Gerhard Richter's "Atlas": The Anomic Archive Author(s): Benjamin H. D. Buchloh Source: October, Vol. 88 (Spring, 1999), pp.

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GerhardRichter's Atlas: The AnomicArchive*


the sheer accumulation tobanish What is the recolphotographs bytheir attempt lectionof death, whichis part and parcel of every memory image.In the illustrated theworld has become a photographable and the magazines present has been eternalized. the photographed present entirely Seemingly ripped from clutch in reality ithas succumbed toit. ofdeath, -Siegfried Kracauer,"Photography" (1927) In the exact Real,preferably duplication ofthe bymeans ofanother reproductive etc.-and in the medium medium-advertisement, to photography, from shift therealvanishes and it becomes an allegory medium, death. But even in its of moment itexposes and affirms itwillbecome the ofdestruction quintessential itself, realand itbecomes the the lost fetishism of object. etla mort -Jean Baudrillard, (1976) L'Echange symbolique GerhardRichter's Atlasis one of severalstructurally similar different yetrather projectsundertakenby a number of European artistsfromthe earlyto the mid 1960s whose formalproceduresof accumulatingfound or intentionally produced photographsin more or less regulargrid formations (one could also thinkof the collection of typologies of industrial architecture forty-year-long byBernhardand Hilla Becher begun in 1958, or the workof ChristianBoltanskibegun in the late 1960s) have remained strangely enigmatic.These projectsare notable eitherfor theirastonishing and continuity (as is the case withthe workof the homogeneity Bechers) or for the equally remarkable heterogeneityand discontinuitythat definesRichter's Atlas.

This essaywas publishedin an earlierand significantly * different versionin the exhibition catalog and Archiving in Art, ed. Ingrid Schaffner DeepStorage: and AndreasWinzen (Munich: Collecting, Storing PrestelVerlag, 1998). The version published here constitutes the first of a part chapter on Gerhard Richter's Atlasfrommyforthcoming monographon the artist. OCTOBER 88, Spring H. D. Buchloh. 1999,pp. 117-45. ? 1999 Benjamin

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Having takenas the principlesof a givenwork'sformalorganizationphotogorder (its condition as archive) in conjunctionwithits raphy'sinnate structural infinite seemingly multiplicity, capacityfor serialization,and aspiration toward such comprehensivetotality, projects share a condition of being unclassifiable and terminology of avant-garde withinthe typology art history. Neitherthe term nor describe the formal and collage photomontage apparent iconographic adequately of thesepanels or the vastarchivalaccumulationsof theirmaterials. monotony terms and genresfrom the more specialYet,at the same time,the descriptive ized historyof photography--all of them operative in one way or another in Richter'sAtlas-appear equally inadequate to classify these image accumulations. the the first that Atlas order of this Despite impression mightgive,the discursive collection be identified of the cannot either with the album photographic private amateur or withthe cumulativeprojects of documentaryphotography. Nor can we argue thatthe exactitudeof topographicalor architectural or the photography massive image apparatus of surveillance and spectacularization operative in photojournalism governthe peculiar "photographiccondition"of Richter'sAtlas. Lastly,in spite of their frequentappearance among the genres present in the not even advertising or fashionphotography and theirprinciples of fetishizaAtlas, tion determinethe readingof thesepanels. whatdoes come to mind are the terms used to describe instrucBycontrast, tional charts, teaching devices, technical and scientificillustrationsfound in textbooks and catalogues,and the archivalorganizationof materialsaccordingto the principlesof an as yetunidentifiable discipline.However, avant-garde history seems to have few,if any,precedents for artisticprocedures that systematically organize knowledge as didactic models of display or as mnemonic devices. Possiblecandidatesforsuch precedents-such as the teachingpanels produced by KasimirMalevich between 1924 and 1927 to illustratethe theoreticalefforts of the Instituteof ArtisticCulture in Leningrad-are generallyconsidered to be mere supplementsto the actual aestheticobjects theyare meant to explain.1This is also the case withanother crucial example: Hannah H6ch's media Scrapbook, which the artistproduced around 1933.2 H6ch's project distinctly points toward
1. For a complete documentationof the teachingpanels by Malevich and his collaborators,see Troels Andersen, Malevich: CatalogueRaisonni of theBerlinExhibition 1927 (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum,1970). Maud Lavinhas givenus the mostcomprehensive 2. and discussion of H6ch's scrapbook description in her monographicstudyCut with theKitchen Press, 1993), Knife(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University to addressthe contradictions thatbecome apparentin her pp. 711-21. YetLavin does not even attempt own discussionwhenshe continuously refers to the scrapbookas a photomontageprojectonlyto assert at the same timethatit differs in manyunfathomable fromphotomontage ways proper.This unresolved becomes most apparent in Lavin's finalstatement about the scrapbook: "But the strongest ambiguity one gets fromlooking throughH6ch's scrapbookis thatit is a collectioncompiled forher impression own intensevisual,sensual and spiritualpleasure. This privateviewdiffers fromthe representations in H6ch's public and more criticalphotomontages,and as such the scrapbook can be considered as a mediation between the presentations of the Weimar mass media and the exhibitiondisplaysof one avant-gardist" (p. 120).

