In 2008, an exhibition opened at the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Israel, that focused on the launching of a new on photographic archive: “Memories of a Place: The Photo-Archives graphic History of Wadi ‘Ara, 1903–2008.” Notably, the archive used a series of historical images from existing archives, often giving them different captions that retrieve lost histories in the area. This archive exemplifies the possibilities that can result from the critique of institutional image archives: that rethinking archival arrangements can bring to light legible traces of suppressed histories.
The concept of the archive of the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery concentrates on the notion of place rather than on the identity of a photographer or a person being shown. This became the point of departure for the artwork Dear Jadwa, by Ines Schaber. How could one write a history of a place through images? How could one deal with what might be excluded by it? What would happen if there was a need for images that would not fit into the concept of the newly established archive?
The latter was the case with two photographs of the Arab Ladies’ Union meeting in Jerusalem in 1944, images found originally in the Matson Collection. In Dear Jadwa, both images are shown along with a letter addressed to a woman who is pictured in both. The photographs are accompanied by an interview with Dr. Mustafa Kabha, cocurator of the exhibition and archive “Memories of a Place,” and a text by Schaber reflecting on the making of the archive.
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 field of interest was a collaboration with the sociologist Avery Gordon titled The Workhouse (Breitenau 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.
Notes on Archives 4
Published by Archive Books
and Camera Austria Graz
Edited by Ines Schaber
Contributions by Ines Schaber and a conversation with Mustafa Kabha
Design by form und sinn
Softcover, English, 48 pages
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.