False Images

The artist, writer, and curator Azadeh Fatehrad writes about the research behind her Gordian Projects publication, Ornament of Damage

Centre pages of Ornament of Damage (2017): Unpacking the Archive

How can one translate the moment of encounter with an image? How does lost data affect upon our imagination? How can one trace the memory of an actual event through fragmented material?

For the past few years my practice has involved archival found images. My process begins with a visit to a museum or private collection to access material for my research. The site visit turns into a form of residency with the outcome being a reflection on the material and the archive—artistically, historically and analytically.

My method is two-staged: primary (selection) and secondary (digitalisation).

Choosing the images is instinctual. Images either speak to me or not. I might feel they have a story to tell, or at least make me curious to know more. I start with a large number of images and gradually, intuitively, reduce the selection.

Then, I digitise the images, (assuming they have not already been digitised by the museum or collection involved), so that I might take them away with me and continue to work with them. As is the case with scanning processes, there is an element of error producing failed scans. Sometimes part of the scan might be successful, with the other sections incomplete or lost. Archivists refer to these images as ‘false images’.

These distorted images are usually of no use to researchers, and yet I found myself becoming fascinated by their incompleteness. I looked at the new images, and although part of them were lost or destroyed, I could still remember the original images that I had seen. Through the failure of digitisation, the images kind of took on a new dimension and were transformed.

In ‘Ornaments of Damage’, through collaborating with the Gordian team, I have an opportunity to make these ‘false images’ visible to a wider audience. Through the addition of my reflexive ‘poem fragments’ the book gives new life to that which is normally discarded. The experience of making this book was poetic and spontaneous, and offered me a new way of reflecting on my encounters with archive.

You can buy Ornament of Damage here.

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