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of found and to them an archival largequantities photographs organize Rather than deploying fragmentationand fissure. whichbore a frontispiece showingthe image of Atlas. But the nineteenth later. ?::?:4A AL ---------: -:. Futurism. Suprematism ::MEOW the earlierexistence ofa variety ofartistic thatattempted to accommodate strategies in manner. (Cubism. in as Boltanski's case-have alwaysseemed to conflictwith the only fictitious. as instantaneous avant-garde'sself-perception providing presence. day night century.the Titan of Greekmythology. shock.perhaps. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 16). 1925-26.::r:_: .'i---Kasimir Malevich.$F :: U:.From the end of the sixteenth it was definedas a century book format and astronomical thatcompilesand organizes knowledge. who holds up the pillarsof the universeat the threshold where and in the term was meet each other.her subsequentdecision to foregroundphotography'sarchival order seemed instead to be probing its mnemoniccompetencein the faceof an ascendantmedia culture. geographical We are told thatthisformat receivedits name fromone of Mercator's map collections in 1585.178.129 on Sat. Excursus on the Atlas The termatlashas a more familiar ring in the German language. Sensations andTheir Environment Painterly Chart no. the didactic and mnemonictracingof historicalprocesses. and temporalcontinuities-even if chronologies. the establishment of typologies. than it does in English. and perceptualrupture.the dynamic principles of photomontagethatH6ch had practicedin the late teens. in of tabular German to identify increasingly any display systematized deployed This content downloaded from 182. continuing But in general.239.

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literallyan atlas of exercise]" (Benjamin. Edmund Jephcott Street. this exercise manual.Sander's work is more than a picture book.the Atlaswas to constructa model of the mnemonic in which Western Mnemosyne would once more. Zeit Antlitz der as an "Uebungsatlas.WalterBenjamin's"ShortHistory of Photography. as Benjamin optimistically of the depicted sittersand their physiognomic studyof the relationshipsbetween the class identity in the imminent future." the scope of the termatlasis once again strangely modifiedforthe purposes of contemporary needs when BenjamindiscussesAugustSander's (in an almostominous prognosisof the needs of the future).according to Warburg. p. in a monumentalproject thatsets out to gatheridentifiable forms The Mnemosyne Atlaswas first of collectivememory. One-Way [Uebungsatlas: [London: New LeftBooks.geography. the keyworkof the GermanNeue Sachlichkeit photographer.will educate its viewersin the persecution. Even though the scholar had to leave the projectbehind in an unfinished state. Atlas Aby Warburg's Mnemosyne We encounter the most importantexample of this anti-positivist tendency around 1927. Warburgmore specificallyargued that his attempt to constructcollective historical memory would focus on the inextricablelink between the mnemonic and the traumatic.recognize European humanist thought its origins and trace its latent continuities into the present. to read facialtypesa matter of vitalimportance. in a crucial textfrom1931. conceivedby the arthistorian in 1925 afterhis release fromLudwigBinswanger's clinic AbyWarburg psychiatric in 1924. 1979].239.178.3 While collective social memory.122 OCTOBER knowledge. Accordingto his aspirationsas recordedin his diaries. ranging spatially across the confinesof European humanistcultureand situatingitselftemporally withinthe parameters of European history fromclassicalantiquity to the present. Later.even schoolbooks chartingplants and animals carried that name the way the god had carriedthe pillars.Withthe confidencein empiricism and the aspiration toward comprehensive completeness of positivistsystemsof knowledge the termatlas seems to have falleninto havingwitheredin the twentieth century.perhapsforthe lasttime. It is a trainingmanual trans. 252). politicaland ideological affiliations Benjaminstates:"Worklike Sander's could assume unlooked-for Sudden shifts of powersuch as are now overdue in our sociovernight topicality.could be traced focus being the (his primary throughthe various layersof culturaltransmission transformation of "dynamograms" transferred from classical antiquity to Renaissance willhave to get used to being looked at in termsof one's provenance.Whetherone is of the leftor etycan make the ability right. more than sixtypanels with over one thousand photographs had been assembledbyWarburg. it was actively developed in 1928 and he continued it until his death in 1929. Soon thereafter. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . This content downloaded from 182.And one willhave to look at others in the same way. 3. a more metaphoricalusage. observationwould not onlyserve as the Eerilyanticipatingthat only a fewyears later physiognomic pretextto political discriminationbut more brutallyas the pseudoscientifclegitimationof racist claims.or ethnography.129 on Sat." (1929). empirical science: an atlas of that one could have encountered an atlas in almost all fieldsof anatomy. the reoccurringmotifsof gesture and bodily expression that he had identifiedin his notorious term"pathos formulas").

