Archive images: channel-hopping, scans and iconography
Moderator: Gabriel Boschi
Audiovisual archives are born, potentially, one second after the first cinema screening. The factory gate opens to let workers out onto a Lyon street and the Lumière brothers’ factory is transformed into a warehouse of images (and later sounds). In 1898, an operator travelling around Russia used factual images of the Lumières to tell a story (the Dreyfus affair) for which he had no pictures. The polysemous character of factual images and the possibility of going beyond their literal content are questions that the programmatic foundation of documentary discourse, up until the late 1920s, would seek to neutralize. In as much as the State is the institution that underwrites said discourse, the identity is forced between documentary and document under the mark of unquestionable evidence. The whole arsenal aims at a single target: to fix meaning. From a symbolic perspective, one may even think of the function of the fixative in photochemical developing processes: it is a chemical compound used to eliminate the undeveloped silver salts that are still sensitive to the light. This “sensitivity reserve” is something that the documentary, in the authority it possesses over history, must annihilate.
Television is also a factory of audiovisual archives. The lability of the electronic image allows us to do without fixatives, but one must not forget that the possibility of recording on an electromagnetic support only became a possibility in 1956. The television archives prior to that date are produced with photochemical means, which introduces one of the most interesting expressive variables in the appropriation implied in working with archives: the transitions and crossovers between different technological types of images. In 1956, video recording was exclusive to television networks; in the 1970s, when the television viewer could record television broadcasts, channel-hopping came into being, a practice related to the possibility of coordinating new relationships among the images.
The contemporary audiovisual panorama has been oriented towards a new paradigm of the archive, in which the action of fixing has been replaced by that of destabilizing. The archive has become active and dynamic, which allows Antonio Weinrichter to nominate it as a performative archive. The semantic deployment of new appropriation proposals evidently goes for what is open, in which the context of origin and the new context form an area of passages of transformed meanings.
In this territory of archive practices, certain strategies that, because of their particularities, drive semantic circulation, can become sensitive. If channel-hopping goes beyond the limits in terms of massaging the retina, it can assume the form of a new type of poetry that goes beyond collage and introduces a critical distance to carry forward analytical operations. For the case of reappropriation of photographic images, the scan becomes a digital rewriting tool that orients expressively the indices of photographic materiality to bring to the surface of history the narrations that were sealed off: the JPEG is the format of the rebirth of muted identities. Lastly, we can find in the destabilizing montage of the archive Aby Warburg’s actioning of the iconography notion, especially applied to the interval between the images; if there is no document without a gaze, and if it is only possible to embody that gaze through metaphor or poetry, the place that ensures more degrees of liberty is the inter-images space, a place through which, precisely, History would pass.
Gabriel Boschi is a graduate in Film Direction. He has made shorts in 16 and 35mm. He has taught classes in Graphic Design (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and Combined Artistic Languages (Universidad Nacional de las Artes), and at the Universidad del Cine. He has written articles for the publications of the Euro-American Film, Video and Digital Art Fair and for the journal Kilómetro 111. Essays on Film. His graduate thesis, Robert Kramer: from fiction to documentary, from film to video, will be published soon.