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Home > Museum > Past Exhibitions > > Archive Fever > Christian Boltanski


Archive Fever
January 18–May 4, 2008


C H R I S T I A N   B O L T A N S K I   b. Paris, 1944

In a series of work titled Detective, Christian Boltanski draws from a popular French magazine of the same name and a similar Spanish publication that detail a world of infamy in which crime is vicariously experienced through the spectacle of media excess. Detective appropriates the norms of the photographic montage, a mode in which devices such as juxtaposition and decontextualization interrupt the regularized flow of pictorial narrative but which also privilege a democracy of relationships over the specificity of the sign. Here, the collectivized arrangements take precedence over the singular and the unique. The sequence of images, collated from a variety of sources (sometimes the same images are reused in other ways, thus calling attention to issues of their authenticity as historical documents), suggests such relationships, but spectators are provided no distinction between murderers and victims. In Lessons of Darkness: Archives: Detective, the configuration of the images and their dilated, soft-focus pictorialism produce an unsettling ambiguity. Given Boltanski's propensity to mix the fictional and the documentary, however, it is impossible to tell whether in this gallery of individual lives the images are genuine historical documents or merely images that stand in for such individuals. This is the essence of Boltanski's archival ambivalence, for one never knows what is properly historical or semantically archival.


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