16 and concluding that "the didactic and mnemonic tracing of historical processes, the establishment of typologies, chronologies, and temporal continu ities . .. have always seemed to conflict with
the avant-garde's self-perception as providing instantaneous presence, shock, and perceptual rupture ." 17 Buchloh argues that Richter's Atlas inherited the conditions of th is archival impasse:

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Marcel Duchamp, La boite-en-valise, 1935-41
Leather valise containing miniature replicas, photographs, and color reproductions of works by Duchamp,
and one "original" (Large Glass, collotype on celluloid) (69 items)
Overall : 16 x 15 x 4 in. (40.6 • 38.1 x 10.2 cm)
Cl 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS) , New York / ADAGP, Paris/ Succession Marcel Duchamp

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Enwezor

16

Yet, at the same time, the descriptive terms and genres from the more specialized history of photography-all of them operative in one way or another in Richter's At/as-appear
equally inadequate to classify these image accumulations. Despite the first impression
that the Atlas might give, the discursive order of this photographic collection cannot be
identified either with the private album of the amateur or with the cumulative projects of
documentary photography. 18
Inasmuch as any sensibility may wish to impose a restrictive order on the archive, then, the ability to do
so is often superceded by concerns governing the disjunction between systems and methods.
According to Lynne Cooke, the logic of Atlas is impeded by the impossibility of assigning a singular
rationality to its existence as a unity: "Atlas hovers," she writes, "between the promise of taxonomic
order as divulged in the archive and the total devastation of that promise ... " 19
From the above we can establish that the archive is a compensation (in the psychoanalytic sense) of
the unwieldy, diachronic state of photography and, as such, exists as a representational form of the
ungainly dispersion and pictorial multiplicity of the photograph. The archive as a representation of the
taxonomy, classification, and annotation of knowledge and information could also be understood as a
representative historical form, which Foucault designates as a historical a priori, defined as a field of
archaeological inquiry, a journey through time and space; one whose methodological apparatus does
not set "a condition of validity for judgements, but a condition of reality for statements. " 20 Whatever
the statements, however encompassing its accumulated, tabulated, indexed, and organized form of
representation may appear, it is also true, as Foucault notes, that
the archive of a society, a culture, or a civilization cannot be described exhaustively: or
even, no doubt, the archive of a whole period. On the other hand, it is not possible for us
to describe our own archive, since it is from within these rules that we speak, since it is
that which gives to what we can say-and to itself, the object of our discourse-its
modes of appearance, its forms of existence and coexistence, its system of accumulation, historicity, disappearance. The archive cannot be described in its totality; and in its
presence it is unavoidable. It emerges in fragments, regions, levels ... 21
How is the validity of statements posited in an archive to be judged? For Jacques Derrida, statements
acquire legitimacy through "a science of the archive," which "must include the theory of ... institutionalization, that is to say, the theory both of the law which begins by inscribing itself there and of the
right which authorizes it. " 22 The archive achieves its authority and quality of veracity, its evidentiary
function, and interpretive power-in short, its reality-through a series of designs that unite structure
and function. The archival st~
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Gerhard Richter, Atlas, 1964-, installation views, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1995
Courtesy Dia Center for the Arts
Photo : Cathy Carv er

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Enwezor

18

which the institutional form is achieved, the archive as a physical entity is manifested in a concrete
domain: "The dwelling, this place where they dwell permanently ... " 23 He compares this condition of
existence, the process of domiciliation, to a house arrest. 24 The archival form is fundamental to the
archive's ability to create the "condition of validity of judgements" (Foucault) to be undertaken. Derrida
calls this function "consignation," the task through which the archive conducts "the functions of unification, of identification, of classification, " 25 and so on. However, consignation is to be understood in
terms that "do not only mean, in the ordinary sense of the word, the act of assigning residence or of
entrusting so as to put into reserve (to consign, to deposit), in a place and on a substrate, but here the
act of consigning through gathering together signs." 26 The very activity of consignation, therefore,
"aims to coordinate a single corpus, in a system or a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the
unity of an ideal configuration. " 27
The terms of reference for Duchamp's La bofte-en-valise, Broodthaers's Musee d'Art Moderne,

Department des Aigles, and Richter's Atlas correspond precisely to both Foucault's and Derrida's different takes on the archive. The portable box in which Duchamp organized his then-extant works as
reproductions, or the heterogeneity of Broodthaers's curatorial arrangement, or Richter's perpetual
commentary on photography as a mnemonic object, become and form a logic of domiciliation and
consignation (gathering together signs that designate the artist's oeuvre), as well as a condition of
reality of the statements of each of the individual works, the narrative it has to convey, the a priori
archive of the artist's practice. Such methods conform to what Hal Foster identifies as the "archival
impulse" 28 that suffuses current artistic practice. Artists interrogate the self-evidentiary claims of the
archive by reading it against the grain. This interrogation may take aim at the structural and functional
principles underlying the use of the archival document, or it may result in the creation of another
archival structure as a means of establishing an archaeological relationship to history, evidence, information, and data that will give rise to its own interpretive categories. 29

Intelligence Failure / Archival Disappointment
Permit me to recall an important moment in recent history: the frantic search for evidence of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) undertaken by a coterie of United Nations investigators in the
months leading up to the Iraq War in 2003. The scramble to find the weapons included a search
through the Iraqi archives for documents containing evidence of a weapons system's many components: designs, bills of procurement, building plans, site maps, photographs of laboratories. The Iraqi
administration presented the inspectors with volumes of documentation, reams of paper, a mountain
of information showing the initial attempts to const itute a weapons program and later efforts to dismantle the operational capaci~

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to retain exclusive hermeneutic authority over any "intelligence": if the "intelligence" accorded with the
U.S. view, then it fulfilled and consolidated the Bush administration's claims; if it contradicted those
claims, the burden of proving the negative rested on the other side. We witnessed this catch-22 in
relation to both the United Nations inspectors led by Hans Blix and the International Atomic Energy
Agency officials, who were all but accused of being agents of Iraqi disinformation. 30 As the Bush
administration's "slam dunk" 31 theory of an a priori indisputable fact-the existence of WMD-unraveled, it attempted (without success) to bolster the moral imperative behind its threats to invade Iraq.
We now know the full extent of the fraudulence of U.S. and British intelligence (truth) claims. 32 The
calculated manufacture of "intelligence" to fit the policy of Iraq's invasion disturbs the integrity of and
confidence in the archive as a site of historical recall, as the organ through which we come to know
what has been, that is to say, the raw material constituting knowledge and a reference in which to
read, verify, and recognize the past.
The manipulation of evidence to justify war underscores the imperatives of modern intelligence
gathering as a fundamental drive toward acquisition and control of information and comprehensive
knowledge. Of course, the idea of an empire that sees "intelligence" as the total mastery and domination of an adversary through its superior power of clairvoyance is not new. Thomas Richards, author of

