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Notes to the project

In der Beziehung zwischen einer Photographie und Worten

verlangt die Photographie nach einer Interpretation,

und die Worte liefern sie ihr gewöhnlich.

Die Photographie - als Beweis unwiderlegbar, aber unsicher,

was den Sinn angeht - erhält Sinn erst durch Worte.

(BERGER 1984, 92)

This text was written during our vacations. In the afternoons we roved through landscapes and foreign cultures with the camera, the "box for transportation of appearances" (BERGER 1984: 92). The camera is a diary for photographic quotations. Once made, these photographs will not leave the circle of private interests. We try to pay attention to common rules of technique and aesthetic, but as a "Knipser" (STARL 1995: 228) we will keep also the blurred, overexposed and "failed" photos. Because these photos imply also a projective element: A "Knipser" "places a trace to the future, like an invisible thread, to help the memory in finding back to important moments." (STARL 1995: 23)

Back in Vienna we will rummage again flea-markets, garrets and estates. A search for photographic documents of foreign biographies; fragments, detached from the original context of meaning. The history of privacy is found in drawers, garrets and in shoe-boxes. A photographic universe of biographies; innumerable exposed moments of the wish to remember. It seems to be an act of a collective enterprise to illustrate the totality of private history - complete works and total ethnographic research at the same time. Anticipating the importance of photography, Ernest LACAN wrote 1856: "The photography notes memorable events of our collective life step by step, and enriches the archives of the history with valuable documents." (in PEACH 1990: 111) But with the mass of photographs, the memory disappears. The text to the image, passed from generation to generation, get lost. History told by the family-albums, yellows with the photographs. Private photos without captions, let forget the exposed date, place, persons and events. If the interest in the shoe-boxes, filled with history and stories get lost, also the accompanied narration disappear; people and events fall into oblivion. Many of these biographical traces, made for the very private remembrance, are found at flea-markets and in second-hand-bookshops.

These photographs are the basic material for the project "Museum of Remembrances". Assigned to categories and entered into a subject catalogue, the photos get admission into our archives. The process of registration for archives gives them value as a source for the social and historical sciences. Snatched from the inconsiderate dealing at flea-markets, preserved in our archives, we expose them again before the public. Now as an experiment. In context with family-photographs Patricia HOLLAND introduces the terms user and reader. A user has knowledge of the context between picture, memory and meaning, whereas the reader has to search for the context. (HOLLAND 1997: 107) Once made by the user for his own use, now the project "Museum of Remembrances" offer the photographs to the readers, to give them (another) meaning. "Wrenched from that context, they appear thin and ephemeral, offering little in the way of either aesthetic pleasure or historical documentation. But, although such ghostly hints of other lives may tempt the reader to engage in the detective project and to construct stories from these tentative clues, the empirical historian would do well to treat them with extreme caution." (HOLLAND 1997: 107)

Historians are advised to use photographic documents and sources with care. The reservation against this kind of document among the historians is diverse. One of the problems for the historical research is, that photographs can document moments only, and no period of time or historical process. Another reason is, that the code of information of photographs cannot be read by traditional text orientated historical methods. (see ORTOLEVA 1/1989: 5-7 and SCHMID 1986: 280) And at least is the technical possibility to fake photos with new digital technologies without leaving any traces, an important circumstance, to mistrust these sources. Image and text, as if caption or told memory, build together a new quality of meaning: "The photography, this (supposed) imitation of reality, says nothing about the historical reality. Only in connection with an explaining text, special information will be released." (FRITZSCHE 1996: 23f), (see also RUTSCHKY 1996: 117-133) It is a widespread and unconscious habit to read text and image as unit. So the caption causes the interpretation and limitation of meaning of the image and prevents that the reader realizes the ambiguous meaning of the photograph. (see ORTOLEVA 2/1989: 5f) "All photographs are ambiguous. All photographs are detached from a context. If an event is a public one, the context is the history. If it is personal, then is the interrupted continuity a biography. [...] Discontinuity causes ambiguity. But sometimes the ambiguity is not visible, because in using photographs together with words, the photographs get a certainly, even a dogmatic claim." (BERGER 1984: 90f) Displaying a picture together with different memories and associations triggered by the image itself, the certainly of the authentic words and meaning is broken. The ambiguity of the image will be visible. The act of watching photographs implies moments, which trigger the spectator's capability of remembrances to the past.