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1991).It becomes apparent.124 OCTOBER to his Mnemosyne Atlashe wrotethatit is in Thus. if only at second glance. mnemonicexperience could even continue reign of photographicreproduction. at least accordingto its author'sintentions.No.secular manuscripts. pp. 11-37.6. 102. by collectingphotographic of a broad variety of practicesof representation. Diers." unpublished manuscript.5 extraordinary It seems."Introductionto Mnemosyne WarburgArchive. an uncanny evidently Warburg prognosis memoryand hoped to construct-even ifforthe last time-a model of historical continuityof experience. the Atlaswas also reproductions to achieve the materialistproject of constructingsocial memory.postage stamps. an inheritance ofthatexperienceofsuffering thattheencryptions preserved in the memory. to be constructed.broadsides.Yet in its boundaries betweenthe conventions and the studiesof erosion of the disciplinary under the universal high art and mass culture.picturescut out of magazines. and old masterdrawings.129 on Sat.In this sense Warburg'sAtlas reiteratedhis lifelong challenge to the rigid and hierarchical of the disciplineof arthistory an attempt to abolish through compartmentalization formalor stylistic its methodsand categoriesof exclusively description."in AbyWarburg: Symposiums.thatin Warburg's projectwe encounteran in the universally almostBenjaminiantrust functions of technological emancipatory and dissemination.178. Michael Kontinenten. Atlas. the extreme and Thus."Die Hamburg Amerika Linie oder Warburg'sKunstwissenschaft zwischen den Akten des Internationalen ed. quoted in Mathew and Modernity: and Walter "Mimesis AbyWarburg Rampley. that this unorthodox selection is the product of an commandof a vastfield. Kurt Forster. In thiswaythe Atlaswas also establishing both the theoretical and the presentationalframework to probe the competence of the mnemonic from whichH6ch's scrapbookwould emergea fewyearslater. and Charlotte This content downloaded from 182. Horst Bredekamp.4 reads like While thisintroductionto the project retrospectively of the imminent future of social behavior. destruction of humanist civilization But. cheek byjowl.1. Benjamin." Aby Warburg. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . monumentalfrescoes. before both would be shatteredby the catastrophic at the hands of GermanFascism.1. Kurt Forster.239. There. 5.anticipatingthe fromhistorical contextand social function in the name of subsequentabstraction a universalaestheticexperience byAndre Malraux in his Le MusieImaginaire. reproduction temporal spatial heteroof the Atlas's is with the of geneity subjects juxtaposed paradoxical homogeneity theirsimultaneouspresence in the space of the photographic. in the unpublishedintroduction the area of orgiasticmass seizure that one should look for the mintthat stamps on the memory the expressionof extremeemotionalparoxysm withsuch intensity least at first reading. were late antique reliefs. Schoell-Glass(Weinheim: Acta Humaniora. This condition alone seems-at first Atlasin a sightat least-to situatethe Mnemosyne 4.the editor of the forthcoming English edition of Warburg's describesthe arrangement as follows: writings.the Atlasalso questioned whether.