The Imperial Archive, locates the origins of this archival impulse in nineteenth-century Victorian
England, during the heyday of British imperialism. Induced into a fever of knowledge accumulation and
intelligence gathering, the Victorian archival industry began a process whereby information concerning the known world was synchronized and unified. 33 With the establishment of institutions such as
the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Photographic Society, the British Museum, and the
Colonial Office, Victorian Britain initiated one of the most prodigious archive-making periods in modern history. Although it was an empire of vast territories, patrolled by mighty naval fleets and army regiments, imperial Britain was above all founded on the production of paper, assorted documents, and
images, all of which spawned other documents, along with the systems organizing them and the rules
for distributing their content. The process of archival synchronization and unification was accomplished by reconciling specific forms of discrete, quantifiable, and tested knowledge (positive knowledge) into universal principles of aggregated data. As Richards points out, the objectives of such unification were attended by ideological manipulation: "Unawares, the archival gaze has combined the
triple register of inquiry, measure and examination to prepare data to be acted upon by the variable
modalities of power. " 34
Overseeing this immense accumulation of data-photographs, images, maps, surveys, intelligence,
taxonomies, classifications: Derrida's "science of the archive"-was the imperial periscopic eye. It
was in this era that the impenetrable territory of Tibet-impenetrable, that is, to imperial ambition and
the Western gaze-was mapped. In the absence of reliable maps of the Himalayan territory, and
unable to sen,-.Sritish su~ ~rs into Tibet, the British India §~'ji~J.ilrfr-~ed to an ingenious plan
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devised by one Major Thomas G. Montgomerie, a member of the Royal Engineers Corps: the survey
and mapping of Tibet would be conducted with "native explorers, " 35 actually a network of Hindu pundit spies from the Indian Himalayas. Beginning around 1865, the pundits, disguised as Buddhist pilgrims traveling through Tibet, compiled detailed statistics and measurements of their journey. Peter
Hopkirk traces this story of daring archival espionage that may equal Google Maps for its pinpoint
•

•

prec1s1on:
Montgomerie first trained his men, through exhaustive practice, to take a pace of known
length which would remain constant whether they walked uphill, downhill or on the level.
Next he taught them ways of keeping a precise but discreet count of the number of such
paces taken during a day's march. This enabled them to measure immense distances
with remarkable accuracy and without arousing suspicion. Often they traveled as
Buddhist pilgrims, many of whom regularly crossed the passes to visit the holy sites of
the ancient Silk Road. Every Buddhist carried a rosary of 1 08 beads on which to count
his prayers, and also a small wood and metal prayer-wheel which he spun as he walked.
Both of these Montgomerie turned to his advantage. From the former he removed eight
beads, not enough to be noticed, but leaving a mathematically convenient 100. At the
hundredth pace the Pundit would automatically slip one bead. Each complete circuit of
the rosary thus represented 10,000 paces.
The total for the day's march, together with any other discreet observations, had somehow to be logged somewhere safe from prying eyes. It was here that the prayer-wheel,
with its copper cylinder, proved invaluable. For concealed in this, in place of the usual
hand-written scroll of prayers, was a roll of blank paper. This served as a log-book, which
could easily be got at by removing the top of the cylinder ... Then there was the problem
of a compass, for the Pundit was required to take regular bearings as he journeyed.
Montgomerie decided to conceal this in the lid of the prayer-wheel. Thermometers,
which were needed for calculating altitudes, were hidden in the tops of the pilgrims'
staves. Mercury, essential for setting an artificial horizon when taking sextant readings,
was hidden in cowrie shells ... "36
This arduous operation, in which archive making was subtended by the principles of espionage, was
undertaken in service to the empire's insatiable appetite for knowledge of the unknown. Beyond that,
such knowledge had to be compiled, "classified, "37 unified, and submitted to tools of regulatory control. Constructing these "paradigms of knowledge . .. seemed to solve the problem of imperial control
at a distance. "38 By the turn of the century, the details of the Tibet archive had been transformed into
"classified" information "placep-wider the ·1risd iction of the state. " 39

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Classifying information, data, or knowledge is today a pervasive method of regulatory control of the
archive. And this control over the flow of information is strengthened by other networks of archival
manipulation or data generation. Google Earth, for instance, allows some aspects of its spatial modeling to be public while others are suppressed in the interest of national security. Tibet is but one of
many examples of the attempt to construct an empire of archival knowledge as part of the regime of
national security. Richards cites Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim-a book ordered around the pursuit of
power and authority-as an example of the obsession with correlating classified knowledge and
national security. Throughout the nineteenth century, the "great game" of imperial expansion was an
acquisitive game of spatial dominance but one invested with the superior capacity to control the flow
of information through the archive. Knowledge was equated with national security; accordingly the
imperial archival system positioned "itself not as the supplement of power but as its replacement. " 40
The archival construction of Tibet, the intimate knowledge gained of this closed society, began as a
work of map making and geography linked to espionage and intelligence gathering. From that, an
information society was created. But it was the foundational principle of the state's power to monopolize knowledge, and to excise from public view archive material it deemed too sensitive, that became
the paramount legacy of imperial archive making.
This is the proper context in which to read the battle over archival information between the U.S. and
the Iraqi government arbitrated by the United Nations. Let us recall another episode in that spectacle
of archival disinformation: when then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that a document obtained by British intelligence and in the possession of American officials showed indisputably
that the Iraqi regime was actively seeking to buy "yellow cake" uranium from the African nation of
Niger. The document supporting Powell's claim was soon revealed to be a forgery, the "pure fantasy"
of an intelligence agent. In this story of archives and counter-archives, are we not reminded of how
deeply embedded the processes of archival production are in the modern state form? For the gathering and interpretation of intelligence-more accurately, data-are nothing more than the obsessive
principle of archival formation.

Archive as Medium
The artworks that comprise this exhibition represent some of the most challenging interpretive, analytical, and probing examples of contemporary art's confrontation with and examination of the historical
legacy of archival production. The artists presented here are not concerned simply with accumulation,
sorting, interpreting, or describing images, though they surely do engage these practices. They are
also motivated by a process described by Foucault as a "tracing- back to the original precursors.
towards the S1311Ch for a n{ w type of rationality and its variou©iflij~~(rthtfere we witness firsthand
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how archival legacies become transformed into aesthetic principles, and artistic models become historicizing constructs, so that in the works, and the ways in which they are arrayed before us, we experience firsthand their effects. The variety and range of archival methods and artistic forms, the mediatory structures that underpin the artists' mnemonic strategies in their use of the archive, and the conceptual, curatorial, and temporal principles that each undertakes, point to the resilience of the archive
as both form and medium in contemporary art. In the works, we are confronted with relationships
between archive and memory, archive and public information, archive and trauma, archive and ethnography, archive and identity, archive and time.
These are some of the issues this exhibition seeks to illuminate. Archive Fever does not simply
organize for the viewer the visual effects of the archival form or medium. Nor is its central preoccupation with assessing the cleverness of the critiques of archival truth inherent in some of the examples
presented here. The aim is not to produce a theory of the archive but to show the ways in which
archival documents, information gathering, data-driven visual analysis, the contradictions of master
narratives, the invention of counter-archives and thus counter-narratives, the projection of the social
imagination into sites of testimony, witnessing, and much more inform and infuse the practices of contemporary artists.
The "archival impulse" has animated modern art since the invention of photography. As many historians have argued, the principle of the archival was anticipated by the regulative order of the photographic dispersal through mass media. This dispersal had ideological implications, especially with
regard to forms of propaganda. Mass media enabled the public manipulation of photography. And it
came to determine the status of the documentary apparatus. In his essay "An Archival Impulse," Hal
Foster elaborates on the long history of archivization as a structural mode of organizing the proliferating images of photographic media, particularly in some of the formats of the early avant-garde in
Russia and Germany between the world wars, for instance, the photofiles of Rodchenko and photomontages of Heartfield. Taking us into the era of Richter's generation, Foster writes that the early
modernist uses of the photographic index and the archival attributes they establish between public
and private, between documentation and commentary, critique and analysis, power and subordination, were "even more variously active in the postwar period, especially as appropriated images and
serial formats became common idioms (e.g., in the pinboard aesthetic of the Independent Group,
remediated representations from Robert Rauschenberg through Richard Prince, and the informational structures of Conceptual art, institutional critique, and feminist art)." 42
These various modes of deploying appropriated images and using photographic documentation to
inform the principle of the artwork were largely what gave rise to the conceptual system of archival
photography, the mode by which many came to know, through documentation, varied actions or performances of contemporary art that relied on the archival reproductions of the artistic event or action,
a world of practices staged at"f'NJch for itsl lf as for the camera.43 Without thecN\W~~ijJt1C or filmic
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record of events or performances, the condition of reality on which their received effect as works of art
depended would not have existed. Durational pieces that rely on recording or documentation, such as
the work of Ana Mendieta, Hamish Fulton, Richard Long, and Gabriel Orozco, whose activities of
inscription were only possible through the medium of photographic representation, are examples of
this kind. In others, such as the emblematic work of Robert Smithson, the physical work and its citations stand as two separate systems. But this relationship between past event and its document, an
action and its archival photographic trace, is not simply the act of citing a preexisting object or event;
the photographic document is a replacement of the object or event, not merely a record of it. "The
document ... is no longer for history an inert material through which it tries to reconstitute what men
have done or said, the events of which only the trace remains; history is now trying to define within the
documentary material itself unities, totalities, series, relations. " 44

