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— urbantick

Collective Memory – Photo Collage

Taking pictures is the main activity for tourists. They are constantly snapping away, trying to capture the extend of their explorations, banning experience onto the sensor. A certain desire drives them, the eager to document what has happened in order to proof that it did.

It is like almost taking a piece of it home. This idea of possession or conquering is still part of the human nature as hunter and collector and going on holiday is only successful once one can see the perfect view on the tiny little LCD screen of the camera over and over again. Like a box ticked.

Vionnet Moscow
Image taken from mymodernmet / St. Basil’s basilica on the Red Square in Moscow

The Swiss artist Corinne Vionnet has built here work ‘Photo Opportunity‘ around this topics. From online sharing sites she sources her material of hundreds of similar snapshots of landmarks, in German ‘Sehenswuerdigkeit’ (literally translated ‘worthy to see’), and overlays them as transparent images. The results are slightly blurred, but recognisable images of the landmarks of the top snap shot locations around the world.

Regarding the sourcing of images Vionett explains “This work is intrinsically linked to the people who took these pictures. The collaboration is obvious, but it is without their knowledge. These pictures are on the Internet, to be seen by any eventual visitors. I am just one of those visitors. It is the sheer quantity of these almost identical pictures that gave me the idea of superimposing them. I do not think I would have had the idea if I had made all these pictures of the same places myself. Anyway, the work would loose its meaning.”

Vionnet London Parliament
Image taken from photolucida / THe Parliament in London

The images evoke a sense of a collective memory. They quite literally illustrate this idea of hundreds of people sharing he same experience. In this case it is having see the same thing, or more precise having taking almost the ame picture. What they have seen is not quite clear.

Interesting is that each image shows the same subject, largely they are visually the same images. However the collective memory is defined by Maurice Halbwach as: “While the collective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent body of people, it is individuals as group members who remember” (Maurice Halbwachs, Collective Memory, p.48) His conception of collective memory as a very confined and group specific construction is very clear and he was one of the first to promote this idea of connected and very local collective memories.

Vionnet Beijing Forbidden City
Image taken from photolucida / The Forbidden City in Beijing China. Here Vionnet has focus on the Mao portrait to adjust the different images overlaid.

A similar approach is taken by the German artist xxxx. He also uses online photo sharing platforms such as flickr to manipulate images and provoke memories of personal experiences.
He explains: “The installation consists of two projections, the perception and the memory layer. Both shell be explained in what follows.
The perception layer represents the sensory memory before any priorities have been chosen. It receives the newest images from flickr (flickr.com) which get distorted, mixed and blended to persuade some sort of sensory noise.”

Image taken from Matthias Dörfelt / Screenshot of my installation “Selective Memory Theatre” which is my bachelor thesis at art school.