Photography Artist Meets Archive
Introduction. Photography is the defining imaging medium of our era.
Photography imaging medium
Photography is the defining imaging medium of our era. In the digital age, the origination of photos and their dissemination are assuming dizzying forms – we are surrounded by photography on all sides, and it is possible that, by lunchtime, we will have seen more pictures than people 200 years ago did in their entire lifetimes. But what, of all these shots, is actually of relevance? To us today and for the future? We are (still) unable to answer these questions. But we can pose them retroactively and look at the photos that past generations have kept for us. Cologne offers almost infinite opportunities to this end, because here, we are not only living in a city of photography, but also in a city with an enormously high density of different archives and collections.
But do knowledge stores such as archives tell the truth per se? What insights do they bring to us? Is the knowledge that they convey equally retrievable for every beholder? And how static, or nevertheless re-interpretable, are the narratives that are codified in the archives? Since, normally, scientists take a look at these stores of the visual, analysing, describing and categorising them, we wanted to venture and promote the alternative, completely external gaze: We invited six international artists, in order to have them examine these image bundles as objectively as possible, to explore them for themselves and develop their own artistic positions out of them.
That was the hour of birth of our project “Artist Meets Archive”. When we formulated the idea for this special kind of residency in summer 2017, the list of photographic archives and collections that would come under consideration for such a project in Cologne was a very long one. With this pilot edition of “Artist Meets Archive”, we are initially placing our focus on establishments which are proponents of photography, are varied in their orientation and structure and each have very different ways of handling photography. With “Artist Meets Archive”, we, as Photoszene, have succeeded for the first time in forming an association among very different institutions of this city and thereby, once again, in demonstrating the supporting role that is assigned to photography in our understanding of history, present day and future.
Heide Häusler, Inga Schneider, Damian Zimmermann
Cologne, April 2019