Documents into Monuments: Archives as Meditations on Time45
The enumeration of these various archival registers, in which the formats of contemporary art address
the urgency of visual information in the age of mechanical reproduction, is one of Archive Fever's referential sources, but the exhibition also extends beyond it. The issue grappled with here is not so
much the artist's employment of archival logic but, rather, the artist's relationship to images or instruments of mass culture or media in which the archival is sought out-especially in the digital arena-as
part of a broad culture of sampling, sharing, and recombining of visual data in infinite calibrations of
users and receivers. We are fundamentally concerned with the overlay of the iconographic, taxonomic, indexical, typological, and archaeological means by which artists derive and generate new historical as well as analytical readings of the archive. In an illuminating passage, Foucault captures the
"burning desire" behind some of these types of archivization, in which artists undertake to "'memorize'
the monuments of the past, transform them into documents, and lend speech to those traces which,
in themselves, are often not verbal, or which say in silence something other than what they actually say
... " 46

Here, a fundamental question persists: it concerns the relationship between temporality and the
.

image, or, rather, the object and its past. According to Foucault, this relationship is a prevalent one, so
much so, he claims, that "in our time, history is that which transforms documents into monuments." 47
Much of the photographic production of Craigie Horsfield exists in these splices of time and image,
document and monument. In the late 1970s, Horsfield commenced one of the most sustained and
unique artistic investigations around the governing relationship between photography and temporality. Working with a large-format camera, he traveled to pre-Solidarity Poland, specifically to the industrial city of Krakow, then in the throes of industrial decline and labor agitation. There he began shootin_g .~ series
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comprising portraits, deserted street scenes, and machinery. Printed in large-scale format with tonal
shifts between sharp but cool whites and velvety blacks, these images underline the stark fact of the
subject, whether of a lugubriously lit street corner or a solemn, empty factory floor, or portraits of
young men and women, workers and lovers. The artist worked as if he were bearing witness to the
slow declension of an era, along with a whole category of people soon to be swept away by the forces
of change. Magda Mierwa and Leszek Mierwa-ul. Nawojki, Krakow, July 1984 ( 1990) is a haunting
double portrait of a couple, a bearded man and a woman, each staring so intently at the camera that it
appears they were themselves witnesses to, rather than specimens of, a passing age. The scene is lit
in such a way that the background literally dissolves around the sitters, enveloping them in inky blackness. The image emits an eerie silence, as if touching the sentient melancholy of the man and woman.
With their stern, stubborn mien, they stand before us as the condemned.

E. Horsfield. Well Street, East London. August 1987 (1995) is, again, exemplary of Horsfield's
careful, annotative as well as denotative employment of the photographic as the weight of time that
presses upon the image. The principle of photographic portraiture, in this instance, the depiction of
the body, defines the traditional imperative of Horsfield's approach to image making. The second
aspect of his production takes it further: it sketches the subtle time lag between the creation of the
image and its realization a few years later. In this rich black-and-white print of a reclining female nude,
the surrounding field is rendered in sharp, tonal contrasts around the shadowed, slightly turned face.
As with many of Horsfield's photographs, the caption indicates the exact date of its making, next to the
year of its full realization as a work. In so doing, he calls our attention to the importance of archival time
in the consideration of the image. Here, the time of making functions as a shadow archive next to the
flat panel of the large-scale print.48
Horsfield's work is engaged with a conscious temporal delay of the archive, illustrating both a slice
of time and its slow immensity. Even if not quite a longue duree, the time lag between photographing
and printing is often protracted-sometimes years elapse before an image is conjured, a fact made
clear in the captioning. Horsfield insists on the viewer's ability to decipher the denotative aspect of the
image as a literal archive of time, as if the exposure is drawn out over many years. His work is one of
two examples-the other being Stan Douglas's Overture-presented here that captures the archival
potential of photographic technology as fundamentally an archaeology of time. Horsfield's photographs-unique, uneditioned, unrepeatable-operate at the break between temporalities, between
archival time and linear time. They are often active meditations on the very nature of time and how it
acts on memory and experience, encompassing it and slowing it down. The disjunction between the
instant in which the image is recorded and the moment it is finally printed produces two instances of
the archive: first, the archival time of the image, and second, the archival register of its reproduction.
The difference, manifest in the analog ical conditions of the tacti le, materialist photographic medium of
film and the instantaneous quG lit of digital production, is impossible to parse in. ~~orsfjeld 's method.