Publishing anonymous photographs, the project "Museum of Remembrances" tries to get access to the individual memories of the spectators. Associations of individual historical experiences will be exposed like a Rorschach-Test does it. The scientific approach of this project can be seen as an experiment to get memories (in the sense of the Oral-History), triggered by photographs. From the artistic point-of-view the project can be seen as "Spurensicherung" (securing traces), an artistic trend of the seventies. The artist intends to systematize the memories, like the science or museums do that. It is like an archeological act to excavate fragments and to reconstruct historical facts. But the artist doesn't have interests in objectivity and historical exactness, although he/she excavates, collects, registries and classifies. Because "the feigned scientific approach is the nature of the "Spurensicherung"" (METKEN 1977: 12) The artists objective is to "urge on" the memories and to compare different personal memories (see METKEN 1977: 12) The formal criterion for the selection of objects and photographs, or the presentation depends on the subjective approach of the artist. e-mail: mpoffice@memoryprojects.at 

BERGER John: Erscheinungen. In: BERGER J. / MOHR J: Eine andere Art zu erzählen. Wien 1984, Carl Hanser
FRITZSCHE Bruno: Das Bild als historische Quelle. Über den (Nicht-) Gebrauch von Bildern in der historischen Forschung. In: VOLK Andreas (Ed): Vom Bild zum Text. Die Photographiebetrachtung als Quelle Sozialwissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis. Zürich 1996, Seismo Verlag, [=Soziographie, Jg 8, Nr 1/2(10/11), 1995
HOLLAND Patricia: "Sweet it is to scan ..." Personal photographs and popular photography. In: WELLS Liz (Ed): Photography. London 1997
METKEN Günter: Spurensicherung. Kunst als Anthropologie und Selbsterforschung. Fiktive Wissenschaften in der heutigen Kunst. Köln 1977, Dumont
ORTOLEVA Peppino: Photographie und Geschichtswissenschaft. In: JAGSCHITZ Gerhard (Ed): Photographie und Gesellschaft. Zeitschrift für photographische Imagologie. Nr 1, 2, 3/4, Wien 1989
PAECH Joachim: Rette, wer kann ( ). Zur (Un) Möglichkeit des Dokumentarfilms im Zeitalter der Simulation. In: BLÜMLINGER Christa (Ed): Sprung im Spiegel. Filmisches Wahrnehmen zwischen Fiktion und Wirklichkeit. Wien 1990, Sonderzahl Verlag
RUTSCHKY Michael: Foto mit Unterschrift. Über ein unsichtbares Genre. In: VOLK Andreas (Ed): Vom Bild zum Text. Die Photographiebetrachtung als Quelle Sozialwissenschaftlicher Erkenntnis. Zürich 1996, Seismo Verlag, [=Soziographie, Jg 8, Nr 1/2(10/11), 1995]
SCHMID Georg: Geschichtsbilder. Von der Metaphorik zur Wörtlichkeit und retour. In: Institut für Zeitgeschichte der Universität Wien (Ed): Zeitgeschichte. Heft 8, Wien 1986
SONTAG Susan: Über Fotografie. Frankfurt/Main 1984, Fischer TB
STARL Timm: Knipser. Die Bildgeschichte der privaten Fotografie in Deutschland und Österreich von 1880 bis 1980. Katalog zur gleichnamigen Ausstellung des Münchner Stadtmuseum vom 14.6.-20.8.1995. München 1995, Verlag Koehler & Amelang

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