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Camera Austria International 138 | 2017


23. 6. 2017
Camera Austria, Graz

28. 6. 2017
Forum Stadtpark, Graz

3. – 9. 7. 2017
Les Recontres de la photographie, Arles

14. – 17. 7. 2017
Miss Read, Berlin

Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg

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In recent years, Camera Austria has worked with many artists whose works deal quite directly with archive-related issues. The artists Özlem Altin, Sven Augustijnen, Eric Baudelaire, Martin Beck, Peggy Buth, Peter Friedl, Maryam Jafri, Tatiana Lecomte, Uriel Orlow, Ines Schaber, and Ala Younis, among others, construct in their artwork a kind of archive—temporary, provisional—and compile collections, taking the material found in archives or discoveries that lead to archives as a point of departure for their research. So on the one hand, the point is to imagine archives that do not exist but would be necessary, and on the other, to add something to archives that is lacking, that is repressed or excluded. Here, artistic practices also intervene in knowledge production in a more general way; they institute, as it were, methods of producing knowledge that is missing, and at times assume the functions of other cultural institutions in the process.
In early 2015, Camera Austria was invited to make material from our archive available to the Sprengel Museum Hannover for the exhibition “Und Plötzlich diese Weite” (And Suddenly this Expanse). This project, which ran from December 2016 to March 2017, placed a focus on publications, institutions, and exhibitions that decisively expanded the horizon of discourse on photography in the German-speaking countries during the 1970s. The invitation, along with our experience working with the aforementioned artists, inspired us to initiate a comprehensive viewing of the entire Camera Austria archive for the first time, an endeavour that will keep us occupied for a long time to come. In a certain sense, we have always considered the magazine itself to be an archive, in which certain explorative questions and issues pertaining to text-image constellations have been “deposited”.
This archive for instance also accommodates the artists’ invitation to the Symposium on Photography XV devoted to the topic “Archive”, documented in issue 51/52 from the year 1995: “Using the term archive, we correlate artistic methods and their underlying concepts with cultural systems of rules and approaches taken … .
This broadening of the term archive denotes not only the approaches themselves—the activities of recording, collecting, and storing knowledge—but also a social dispositif (Michel Foucault): it links strategies of appropriation and safekeeping with those related to the creation of order, with demarcation and dislocation. In this sense, the archive represents and signifies the constant disciplining and structuring of the world.” However, it was in the 1990s especially that the concept of the archive—as an objective source and system of structuring knowledge—began to destabilize and to dissolve the bonds between archive, documentation, and memory. The return of the real (Hal Foster) and the ethnographic “turn” of the 1990s then moved the issue of documentation in directions that were simultaneously more speculative, provisional, and political. The archive went from being an institution to being a process, with artistic practices not only critically addressing existing archives, but now also themselves creating archive-like collections of documents and narratives. The archive was ultimately to become a shared space for producing dispersed knowledge over the course of digitalization.
In turn, the issue of the archive in the scope of artistic practices often deals with the “blind spots” of history—blind spots which, however, are certainly no less meaningful. Rather, they represent nodes of various narratives that, in turn, have not been granted consideration by official archives. “Ghostly ‘voices’ draw their tenacious presence from what is left unsaid, unrepresented, from the blank spaces, the lost or never-told stories. … These ‘ghosts’ demand entry into our texts, our systems of inscription and our representations, despite the frequent claims that apparitions are nothing but sensory illusions, even hallucinations” (Peggy Buth). The Camera Austria archive is neither the result of artistic practices, nor can it be stylized as an archive of suppressed or political nature. Yet it can be assumed that there are zones of visibility and of invisibility in this archive as well, that certain associations more clearly rise to the fore than others, and that it is permeated by gaps.
In this magazine issue, we are accompanying the process of going through our archive, which we consider to be public, in collaboration with an exhibition project for which Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch are developing a way of accessing the archive and an initial representation thereof. This will also involve a reorganization of our exhibition space in general due to the opening up and expansion of the Camera Austria library. The documents published in the current issue are concentrated on the years between 1976 and the early 1980s—the time in which the Camera Austria project was conceived, designed, and established. A second phase of this project is planned for the coming year, and also an issue meant to cover the polyphonic nature of the archive in a series of texts that originate from or talk about the archive. The text material published in this issue initially traces the exploration of the archive through various contexts of art production and attempts in the process to conceptualize a critical institutional practice.
Some trails in this preliminary and immanently incomplete archive might point out to us “that, in order to move forward, we must first take a few steps back, so as to embark upon previously abandoned paths” (Allan Sekula). However, embarking upon such previously abandoned paths only makes sense if we don’t try to smooth out contradictions that we encounter, but rather engage in work with the archive without “having an answer at the ready, before the complexity of the question is understood” (Karen Knorr).
Due to the comprehensive nature of the material for the present issue, we felt it necessary to postpone the review section until the September issue, which will then discuss the most important exhibitions of the summer, including special features on Documenta and the Venice Biennale. However, we are very pleased to document here, with a thematic supplement for our subscribers, our collaboration with the newly founded Biennale of Contemporary Photography, which this year carries the title “Farewell Photography” and aims to show “a radically changing handling of images in the digital age” and to present “a different view of the history of photography”. This altered view of history connects that exhibition project with our archive-related work.

Reinhard Braun
and the Camera Austria Team
June 2017


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