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At the same time, according to his mode of working, new technology does not permit us to do just
what he has been so adept at accomplishing-a kind of old-fashioned, predigital photography of noninstantaneous reproduction that allows the image to gel in the artist's own consciousness long before
it emerges from its glacial substrate. 49
Stan Douglas's Overture (1986) is similarly concerned with the relationship of archive and time, of
time passing as a moving image, as a narration. Overture is a looped, 16mm film that stitches together two separate footages shot by the film division of the Edison Company in the Canadian Rockies:
one shows Kicking Horse Canyon, shot in 1899, the other White Pass in British Columbia, shot in
1901. To explore the theme of temporality as it structures experience and consciousness, Douglas
employs an audio track of recited passages from Marcel Proust's insomniac novel, In Search of Lost
Time. 50 That Proust's book about time and its disappearance is contemporaneous with the Edison
Company's film is not coincidental, since Douglas has carefully synchronized text and image as a
meditation on the very logic of time as it bears on the question of history and identity, nature and culture, positivism and romanticism.
In contrast to Horsfield's photographic projects, which are constituted around perceptual breaks in
linear time, Douglas's Overture emphasizes cyclical temporality. By deploying a looping mechanism,
the filmic narrative appears seamless. Though the film is stitched together in three sections, and the
passage from Proust is incorporated as six separate segments, through two rotations, the loop allows
the experience of the film to occur as an endless revolution of image and time, suturing breaks in time
and images, transforming the filmic space into a closed circuit. 51 Scott Watson argues that this endless rotation is not merely a technical representation of time, a mode that Douglas has explored in
other projects; rather, the looping device becomes the means by which a confluence occurs between
"mechanical time, which proceeds through repetition, and human time, which is known through memory. "52 The careful calibration of mechanical and mnemonic temporality begins at the first emergence
of the film as a self-consciously driven operation through the camera's sweeping views of the landscape up to the point where the train carrying it plunges into the blankness of the tunnel, only to
emerge on the other end where the manipulated editing posits a steady continuation. Through this
continuation, the establishing shot of the first sequence becomes the anchor for the circularity of the
loop to suggest nonlinear temporality. The break in linearity that is crucial to Douglas's proposal
delinks the film from its narrative construction, showing instead "its rhythmic, hypnotic effects on the
viewer, in an experience of time-depth and repetition. " 53
Jet Geys's work Day and Night and Day and . .. (2002) belongs to this temporal category in which
the archive is used to elicit the boundless procession of discrete levels of time, as a juncture between
past and present. Geys's work provokes an interaction with the archive as a chronotope-that is, a
coordination of space and time. It is both a personal and cultural meditation on time and the archive.
Constituted o;,t-ef more ttlJiRforty years of photographic outf~•~iQ~tTf~~ng tens of thousands of
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images taken by the artist from the late 1950s to 2002, the thirty-six-hour film is not only structurally
about the flow of images from a time past into the present; by virtue of its languorous movement,
unfolding one panel at a time, the form of its delivery is also intended to confound the ability to distill the
film into an index of a life's work. Working with the basic format of an inventory, in almost chronological
register, the photographs are activated as moving pictures by slow dissolves. Nothing much happens
in the film apart from shifts in tone, gradations of muted gray and lightness, as the images unspool in a
horizontal band. Unlike Richter's Atlas, Geys's work is not one of accumulation and collecting; rather,
it is an inventory of ephemeral images, slowly and arduously exposed one frame followed by the next,
and next, day and night and day .. . The temporal relationship between each image is established
through sheer density. The basic means of this proto-cinematic work belie the conceptual nature of its
endless pursuit-as in the monologue to Douglas's Overture-of history as the passage of time, as the
relentless inscription of private memory onto the space of a collective public culture.

Archive and Public Memory
For nearly a century, artists have turned to the photographic archive in order to generate new ways of
thinking through historical events and to transform the traditional ideas surrounding the status of the
photographic document. In recent years, artists have interrogated the status of the photographic
archive as a historical site that exists between evidence and document, public memory and private
history. Few have matched Andy Warhol's profound reflections on photography's morbid hold on the
modern imagination. Though seemingly interested in celebrity and media spectacle, Warhol grasped
the potential of such images as a means of plumbing the psychic ruptures in the American collective
imaginary, as a speculum for examining the violence, tragedies, and traumas of the American self. 54
Building on archival analyses of visual history, oftentimes generated in the media-as is the case with

Race Riot (ca. 1963)-considerations of the relationship between documentary information converge
with aspects of witnessing and collective memory. The uses to which Warhol subjected the archive of
mass media have engendered and encoded some of the most sustained reflexive accounts on photographs as an incunabulum of public memory. Warhol's images culled from media reports of misfortune
and privation (suicides, car crashes, electric chairs, racist police officers and vicious dogs) delineate
a grid of social lives. Anne Wagner, in a masterful reading of Warhol's paintings and prints made from
a photo-essay by Charles Moore initially published in Life, makes the case for Warhol as a history
painter.55
Warhol 's Race Riot is emblematic of the connection between archive and trauma, 56 what Wagner
calls the "registration of the glamour and redundancy and immanent violence of American life under
late capitalism. " 57 But the trau~

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Andy Warhol, Mechanics/ ("The Dogs' Attack is Negroes' Reward, " from life magazine, May 17, 1963), 1963
Newsprint clipping, graphite, tape, and gouache on heavyweight paper
20 x 22 112 in. (50.8 x 57 .2 cm)
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
C 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ Artists Rights Society (ARS}, New York

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luridly sensationalist images of the Saturday Disasters series. 58 The latter embody a kind of popular
grotesque, a fascination with a cartoonish kind of horror in which the victims-smashed against windshields, trapped in burning cars, impaled on electrical poles on dark American highways and suburban
streets-become fodder for the entertainment industry. Revisiting traumatic violence in this way, the
scenes of death and their various archival returns become part of everyday spectacle. "The result,"
Wagner observes, "is images caught between modes of representation: stranded somewhere
between allegory and history. " 59
If Race Riot allegorizes a peculiarly midcentury American crisis, such a crisis constitutes the sociological ground for the glossary of images in Felix Gonzalez-Torres's Untitled (Death by Gun) (1990),
an index of grainy black-and-white photographs of 464 people who died from gunshots during a oneweek period, from May 1 to May 7, 1989, across the cities of America. 60 Like all of the artist's stacked
offset pieces, Untitled consists of several hundred sheets of printed paper endlessly available for
viewers to take away and endlessly replenished to maintain an ideal height. The work's somber content-images of the dead stare back at the viewer, with numbing silence-transforms its structure
from archival printed sheet to sculptural monument. The allusive character of this extraordinary but
deceptive work operates at the level of two kinds of archival practice. First, it embodies Foucault's
idea of the document turned into a monument, here subtly transformed from mere representation to a
kind of altarpiece. One can also argue that the second effect of the work, as a literal archive, is a reversal of the first, and therefore Untitled oscillates between document and monument, shifting from the
archival to the monumental and from that to the documentary. In this collation of obituaries, a wound is
exposed as the sign of a shocking collective trauma; the seeming randomness of relationships
between victims coalesces into a unity through the time frame of their deaths. This running tally illuminates the images within the reportorial or documentary boundary specific to the account of each victim. The photographs are organized on the white sheet of paper in no apparent order or hierarchical
arrangement, without regard for race, gender, class, age, or circumstance of death (suicides and
homicides). The democracy of death is spotlighted here, irrespective of victim.
Like Warhol, Gonzalez-Torres addresses a peculiarly American issue. Yet this work differs from
Warhol's in a crucial respect. If Race Riot represents the monumentalization of the document as his-

tory painting, Gonzalez-Torres's archive of random deaths memorializes the victims. It is a token of
remembrance and a work of mourning.
llan Lieberman also enlists the archive as a form of commemoration in Nino Perdido (2006-7), a
series of drawings based on photographs of missing children whose disappearances were reported in
local Mexican newspapers. Alternating between document and monument, information and photography, Nino Perdido functions as a kind of pre-obituary for the lost who may never be found.
Lieberman's use of newspaper photographs of the missing children alerts us to the wide-ranging
deployment of the photogra~