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notably by Wolfgang Kemp.or whether them more rigorously and-most importantly for comparison by differentiating our project-by recognizingthat the Atlasin factestablisheda culturalmodel of probing the possibilities of historical memorywhose agenda was profoundly different fromitsactivist in the fieldof photomontage. Needless to say. personal and professional March 24.theyoperate projectsobviously under dramatically different historicalcircumstances: the former at the onset of a traumaticdestruction of historicalmemory. Not surprisingly. nor does it invalidate thatof Schwitters' and Lissitzky's collages:it simply serves to redefinegraphic montage as the constructionof meanings ratherthan the arrangement of forms.attempting to reconstructremembrancefromwithinthe social and geopolitical space of the trauma. "Aby Warburg among the Hopis: Paleface and Redskin. precursors Anotherquestionwould be whetherit could in factbe potentially productive to compare Warburg'sAtlaswith Richter'sAtlas.6 It is thisremark(and manysimilar ones bytheWarburg scholarsmentioned). the momentof the mostdevastating of human history cataclysm broughtabout by GermanFascism. 1997. Warburg scholars. Werner Hofmann. 30-38. We would have to recognize fromthe outset thatwhile both address the possibilities of mnemonicexperience. p.this analogy procedures of Schwitters no claim to merit on the artistic implies part of the Warburgpanels. forexample. one would want to ask whetherany aspects of Warburg'sAtlascan in factbe productively compared to the collage and photomontagetechniquesof the we can understandmore about eitherside of thisproblematic 1920s. in particular its intriguing and surprisinglyclear-cut opposition between a "construction of meanings" (supposedly Warburg's) and an "arrangementof forms"(supposedlythat of Schwitters and Lissitzky).he statesthat [in] termsof technique Warburg'spanels belong with the montage and Lissitzky.the latterlooking back at its aftermath froma position of repressionand disavowal. that poses other a further example of such a mnemonic project.129 on Sat. This content downloaded from 182."TheNewRepublic. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .. and most in his twoessays himself on Warburg's methods. Firstof all.Archive Atlas: TheAnomic Gerhard Richter's 127 of the peculiar parallelismto the artisticpractices of the historicalavant-garde thisargumenthas in factbeen made bynumerous 1920s as well. 31. and emphatically recently byForster Thus.See Joseph Koerner.239. 7.7 very societythatinflicted Structures ofan Atlas Wolfgang Kemp was the firstto point out that Warburg's project of an information without organizationand presentationof vastquantitiesof historical 6. Joseph Koerner has suggestedin a movingessayon Warburgthat the rise of Nazi Fascism in at the timewould have in facthad a tremendous Germany impacton the orientation(or disorientation) of Warburg's lifeas earlyas the outbreakof his illness. Ibid. pp.178.

no.. Theodor W. and fiction. Thus one could argue thatby the mid-1920s a variety of homologous 8. 1 (1975). ed.a textual assemblage thathad attempted to construct an analyticalmemoryof collectiveexperience in Paris. 239."10 anti-subjectivism.presumably in the occurringmostvividly interstices between discursive fields (such as the pictorial versus the photoof mass cultureversusthe avant-garde's forstructural for example in the factographicnovel where it came to displace authorial omniscience.129 on Sat. Second.Firstof all. Benjamin had similarly associated his Passagenwerk with nineteenth-century the montage techniquesof the Surrealists and had explicitly it in those identified termswhen he wrote that the "method of thisworkis literary montage. This content downloaded from 182.8 Inevitablythereby.the clutter striving the artisanal versusthe technically versus distillation. "Benjaminund AbyWarburg.Mass. there is the anticipation of shock as an inescapable and intended resultof montage technique. and crucially. "Das Passagenwerk. force of the aestheticthatpresumably articulates a driving collage/photomontage of systematic critiqueof whatwould latercome to be called "the authorfunction" a text. WalterBenjamin. Again. 5. p.178. p. Hermann Schweppenhiuser(Frankfurt 10. Rolf Tiedemann and Schriften. several termsstand out in Kemp's and Adorno's discussions that deserve our attention." in Prisms.the scriptural the painterly--to name but a fewof the classical topoi and tropes of collage and montageaesthetics). am Main: Suhrkamp. The culminationof his his majorworkwas to consistsolelyof citations. p.. it is Adorno's observation of anti-subjectivism as the Third.: MIT Press.1972-89). and directly connected withthe precedingterm. 5ff.both with regard to the accuracy of the descriptionsof models (includingthe differences betweenthem)."9 And Theodor W.Finally. onlyto show..there is Adorno's on the accumulation of citations as paralleling the newlyemergent emphasis device of If thisinitially aesthetics. narrative. thereis the assumptionof the exclusionof interpretation in favorof actuallyexistingconditions in the discursiveconstructionof textual memory. Warburg'sAtlasalso enters into a comparison with another and unfinished extraordinary montageprojectof thelate 1920s. Adorno.239. Samuel and Shierry Weber (Cambridge.. I have nothingto say." in Gesammelte vol. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . displaces homogeneity conception and execution of soon thereafter the would also transform or painting. "A Portraitof Walter Benjamin. Adorno's descriptionof the Passagenwerk could just as well be addressing the essential featuresof Warburg'sMnemosyne Atlas: "Benjamin's intention was to eliminateall overtcommentary and to have the meaningsemerge solely througha shockingmontage of the material. Kritische 3. occurs in photomontage structuring montage where it the of the itself. montage technique literary filmicaesthetics(those of the Soviet Union in particular). and Benjamin'sand Warburg's withregard to the accuracyof theirdefinitionof the epistemesof collage/photomontage. Berichte Wolfgang Kemp." 9. trans.1981). reproduced. 574.128 OCTOBER mightwell remindus of Surrealist any textualcommentary montage procedures.

