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Tag: archives


Yellow Limbo

The starting point of Yellow Limbo is an extraordinary episode which has all but disappeared from official histories; namely, the failed passage of fourteen international cargo ships through the Suez Canal on 5 June 1967. Caught in the outbreak of the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the ships were only able to leave the canal in 1975 when it re-opened. While stranded for eight years, the cold-war political allegiances of the multi-national crews were dissolved and gave way to a form of communal survival and the establishment of a social system. This involved the organisation of their own olympic games in 1968, amongst other activities.

Yellow Limbo interleaves vintage photographs and Super8 film shot by crewmembers with the artist’s own recent footage on location and is shown with a slide projection of particular relevance, general importance or personal interest from the eight years of the ships’ confinement. This three- way comparison of events, disembodied from the timeline of experience, creates a complication of concurrence, consequence and dissociation, giving rise to a sense that time is pleated, causality radiating and that this rippling expanse of saltwater somehow communicates diagonally through time.



In Aide-Mémoire, Orlow presents salvaged material of a future film and explores the territory between travelogue, slide-show, obscure history lesson and immersive sound-scape.

Chains of association, visual clues and narrative fragments are woven into new configurations of past and future. Biblical Mount Ararat, a Ghost Town in Northern Armenia on the site of an earthquake, a Kurdish village in Turkey built out of the rubble of an ancient Armenian monastery, death masks of Soviet luminaries conjure more symbols, ghosts from the past and constructions of the future.



128pp, full colour, Berlin: The Greenbox, 2006
with contributions by Monica Ross, Alexander Garcia Düttmann, Eric Jacobson, Michael Newman and Kai-Uwe Hemken, design by Anja Lutz


Housed Memory

Housed Memory constitutes an exhaustive video archive of the collections held by the Wiener Library, London. The Wiener Library has its roots in early 1930’s Berlin but has been based in London since 1938 and was the first Holocaust archive in the world. The collections includes eyewitness accounts, collections of documents, books, photographs and films. The video is an endless but discontinuous, handheld tracking shot, in which the camera takes on the role of an historical witness and records—shelf by shelf—the contents of the archive. Nine hours in duration, Housed Memory both reveals the sheer materiality of a collection which is otherwise hidden from view and at the same time produces the sense of the unknowable in the face of a totality which cannot be grasped.

The accompanying soundtrack consists of staff and volunteers talking about their work with, and their relationship to, the documents.

“A liminal work, Housed Memory plays on the two extremes or limits of memory as defined by Derrida: the interiority associated with the voice, and the exteriority of the physical support. The tracking shot of the shelves (‘shelf’ was one of the possible meanings associated with the Greek and Latin terms for ‘library’) supporting the volumes and boxes is seen from outside and contrasted with the voices of those who work in the archive, which often speak of memory. The two limits of memory are juxtaposed: memory as testimony, given in speech; and memory as the physical ‘stuff’ retained by the library. What we are not allowed to see, except in the form of labels, is the writing that mediates between the two. Thus the ‘inwardness’ of spoken memories and experiences is brought into proximity with the physical support—quite literally in the case of the shelving—of the archive. Since this is a recording, we are reminded that ‘inward’ memory also depends on a support. What is at stake here is the relation not just of memory, but of testimony, to the archive. Orlow juxtaposes the tracking shot of closed books and archive boxes—we can only read the titles and numbers, there is a sense of exclusion here—with the voices of those who work in the Library, some of whom are survivors themselves, others witnesses to the witnesses.”

– Michael Newman


Inside The Archive

Inside the Archive takes us through the interior of a small archive and library, foregrounding its material conditions, and focusing on different spaces which are devoted to archival tasks and lingering on minute and banal details. Inside the Archive reflects on the archive as something which is never fixed in meaning or material, but is nevertheless here, usually invisible yet at the same time monumental, constantly about to appear and disappear; latent. The visual exploration of the archive at the intersection of concept and matter has a profound urgency. With the dematerialisation of archives through the process of digitisation, there is a need to re-assess the material qualities of archive and document.

“Paradoxically, in Inside the Archive the still image has to do with change, and the moving image with stillness. The sequence of still images tend to take as their subject the effect of time on the archive: the signs of age and deterioration on the building. The images are still, while the building is changing.”

-Michael Newman


The Wiener Library (London)

The Wiener Library (London) shows the exterior of the Wiener Library building on a London street. Scrolling over this everyday image is the alphabetical list of thesaurus terms which allow the collection to be searched by way of keywords. This image of the Wiener Library locates it in a geographic and hermeneutic map. The constancy of the everyday image of the building is disturbed by the insistence of the catalogue entries which overlay it in a refusal of representation whose simple format brings to mind Arendt’s notion of the banality of evil.


Satellite Contact

by Uriel Orlow & Ruth Maclennan

Satellite Contact is a two-screen video portrait of the British National Archives. Satellite Contact never touches the ground: it takes the viewer on an hour-long roller-coaster ride through the guts of one of the most extensive national archives in the world. In a digital age, the two mechanical, synchronous cameras reveal an inhuman rhythm of perception, a neo-Fordist production line of knowledge and a network of material, functional, ontological and poetic connections between the archive and the fabric of the building which houses it.


Urban Inventory

Urban Inventory #1-4 consists of a series of four billboard posters which create an urban inventory by reading the city and collecting its visible and invisible signs. Close-up fragments of urban writing are recorded in the form of graffiti on walls, stickers on pipes and quotes by Italo Calvino/Michel de Certeau/Walter Benjamin/Geoges Perec/Iain Sinclair/Vito Acconci/Gilles Ivain/Frederic Jameson/Kevin Lynch/Yoko Ono. The fourth poster is a map which traces both the locations of the actual billboards and explores the experiential potential of a readable city. A book What the Billboard Saw / La Ville Mode d’Emploi recordsthe billboards’ own vision of the city.

This project was commissioned by Fri-Art, Centre d’art contemporain/Kunsthalle Fribourg and exhibited on billboards throughout the city of Fribourg from July to September 2005


Re: the archive, the image, and the very dead sheep

Bookwork by Uriel Orlow and Ruth Maclennan, 160 pp.
Design by Kapitza. London: Double agents, 2004 ISBN: 0-9548947-0-7

A ‘ready-made archive’, a holiday correspondence and a philosophico-anecdotal meditation on history.

Ruth Maclennan and Uriel Orlow write to each other while on holiday in the Highlands of Scotland and in Zurich and the Swiss Alps. The correspondents draw on documented, anecdotal and imagined histories of their surroundings to produce associative genealogies: mapping thought, image, object and experience. Seeking correspondences between what has been, what might have been and what could arise, they speculate on pre-archival moments and the archive’s aftermath. This idiosyncratic historiography brings together Cabaret Voltaire, Pictish burial mounds, Lenin, Joyce, the Gulf Stream, and the Rosetta Stone.

The correspondence is expanded by commentaries, afterthoughts and annotations by Robin Banerji, Finn Fordham, Mikhail Karikis and Nicholas Noyes.
The book collates images from personal collections, the internet and museum shops to form an autonomous, yet related image-archive, which generates its own associations and references. This, together with lists of names and terms and a bibliography performs the role of a thesaurical archive-catalogue that provides an alternative entry to the book.