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sometimes disidentification. In each carefully drawn image, he has painstakingly recreated the exact
pictorial format of the original newspaper image, as if also creating a memorial to the lost child.
It is difficult to come to terms, artistically, with the events of September 11, 2001. The destruction of
the World Trade Towers in Lower Manhattan instantly transformed the site into a memorial and monument; Ground Zero became a shrine and a sacred ground. To broach the event that spawned so many
iconic images is to touch a living wound, to experience the vividness with which its memory still reverberates around the world. The breaching of the two towers by the force of the exploding planes created an indelible iconography of the massive structures burning and collapsing. The images were
instantly broadcast across the world, with numbing repetition, on television and the Internet, in newspapers and magazines, and continue to be replayed every anniversary. The traumatic images became
archival the instant the first footage surfaced and the need for documentary accounts grew.
September 11 created a new iconomy, 61 a vast economy of the iconic linking archive to traumatic
public memory. As the circulation of these images continues unabated, it is fair to ask what their status is beyond their initial documentary purpose as evidence of two incomprehensible acts of violence.
Have the images become emblematic more of the aftermath than of the event itself? How does one
revisit, not the event itself, but its aftermath, its mediatized manifestation? For many, to say more with
images of September 11 is already to say too much, to lapse into cheap vulgarity.
These are questions we must grapple with in Hans-Peter Feldmann's new project, 9/12 Front Page
(2001 ), an installation (presented here for the first time) documenting the media response to
September 11 through a collection (an archive) of some 100 front pages of European and other international newspapers published on September 1 2, 2001 , a day after the horrors unfolded. Does seeing the events from distant shores change its fundamental impact or its political and collective meaning in America? And what about showing these front pages in the very city where the carnage happened, seven years after the fact? This is Feldmann's provocation.
Feldmann abandoned painting in the late 1960s to focus exclusively on the photographic medium.
Since then, he has been concerned, first, with photography's social and political meaning in the context of public culture, and second, with the disjuncture between the ubiquity of the photographic
image as it developed a private cult of commemoration, and the evacuation of meaning that ensued as
photographic images became empty signs. Mixing the high and low, private and public, the artful and
kitsch, Feldmann's seemingly offhanded, anti-aesthetic, "anti-photographic" 62 approach is undermined by the gravity of the subjects he engages-such as in Die Toten, 1967-1993 (1998), a work
dealing with images of terrorism in Germany-and the systematic, regulated format in which he recalibrates his collected or produced photographic images into new structures of interpretation. 9112

Front Page, like Die Toten, compels a different register of ethical and political disclosures. Do the fluttering sheets of newspaper illuminate the dark events of September 11 , or do they banalize and ultim~t~I.Y dimini~ ~ P-C.O
. j\-<J~ impact? Is September 11 prin$ ajlyiQ\Ir ~ event for the global pubDigitized by uUU
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lie? W ith no accompanying commentary, this material
co llected from different media sources, in different

I

nations, cities, and languages, implicitly asks the viewer

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whether it can be treated as a work of art or merely a kind
of publi c testimony. As a work co nce rn ed with public
memory and media imagination, 9/12 Front Page
addresses the intersection of iconographic shock and
spectacle - such as Zapruder's footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ; it also explores the

Hans·Peter Feldmann, Die Toten, 1967-93, 1998
90works
Dimensions variable
Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York
C 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /
VG Bild-Kunst , Bonn

terms around which photography mediates history and
document, event and image. Or how media intervene into
the archive and public memory. Buchloh's formulati on of
the wanomic archive," exemplified by Richter's Atlas, versus th e utopian project of photomontagists of the later

1920s is releva nt here: wthe organizational and distributional form will now beco me th e archive . . ." 63
This aspect of Feldmann's practice, in which images and their context s are constantly shuffled and
represented in new form s of reception-in book works, newsprint edition s, bound photocopied filesis developed from th e understanding that, far from the ex perience of anomie, wthe photographic image
in gene ral was now defined as dynamic, contextual, and contingent, and the serial structuring of visual informati on implicit within it emphasized open form and a potential infinity, not only of photographic
subject s eligible in a new social co llective but, equally, of contin gent, photograp hically recordable
details and facets th at wo uld co nstitute each individual su bject within perpetually changing altered
activities, social relationships, and object relationships. " 6 4
Modes of artistic reception have engend ered and mobilized discursive spaces in which spectators
play a signal role in interpell ating the work of th e arc hive into highly st ructured forms of wit nessi ng.
One of Archive Fever's premises is that, while the status of the arc hive today may not be ambiguous,
its role in the historical determ ination of public memory remains unsettled by mnemonic ambivalence.
The fascination with the archive as a facet of public memory has retained its power over a wide range
of artists who co ntinue to deploy archival images of media as reflexive and documentary respo nses to
eve nt s. In Christian Boltanski's meditation on mourning and loss, the powers of the archive as a fundamental site through which we remember remai n undiminished, even if the images he deploys and
the narratives that he constitutes are more allusive and evocative of an archive than that they represe nt an actual existing archive. For nearly forty years, Bolt anski has posed conceptual and philosophical questions about the stabi lity of the archive as a means by which we come to know and understand
the past, not so much as a way to enter the logic of remembering but to explore and expose how photographic images troubl e remGbering, a

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and public memory. In the diverse arrangements to which their assemblage is subjected, Boltanski
often treats photographic documents in contradictory ways: sometimes they are collected in a linear
structure forming a seemingly coherent narrative, or they may be transformed into fetishized, individuated units on which a dim spotlight is fixed , lending them an almost devotional character, in a panoply
of sentimental configurations that, remarkably, are designed to evoke shrines.
Boltanski 's work oscillates between inert collections and arrangements of conservation, sometimes
pushing his concerns to perverse extremes, blurring the line between the fictive and the historical. In
a series of works titled Detective, he draws from a popular French magazine of the same name that
details a world of infamy in which crime is vicariously experienced through the spectacle of media

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Christi an Boltanski. Archive Dead Swiss, 1990
Photographs, lamps, white linen, wooden shelves
128 x 110 1/ 2 x 22 112 in. (325 .1 x 280 .7 x 57 .2 cm)
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32

excess. Detective appropriates the norms of the photographic montage, a mode in which devices
such as juxtaposition and decontextualization interrupt the regularized flow of pictorial narrative but
which also privilege a democracy of relationships over the specifici ty of th e sign. Here, the collectivized arrangements take precedence over the singular and unique. The sequence of images, collated from a variety of sources (sometimes the same images are reused in other ways, thu s calling attention to issues of their authenticity as historical documents), suggests such relationships, but while the
"spectators of the work know that these photographs are images of individuals involved in crime and
murder, ... [they) have no way of distinguishing between criminals and victims. " 65 In Lessons of

Darkness: Archives: Detective (1987), dealing with crime , or Archive Dead Swiss (1990) , which
alludes to the Holocaust, the configu ration of the images and their dilated, soft-focus pictorialism produce an unsettling ambiguity. Again, the general takes precedence over the specific. 66 The darkness
of the Holocaust, for instance, is treated through the structural mechanism by which we come to experience the transformation of private images- snapshots of men, women, chi ldren hovering between
disappearance and recall-into powerful, monumental, linear arrangements that become meditations
on public memory. The collectivized archive becomes a mnemonic reflection on history, building on
the anonymity of individual lives to illuminate a kind of generalized singularity, but one nonetheless
subordinated to the discourse of a group, a community. Given Boltanski's propensity to mix the fictional and the documentary, however, it is impossible to tell whether in this gallery of individual lives
the images are genuine historical documents or merely images that stand in for such individuals. Th is
is the essence of Boltanski 's ambivalence, for one never knows what is properly historical or semantically archival.
Artistic assessments of photographic
and media documents have contributed
to reconsiderations of archival artifacts
as eviden ce connected to broader
inquiries into the theme of public memory. These inquiries have in turn inspired
critic al appraisals by cont emporary
artists of the geneal ogy and history of
arc hival practices. As the fasci nation