239.11 specific Atlas was in factpartof a newly culturalparadigm Even ifWarburg's emerging of montage as a new process of writinga decentered historyand constructing mnemonicforms and the montage anycomparisonbetweenWarburg accordingly.any attemptat a comparative reading of the structurally comparable projects will have to develop an equally differentiated understandingof the contradictionsand changes that already emerged in the of photographicfunctionsthemselves. Furthermore. pp. practicesdeploying photography and particularly forour discussion ofWarburg's and Richter's mnemonic important project. conceptionof the Atlasas a model of the construction Warburg's On the opposite end of the spectrum. historical) a post-humanist as a sequence is of history the factthat at the verymomentof its elaboration. and permutations betweeneconomic and ecological givens. On the one hand. Not surprisingly. let alone the neo-avant-garde. 167-78. we have to consider Siegfried Kracauer's epochal essay on photography whicharguesthatphotographic devastates thememory production image.More specifically. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The and post-bourgeois telling subjectivity of eventsacted out byindividualagentsis displaced bya focuson the simultaneity of participating and an infinity of separate but contingent social frameworks is as of perpetually of reconceived a structural and the system process history agents.129 on Sat. This dialectic is evidentin the positionsarticulatedin 1927-28. filmic.These internal shiftsand breaks in the paradigm had already emerged in the late 1920s. Boris and would have to take into account the famous "photographydebate" of the Soviet Union as it emerges around 1927. willremain techniquesof the artistic avant-gardes. would have to considerwhat Kushner.and the resulting classformations typesof social and cultural to each particular interactions moment. both in the theo1920s in the definitions reticalapproaches to photography in WeimarGermany and the SovietUnion and in the artistic in both countries.And third. the parallels between the Annales historian Marc Bloch and Aby have been discussed. then.See UlrichRaulff. remainsprobablythe mostimportant of the first halfof the essayon photography 11. changinginteractions and theirideologies.178."in AbyWarburg: desInternationalen Akten Symposiums. This content downloaded from 182.opposite theorizations of photography on the question of the impactof the had collided precisely of historical photographic image on the construction memory. "Parallelgelesen: Die Schriften von AbyWarburg und Warburg Marc Bloch zwischen1914 und 1924. and in these changes would become especiallydecisivein the paradigm'srediscovery postwar practices. In all of these projects (literary. new models forwriting from the montage techniquesof artisticpracticesto Warburg'sAtlasor ranging those of the Annaleshistorians.a position that implies (most likelyunbeknownstto both) a severe criticial challenge to of social memory.Atlas: TheAnomic Archive Richter's Gerhard 129 and imaginghistoricalaccounts emerged simultaneously. primarilyin the writingsof the Soviet theorists and artistsOssip Brik. of all the actual highly problematicif such a comparisondoes not recognize first discontinuitieswithinthe collage/photomontage model itself.

