Notes on Archives 1
Ines Schaber
Obtuse, flitting by,
and in spite of all—
image archives in practice


In recent decades, artists, photographers, curators, and critics have caught archive fever. Archives and their processes have dominated the discussions in and around photography, with particular consequences for documentary and artistic practices.
Following these debates, Notes on Archives 1: Obtuse, flitting by, and in spite of all—image archives in practice starts with the assumption that an archive today is not only a place of storage but also a place of production, where our relation to the past is materialized and where our present writes itself into the future.
This book explores the difficulties for documentary and artistic practice in and with the archive, and revolves around four key questions: What is the relation between an image and language? What is an author or an owner of an image? What is missing in the archive? And what is an active archive?
In considering these subjects, this book also examines the work of artists, photographers, and makers of archives whose practices in particular have challenged or modeled a different handling of images. These key examples include Dorothea Lange, Richard Wright, Lisa Oppenheim, the Atlas Group, Walid Raad and the Arab Image Foundation, John Berger, Jean Mohr and Edward Said, David Goldblatt, Malek Alloula, Gitte Villesen, Tom Nicholson, Allan Sekula, Harun Farocki, and Aby Warburg. Throughout the book, as these practitioners might suggest, if one starts from the need to preserve an image’s full contextual and historical dimensions, the very structure of archives may need to change.


Notes on Archives 1–5

Notes on Archives is a series of publications by artist Ines Schaber about archives and the practices we conduct in relation to them. Produced over the course of more than ten years, the publications feature a series of case studies, research, concrete projects, and reflections on the questions and problems that image archives pose today. The aim of the work is not to find or create another institutional archive per se, but to develop a practice in which the set of problems that archives produce is in fact part of the process one engages in.

The artist understands the archive as a place of negotiation and writing. “There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and the access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation,” writes Jacques Derrida.


Ines Schaber is a visual artist based in Berlin and Los Angeles. For fifteen years, she has worked on the notion of the archive through which she has examined a set of questions underlying archival photographic practices. The projects, case studies, writings, and artistic works she has produced in relation to these questions seek to trace new or alternate archival practices. Another publication that is part of this eld of interest was a collaboration with the sociologist Avery Gordon titled The Workhouse (Brei­ tenau Room) (2014), produced as part of documenta 13. Since 2014, she teaches at the California Institute of the Arts, in the School of Art, Program of Photography and Media.