Photographer unknown, [Corpse of mother at
Bergen-Belsen]. April 17, 19 4 5

IWM negative #BU 4027
Printed with the permission of the Truste es of the
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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

with the images of the Abu Ghraib scandal shows, there are philosophical and political interests at
work. However, there is a more profound antagonism toward the status of such images in venues of
art. While the Abu Ghraib images have served an instrumental purpose in a public controversy, as a
counter-archive to bureaucratically generated amnesia about the Iraq War, torture, and abuse, artistic
interventions can activate more complex reflections on the relationship between the photographic
document and historical consciousness. Archives represent scenes of unbearable historical weight
and therefore open up a productive space for artists in the form of aesthetic, ethical, political, social,
and cultural speculation.
We need to reckon with, then, the difference between a purely semantic reading of the archive and
its properly situated historical present. 67 Consider two photographic images, placed side by side.
One is a documentary photograph shot on April 1 7, 1945, toward the end of World War II, in the
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by a member of the British Army's Film and Photographic Unit. It
shows the splayed, emaciated body of a young mother partially covered around the chest by a torn
blanket, her eyes fixed in the contortions of death. This photograph and many other documentations of
the liberation of Bergen-Belsen provide vivid accounts of unimaginable horror. 68 One reason these
images have remained "the most influential of any record or artefact documenting the Nazi concentration camps," as Toby Haggith argues, is that they "are some of the most grotesque and disturbing." 69
Their wide public dissemination heightened their impact and no doubt contributed to the fascination
with their iconography.
The image offered for comparison, Untitled (1987), a silkscreen version of the Bergen-Belsen photograph, is by Robert Morris. 70 Like Warhol's use of Charles Moore's photographs of the Civil Rights
march in Birmingham, Alabama, Morris explicitly references a historical event. Untitled is part of a
body of work in which he reconsiders images associated with World War II, such as the Holocaust or
the firebombing of German cities like Dresden, a subject recorded by photographers and writers. 71
Morris (again like Warhol) made some alterations to the original Bergen-Belsen image: it has been
cropped, so as to fill the frame in a looming, projective fashion; treated with encaustic; and splashedwith almost expressionistic verve-with a blue-purple selenium tint that gives it the jarring, discordant
appearance of an Old Master print. Further interventions include an elaborately carved frame, fabricated from a material called Hydrocal used by Morris in the 1980s in a "'baroque' phase of firestorm
and holocaust paintings." 72 Close inspection of the carved frame reveals fragments of human body
parts and objects, suggesting a reliquary.
What was Morris attempting to convey through the juxtaposition of the transformed photograph and
the sculpturelike frame? Does this decontextualization forty years after the event enhance our understanding of that event? Or does it rupture linear mnemonic continuity, a straight line to that site in
which the body of the young mother was photographed? Projected back into historical consciousne~s. t~rough ~~na
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not merely from its subject-Nazi barbarity-but in
the way it establishes a heightened sense of
ambivalence in an image that is an almost sacred
manifestation of archival specificity. What frustrates the read in g of Morris 's work is not its deliberate aesthetic recomposition and decontextualization but the insistent loca_tion of the image within its historically troubled context. Morris does not
directly engage Bergen - Belse n but, rather, its
archive. Does his engagement with this image
owe to a broader enchantment with atrocity, or to
Eyal Sivan, The Specialist: Eichmann in Jerusalem , 1999

the disputed claim made by Norman Finkelstein

Video, color, in English, Hebrew, German, and French with
English subtilles, 128 min.

that images of the atrocity have been manipulated

Courtesy the artist

as part of a process he calls the Holocaust industry? 73 W . J. T. Mitchell's illuminating reading

moves Morris's meditation on atrocity far from Finkelstein's critique by spelling out the tem poral relationship between frame and image: the whydrocal frame s with th ei r imprinted body part s and postholocaust detritus stand as the framing 'present ' of the works, trophies or relics encrusted around the
past event, the catastrophe that left the fossils as the imprint s in which it is enframed. Frame is to
image as body is to the destructive element, as present is to past. " 74
Nazi atrocity is also the subject of Eyal Sivan's film The Specialist: Eichmann in Jerusalem (1999),
co mprised entirely of footage shot during the 1961 trial in Jerusalem of the notori ous Nazi officer
Adolf Eichmann, who coordinated the efficient deportation of Jew s on a mass scale to various death
camps during the war. 75 Sivan's film establishes a distan ce from the traumatic emotional responses
that images of th e Holocaust usually elicit, parti cularly among survivors. It focuses instead on the
ord inarin ess of perpet rators like Eichmann , whose very innocuousness would lead the philosopher
Hannah Arendt to coin the memorabl e phrase wthe banality of evil. " 76 In a review of the film, Gal Raz
notes that wSivan uses cinematic -lingu istic tactics of deconstruction and reconstruction to give
Arendt's claims a filmi c articulation. " 77 Wielding the sharp knife of deconstruction, Sivan restructures
the chronology of th e trial, presenting it out of sequence and thu s denying th e logic of archival linearity and narrative continuity. The filmmaker's reshaping of the event through a series of editing choices lends drama to the oth erwise laborious process of a judicial proceeding. According to Raz, The

Specialist is an int ervention not only into th e archive itsel f but also into th e historical process of the
trial , such that th e wdistorted chronology occ urs not only at the level of ent ire scenes but also on the
editorial scale with in th e scene[s]." 78 Th e strug gle between prosec utor and defend ant-the co urt,
survivors, and the State of l~

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ates any insight into the horror of the camps. In fact, in the dramatic turns of the trial, the horror
becomes muted, even secondary, as all attention is fixed on Eichmann the beast, the war criminal and
Jew hater. Viewers become immersed in the sparring, punctuated by gripping climaxes, between
accused and accusers as they confront each other with accusations and denials of responsibility. The
footage of the trial conveys the obverse of evil incarnate, posing instead the question of whether the
Holocaust is representable without humanizing the perpetrators. On this question, Sivan, like Arendt,
who concluded that Eichmann was a common criminal rather than an antisemite, has been condemned for minimizing the testimony of witnesses through his editorial decontextualization. 79
At issue here is how the works of Sivan and Morris offend the categorical power of the archive as
the principal insight into a truth. To refute the singular authority of the archive is also ostensibly to
diminish the trauma that it represents. Morris deploys an image that for many shocks and wounds
memory; Sivan interrogates the moral certainty of a judicial trial that connects the defendant to the
atrocities from which Morris's image stems. Morris's decontextualization of the Bergen-Belsen image
and Sivan's out-of-sequence chronology of the Eichmann trial fracture the concordance of archival
truth to historical event and the sensational account which documentary photography gives it in relationship to memory. Morris's modified image, drawn from the archival index of horror, suggests a selfconscious ambiguity, if only to expose the archive's muteness, its social incommunicability as the
rational voice of truth. Showing the prostrate figure of the woman lying in a field of what appears to be
an aqueous liquid, as if recently exhumed or in the process of submersion, seems also to be a critical
device for challenging contemporary culture's attentiveness to historical events; or, rather, contemporary art's active interpellation of history and document as a way of working through the difficult zone
between trauma and memory. Morris and Sivan's separate interventions are jarring because they seek
to examine this troubled zone, along with the power that archives exert on public memory.
Both projects draw from that vast iconomy of images to which the archive belongs. So thoroughly
has the archive been domesticated that it has come to serve as a shorthand for memory; whether its
images are lifted from newspapers and magazines or downloaded from digital cameras, it presses
upon its users and viewers new kinds of ethical, social, political, and cultural relationships to information, history, and memory. Memories of the Holocaust have been passed down to us in a steady stream
of testimonies, rituals of witnessing, narratives, films, museums, etc., but the principal knowledge of it,
at least for the general public, has been largely visual. Here photographs serve as more than repre-

sentations of the catastrophe; they have come to be seen as unmediated evidence of it. 80 All these
considerations are part of the activity of artists insofar as the archival impulse has become a commonplace in contemporary art. The fascination with the archive, the inimitable madness of the archive,
the constant return to it for verification, inspiration, and source, suggest not only a profound interest in
the nature of the archival form found in photography and film but art's relationship to historical reflec-

