Essay by Tomás Zarza





The Post-Photographic Archive

and the New Anthropologies

by Tomás Zarza

Since its inception, photography has been used as a bulwark of memory for its apparent mechanical neutrality and its mimetic capacity with reality. The images of the world have been treasured in shoeboxes, archives of ministries, departments of museums and universities, as unquestionable repositories of a memory and a time that celebrates and reverberates the past. But the unveiling of the photographic DNA, after the digitization of the world, has caused the viral state of continuous vigil, which makes the image look like suspicious and inaccurate. An awakening of a long lethargy, like Jack Nicholson, in which our perception was comfortably kidnapped, and in which millions of decisive moments trivialize with what we hitherto considered unique and extraordinary.

Having as a starting point the idea that images are always a product of an era, we flirt with photographs without paying attention to its traces, forgetting the formal content of the image. Now what interests us is the relationship with sensitive screens, these Black Mirror dark surfaces that transform the expert sense of the registry and make it become an exercise of vital vindication of the here and now.

If we add that the archive has now become a powerful ubiquitous tool that provides real time images anywhere in the world, we are definitely standing before the end of the referencial contiguity of photography. This new statute does not pretend to challenge the documental capacities of the image, as Manovich and Wellis pointed out in the beginning of the digital, but to show how the post-photographic enlarges its narrative mechanisms. Now one image takes us to another, we report from the interaction between the photographs themselves. It is the time of the event-image as argued by Fontcuberta, a moment in which photographer and subject are the face and the reverse of the same thing, a period in which photography loses weight, but gains in social implantation; a time in which the authority of the archive is directly proportional to the search engine from where it comes from.

Years ago, McLuham warned us about the changes caused by the screens towards social relations and their approach to the real. Later, Debord highlighted the idea of the spectacularization of the everyday life by technological determinism, defending that technology takes over and modi es the event. Today truth has been muted by its representation.

From the beginning of the year 2000, in a temperate and progressive way, the speed and synchrony of our connected present has been transforming the practical meaning of memory and its temporal extension. The three traditional forms of time: present, past and future, as Virilio reminds us, are reduced to two: live broadcast time and delayed time. The speed in which we generate archives is directly proportional to our ephemeral condition as individuals and as a society, hence the need to talk about ourselves through personal diaries and selfies.

The contemporary archive is a short memory connected

to the net, that allows us to feel a sense of presence

without having to coincide in time and space.

The present has ignored the past, favoring the here and now; those 10 minutes of fame that Warhol told us about and that Martin Prada rede nes today as a continuous time of being and ocurring. A new axiom of the visual document, more valuable by the number of searches than by its quality or content. An archive that depends on the tyranny of the "likes" and the future of the audience, and that embraces the spectacle and the fraud as a veri cation system. The contemporary archive is a short memory connected to the net, that allows us to feel a sense of presence without having to coincide in time and space. In short, a place that is shortened and an instant that survives in time continuous.

Thus, the (un)evidential capacities of the photographic click, and embraced to an excessive capitalist dance that promotes the indiscriminated production and consumption of images to the detriment of the reflection and moderation, we are drawn to rethink the documentary capacity of the archive.

In these lines I would like to make a quick review of the new forms of contemporary archives developed by art practices in the digital era. Archive understood as impossible, as a pulsion/passion as defended by Derrida. Archive as a way of appropriating of not only the document, but also its interpretation, because where there is order there’s also a place for censorship and control. We will focus on the three identifiers that change the construction of the repositories and mark new relations characterized by the loss of truthness (I) in the photographic capture, the ubiquity (II) of the image, and the visual ecology (III)...

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Essay published in ArchivoZine 18

The Archive, In the Age of Visual Culture.

Tomás Zarza is Professor of digital image at Rey Juan Carlos University,

in Aranjuez, Spain.


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