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Themesicon: navigation pathPhoto/Byteicon: navigation pathArchive—post/photographic
Jens Schröter


Introduction: From the archive to transmission

In 1839, in one of the earliest commentaries on photography (referred to as daguerreotype at the time), Jules Janin wrote that it was «the true remembrance of all memorials, all regions of the universe; … the continual, spontaneous, insatiable reproduction of the hundred thousand masterpieces that history has erected or destroyed on the surface of the earth.» [1] Indeed, from the very beginning photography—as a medium that enabled the automatic storage of visual data for the first time—was connected with the concept of the archive. The connection between photography and ‹archive› is therefore one of the central parameters of that photographic age whose end is drawing near in our ‹post-photographic› present. Very briefly, ‹archive› can be defined as the location and the structure for safeguarding, storing and ordering objects and documents considered important. As such, «the archive is the precondition for something like history even being able to take place.» [2]

The issue of the archive—or more precisely, what an ‹archive› is in a specific historical constellation—is


always also one of transmission. This is by no means immediately plausible, as the media of transmission (for instance the telephone) in no way appear to be those of storage (for example the record). But in order to allow access to the archive, is it not necessary that every piece of stored data be transmissible? The inter-library loan is an example: If printed paper or at least—as is common practice today under JASON [3] —a scanned file is not transferred, access to a spatially distant archive is not possible. What is more: As the reference to JASON makes clear, the transition to digital/ized archives can be regarded as a reordering of the configuration of archive and transmission. An archive in the Internet is nothing if its data cannot be transmitted to my computer. Or as Wolfgang Ernst once pointedly formulated: «[W]e are in a media-induced transition from a storage-oriented to a transmission-oriented culture.» [4]

The following contribution will deal in particular with how artistic strategies react to these radical changes from photographic archiving to post-photographic transmission. In 1939, the art theorist Clement Greenberg wrote that «the avantgarde moves,

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