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This exhibition is manifestly a conversation about such reflections. But it also articulates a kind of
punctum in that reflection, between generations and genealogies of images, between modes of

address and methods. It shows the diverse approaches, the traversed historical grounds, in which to
reconsider the status of the archive. Fazal Sheikh's photographs from the series The Victor Weeps:
Afghanistan (1997) push the archive toward an incommensurable zone of unbearable loss. Yet it

remains a site of vigilance, and of defiance of the events that threaten to swallow up the individual's
memories of loved ones, who seem to have been irretrievably lost but must be constantly remembered
as emblems of injustice, nobility, and martyrdom. Against the edicts of forgetting, Sheikh's photographs of hands holding tiny passport images of lost or dead family members hover in the gray zone
between remembrance and commemoration. The hands extend to the viewer images of sons and
brothers, those who-the captions tell us, based on the testimony of their beloved-have been martyred. The hands reach out, as if to touch us with a searing memory, in gestures of affection that are
nonetheless marked by the daunting affliction of death.81
Pushed in other directions, the archival form can become a temporal mechanism for enacting historical events, even-as this exhibition demonstrates-a vehicle for reconstituting history as self-conscious fiction. Such is the case of Walid Raad and The Atlas Group, whose ongoing inquiry into
Lebanon's civil war of the 1970s to 1990s is a work of deep perplexity, wounding humor, and fantasmic invention. While the Lebanese civil war may have been real, its history is a minefield of interpretation, subjected to constant manipulation by ideological and sectarian forces. Rather than draw us into
an official documentary account, whose ultimate hermeneutic value will in any case be disputed by different factions, Raad / The Atlas Group direct us to the contradictions in the historical record and the
methods that serve its varied accounts. Borrowing the conventions of the historical novel, the Atlas
Group Archive deploys fictional characters-historians, interpreters, witnesses, and archivistswhose investigations and commentary illuminate the disputed terrain of the war's recollections. The
Fad/ Fakhouri File, 82 for instance, consists of 225 notebooks and other "evidence" compiled by the

wholly imaginary Lebanese historian Dr. Fakhouri of the thousands of car bombs detonated in Beirut
during the war; Fakhouri's notebooks were "donated" to the Atlas Group Archive upon his death in
1993. We can make rain, but no one came to ask (2008), included in this exhibition, represents a turn
toward abstraction as a strategy. Here the nearly illegible written "evidence" culled from a fictive carbombing investigation floats in a sea of white topped by horizontal bands of enigmatic image fragments.
Lamia Joreige explores the impact of the same war on Lebanese memories in her video Objects of
War (1999-2006). Rather than focus on images from photo albums, Joreige instead asked each of

her subjects to select an object that represents for him or her a memory of the war and to speak about
its importance. For one subject, the representative object is an old group photograph, for another a

,re~Parchival

drawing of a house plan, for y~other a 11"~ blue plastic vessel. The objectrjfi@Bmi
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retrieval. Joreige's method elicits very personal testimonies that operate at the level of object relations
and, while manifestly political, reveal a layer of lived experience that confounds official accounts of the
war's history.

Homo Sovieticus: Postcommunist Archives
Archival returns are often conjoined with the struggle against amnesia and anomie. A heightened
sense of urgency surrounds the demand to remember and commemorate in societies where social
codes of communication have been historically unstable or preempted by state repression. Such conditions can produce tendencies to the excessive collectivization of memory, exercises in mass melancholy, and, when liberated from these conditions, attempts to recapture orders of normality that predate the shock of historical rupture and the loss of access to the archive. Diaries are published, formerly prohibited images emerge from the cellar, dissident films surface, testimonies of victims are
heroically recast, attics are rummaged, boxes unburied. All these rituals of archival retrieval and performance have been a prominent feature of Eastern European societies since the fall of communism.
In the former East Germany, for instance, the opening of the vast archives of the Stasi, the state secret
police, precipitated a prolonged period of melancholic reflection and bitter controversy. In Poland, the
right-wing government led by the Kaczynski brothers has taken a sinister, pseudo-legal approach to
the past through the so-called law of lustration, an attempt to purge Poland's historical memory and
political landscape of the taint of communist collaboration as well as undermine the moral position of
the Kaczynskis' political adversaries. Even Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and leader of
Solidarity during the dissident rebellions of the late 1970s, has come under suspicion as a collaborator. These official attacks, in which the archive is perversely activated as a tool of disremembering in
the service of official paranoia, constitute archival fascism. This is the exact opposite of the projects of
Anri Sala, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, and Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, all of which deal with
the collapse of the communist imperium and the archival legacy of that seismic break with the past.
Anri Sala's video lntervista (1998) begins like a detective story. Several years after the end of communism, Sala, a young Albanian art student studying in Paris, returns to Tirana to visit his parents. In
their home, he finds an unprocessed 16mm film in plastic wrapping. The film dates to the communist
era but neither of his parents can recall its contents or the circumstances of its making. With no access
to a film projector, Sala examines the negative by hand and discovers images of his mother at about the
age of thirty. His curiosity piqued, he takes the film back to Paris and proceeds to restore it. To his surprise, he discovers footage of his mother meeting Enver Hoxa, Albania's communist leader whose distrust of the West led him to literally seal the country off from the rest of the world. Even more startling
is .a .s~ene of ~ ~t~ r f lj\ering a speech to a Communistd?~t Digitized by \JUU
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1970s. The speech, and the audience applause, are inaudible, as the film's sound reel is missing.
Will this fortuitous discovery unlock the secret of Albania's communist past for the artist?
Determined to reconnect the visual archive to its proper temporal context, Sala employs lip readers
from an Albanian school for the deaf to decipher his mother's speech and therefore provide the film
with a more complete narrative, and implicitly its testimony. Once this is accomplished, he splices
together the multiple frames of the original footage with subtitles. The reconstituted footage is then
supplemented with videotaped conversations between Sala and his mother. This recursive interaction
stages lntervista as an archive existing alongside a running commentary on its status as a historical
object. The resulting video alternates between the black-and-white archival footage and the color
video interviews, a shifting of temporal and historical positions between the communist past and the
politically ambiguous present, between self and other, artist and mother, filmic image and its historical
meaning. On another level, the back-and-forth also occurs between conditions of archival production
and historical reception, between muteness and language, between image and memory. These relays
and contextual changes impose a heavy burden on $ala's task as a filmmaker, who is now compelled
to shift from the private world of familial affection to the arena of public confession. Is the mother to be
judged as a collaborationist or a patriot? Can an intervention into the historical past such as $ala's
video adequately convey the complexity of the political, social, and ideological pressures that young
men and women of his mother's generation endured in a closed system?
These questions give the archive a new kind of interpretive structure, as the place to examine
accounts of collective memory, one taken up in a more archaeological fashion by the Lithuanian artists
Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas. In their multipart work Transaction (2002), the film archive frames
an interrogation of the very conditions inherent in the reception of Soviet ideology and the subordination of what was deemed "Lithuanianess." The project began with an examination of more than fifty
Lithuanian films made between 1947 and 1997, during the period of Soviet control of the cinematic
apparatus. The artists explain:
Most of these films were produced in the ideological currents belonging to the Soviet
period. Lenin's slogan on cinema as "of utmost importance of all the arts" was furthered
by Stalin's statement: "cinema is illusion, although it dictates the life of its own laws."
Having lived in a single- ideology-based mass culture that scripted the space of the

homo Sovieticus, there is the question today as to what could have been "authentic,"
from product to state-of-being. 83
To read this transaction, as it were, a number of interlocutors-in this case, Lithuanian feminist intellectuals-were employed by the artists to, on the one hand, deconstruct the patriarchal structure of
communist society and, on t~
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voice. Moving back and forth between the old film archives and their translation into the present, the
artists point to a conundrum of the Soviet legacy and contemporary Lithuanian ambivalence that must
remain a vital aspect of the assessment of the films, both as a means of excavating the communist past
and of building a post-Soviet, postcommunist national allegory. This dialectic directs our attention to
the fact that, although communism has disappeared from the political culture of Lithuania, its social
and cultural repercussions remain.
In a 1970 recording, avant-garde African American musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron proclaimed:
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."84 Released at the height of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights
and Black Power movements, and the radical political projects of American countercultures, the
recording represented one of the most astute critiques and dissections of the media spectacle in relation to radical expressions of political subjectivity. Twenty years later, the filmmakers Harun Farocki
and Andrei Ujica stood that formulation on its head. Videograms of a Revolution (1993) not only
refutes conventional models of media critique and theories of spectacle, it exploits the techniques of
spectacle as a tool with which to construct and view history.

