Obtuse, flitting by, and nevertheless there: image archives in practice
Over the past thirty years, the status of the archive as well as the state of what we call “documentary” have dominated discussions in and around photography. Although it is now commonplace to presume the objectifying gesture of documentary photography, the complex question of how, as a working artist/photographer, to approach the archive has not yet been adequately addressed. The purpose of this PhD research is to raise questions about how, after the critique of the documentary image, the artist/photographer addresses, indeed, finds the archive. I am starting with the assumption that the archive is not only a place of storage but also a place of production, where our relation to the past is materialised and where our present writes itself into the future; thus, accordingly, I understand the archive as a place of negotiation and writing.
After the problems of the archive have been identified theoretically, the practice in the archive still encounters challenges and contradictions. This project explores those difficulties that remain within the practice in and around the archive, even after the critique has been stated. It is not about simply extending the critique, but finding an archive and the practice with it.
I am approaching these questions as a practitioner. As an artist and photographer, I am concerned with two practices in relation to archives: working with existing archives, and making work that will itself be archived. The point raised by those two activities is not to find or create another institutional archive per se, but to develop an archival practice in which the set of problems that the archives produce is in fact part of the process one engages in. Hence the work is a theoretical and practical set of experiments that may never be complete and conclusive.