Videograms is a montage drawn from 1 25 hours of amateur and professional archival video footage
shot during the ten days of the Romanian Revolution. At a pivotal moment in the uprising, captured on
camera and included in Videograms, the gathered revolutionaries declared: "We are victorious! The
TV is with us." And so it was. As the film oscillates between television anchors reporting the shifting
and indeterminate events, and sweeping views of crowds marching through the streets and battling
security forces, it appears that the revolution is literally broadcast live, with every Romanian a participant in the spectacle. The result is a film that harks back to Sergei Eisenstein's October (1927).

Videograms is structured with the same methods of editing and montage used by Eisenstein to transform the events of the 1 91 7 Russian Revolution into a film that expresses the subjectivity of popular
sentiment. lntercutting professional footage, television studio broadcasts, and raw data recorded by
amateurs camped out on the streets, Farocki and Ujica use the archive to rework the relationship
between power and popular forms of representation in a mode that moves beyond spectacle and
instead utilizes the expressive instruments of Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the carnivalesque, 85 elaborating forms of theatrical heteroglossia, the grotesque, critical dialogism. Fusing all of these modes of
multiple voicing and subject position, Farocki and Ujica offer a penetrating insight into the televised
revolution as an example of intertextual filmmaking.

The Ethnographic Conditions of the Archive
The assumption that archival forms have specific mnemonic functions and hold a key to the door of
hi~t<;>~ical exp,rilm~ ftlsAA~ains to what may be designated)rai§ittffl tro:mive's ethnographic condiDigitized by uUU
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tion. Be it the scripted spaces of homo Sovieticus or the drive toward the amassment of snapshots,
domestic photography allows us to see the archive as a site where society and its habits are given
shape. Archives constitute an economy of production, exchange, and transmission of images. Or, as
Terry Smith's neologism describes it, an iconomy. This economy of icons, images, and signs exists in
a murky sensorium, blanketing the social and cultural landscape. The archive today rests in a state of
historical incarceration, played out in media experiences, museums of art, natural history, and ethnography, in old libraries, 86 in memorabilia concessions, as popular entertainment, in historical reenactments, as monuments and memorials, in private albums, on computer hard drives. This field of production might be described, in the manner of Pierre Bourdieu, as a cultural habitus, 87 an ethnographic condition. Under this condition, artists enact the archival fantasy as well as the archontic88 function
of the historian, translator, curator, pedagogue. These functions also include the compulsive hoardings and accumulations that defy the temporal legibility around which certain archival projects, such
as that of Jet Geys, are organized. Derrida's designation for this ethnographic condition is archive

fever. It is from this sense of the feverish, maddening attention to the archive that this exhibition
derives its operating set of idioms.
The projects of Zoe Leonard, Lorna Simpson, Sherrie Levine, Vivan Sundaram, Glenn Ligon,
Thomas Ruff, and Tacita Dean operate around the conditions of visual ethnography, especially as
each of the works formulates a temporal and iconographic assessment of the archival past. Each of
these projects is concerned with the status of images as materials of cultural transaction and
exchange. Tacita Dean's Floh (2000)89 lends ethnographic insight into the production of domestic
photography. Accumulated over a period of seven years from secondhand bins in flea markets across
Europe and the United States, the 1 63 images that comprise Floh can be generally categorized as
amateur rather than professional photography. They are consistent with types of images common to
most domestic photographic production: portraits of individuals and groups (some quasi-institutional), pictures of objects, vacation shots, snapshots of pets or family. They are what Mark Godfrey calls
"species of found photography. " 90 However, though "found" in the conventional sense, these images
were carefully selected and resourced for the specificity of their cultural meanings, as much as for
their typological differentiations between image species. Though the line between amateur and "fine
art" photography is indeed blurred, the so-called de-skilling of the photographic in contemporary art is
not at issue here; 91 the concerns of this accumulated cache are fundamentally cultural, and specifically ethnographic in nature. Wielding a sophisticated curatorial acumen, Dean uses Floh to demonstrate the logic of the "artist as ethnographer. " 92
Thomas Ruff belongs to that small group of German artists whose systematic rethinking of the photographic image emerged from the master classes of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the DOsseldorf
Academy beginning in the late 1970s; the other members of this group are Candida Hofer, Andreas
Gursky, and Thomas Struth. S~

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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

ing new formats for conceptual approaches to image making, in a kind of renewal of the Neue
Sachlichkeit principles of objective observation developed in Germany in the 1920s by photographers ranging from August Sander to Albert Renger-Patzsch. The idea of direct, unmediated recording of objects was given a serial, conceptual rigor in the Bechers' photographs of flat, unmodulated
images of industrial structures on the verge of obsolescence. To this aesthetic Ruff's generation
responded with images that, despite their variety, combine a dry, reductive documentary sensibility
and ethnographic subject matter. Of the Bechers' former students, all of whom have developed their
own critical language, Ruff's approach to photography is the most heterogeneous. Recently, his concerns have shifted to photography's socially embedded contexts, in other words, to the archival
aggregates in which formats of photography have been organized, such as picture files drawn from
Internet pornographic sites from which Ruff produced his Nudes series.

Machines (2003) continues Ruff's interest in investigating the cultural values, and the corresponding aesthetic and social meanings, embedded in the archive. Like Dean's Floh, gathered from the
detritus of the photographic economy, Ruff's Machines are "found" images, obtained by acquiring the
photographic archives of Rohde und Dt>rrenberg, a defunct machine and tool company that operated
in DUsseldorf-Oberkassel.93 While Dean leaves her images largely in the state in which they are
found, Ruff intervenes in the archive, making clear its status as an object of ethnographic and anthropological interest, as well as endowing it with epistemological and aesthetic functions. By scanning,
cropping, coloring, enlarging, and generating significantly larger prints than were initially produced for
the brochure of the company's product line, Ruff invests the machines with a totemic presence.
Writing about this body of work, Caroline Flosdorff observes that "the context in which Ruff's photographs are now shown is no longer bound to a particular objective (product photography, advertising
photography) ... " 94 This shift in context, from product brochure to art photography, is rife with ambivalence: having turned the machines into decontextualized pictorial objects, Ruff enhances their photographic presence. The machines lose all specificity as objects of ethnographic fascination. They have
become iconic markers of industrial fetishization. Although his reading of the images deviates from the
dry, direct, and seemingly unmediated subjectivity of the Bechers' work, it is in this juncture between
decontexualization and fetishization that Ruff's Machines most resemble his teachers' blast fur