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it is a shiftthat originatesin the same confidence in photography's and reliability thatwould also driveWarburg's versatility archivalproject and his confidencenot only in the photograph'sauthenticity as empirical document but in the radical emancipatorypower of the egalitarian of photographic effects reproduction.129 on Sat. who initiated photomontage (e. But this revolutionary semiotic upheaval of poetic shock and estrangement was short-lived. To sketchout these oppositions only in the briefesttermsentails pointing first of all to the latentdichotomy operativein collage/montageaestheticsfrom theirinception. of contingent. Klucis.g. communicative action. and instrumentalized the structural logic within organizationof montageaesthetics. relations. projectwas interrupted: "Short which the media 1931 of History Photography. techniqueas bourgeoisavant-gardism. The structuralemphasis on in the initialphase of Dada-derived and fragmentation photomontage discontinuity introduced the subject's perceptual field to the "shock" experiences of daily existence in advanced industrial culture. for example. The photographicimage in generalwas now definedas dynamic.239. mounting for a reintroduction of the dimensionsof narrative. While the metonymicprocedures of and the fragmentphotomontageand theircontinuousemphasison the fissure of unity at least in theirinitialappearance-operated to dismantlethe myths and and ideology consistently inscribe on their consumers.Archive Atlas: TheAnomic Gerhard Richter's 131 Walter afterWarburg's written twentieth shortly century.178. the heterogeneity Hausspriiche arbitrary juxtapositionsof found objects and images withtheirsense of a fundamental cognitiveand perceptualanomie were challenged as eitherapoliticaland or as esoteric and aestheticist. of visual information and the serial structuring withinit implicit form and a not of emphasized open potentialinfinity. In termsof its episteme of a radically different conception of the photographic. only photographicsubjects eligible in a new social collective but. equally.photographically recordabledetails and facetsthatwould constitute each individualsubjectwithin altered social and Once again activities. perpetually object relationships.The poles of opposition could be called the order of perceptual on the one hand.paradoxically. The veryavant-garde artists anti-communicative. Alreadyin the second moment of Dada collage (at the time of Hannah H6ch's Meine of random order and the [1922]). 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Lissitzky. and contingent. Whatwe are in factwitnessing but becomingmore alreadyin the mid-1920s decisive in the later 1920s is preciselya gradual shifttoward the order of the of the photographic archivaland mnemonicfunctions collectionas the underlying aesthetics of photomontage. This content downloaded from 182. totalitythat advertising collaborated also in the social project of perceptual photomontageparadoxically modernization and its affirmative effectof the agenda. H6ch.. contextual. and the order of the shock and the principleof estrangement statisticalcollection or the archive on the other. Heartfield.and of the Dadaist collage/montage Rodchenko) now diagnosed thisanomic character a critiquethatcalled." argues against Benjamin's in of of a Kracauer's favor new media culture of motivated essay pessimism politically montage.

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Christopher Phillips(NewYork..whenwe read Ossip Brik'sfollowing argument: individualobjects so as to make a pictorialrecordof [T]o differentiate them is not only a technicalbut also an ideological phenomenon.239. carefully in the framed and as a studio. be understood and assessed only in connection with all the other people-with those who used to be regardedby the pre-revolutionary consciousnessas background. ration does not at all mean to referto these objects or ur-images. both painting set themselves the aim of differentiating individual and literature people attentionon and eventsfromtheirgeneral contextand concentrating an individualperson can them.Siegfried Kracauer analyzedthe actual deployment of the in the media of Weimar image capitalist practices Germany. that it See Ossip Brik. ed." in Photography 12. If it itselfas an aid to memory. were offering then memorywould have to make the selection.129 on Sat. But the flood of photos sweeps awaythe dams of memory. in theModernEra. This content downloaded from 182. artist-photographer presented pictorialsubstitute. pessimism argues of will the that presence photographic image eventuallydestroycognitive and mnemonicprocessesaltogether: Never before has an age been so informed about itself.Atlas: TheAnomic Archive Richter's Gerhard 133 the parallelsbetweenthe Sovietmodel of the to investigate itwould be worthwhile radical of the historic process emerging and the reconception photographic simultaneouslyin the work of the French Annales historiansMarc Bloch and Lucien Febvre... . In the pre-revolutionary (feudal and bourgeois) is precisely the synthetic cheaplyand rapidlyproduced snapshotthatwilldisplace the traditional The organizationaland distributional formwillnow become the archive.the weeklyphotographic photographicsense. Rather. accumulationof snapshotsrelatingand documentingone particular subject.The assault of this mass of images is so powerful. portrait.forexample. moreor lesscoherent or as Rodchenkocalled it.178. p. Ratherthan plottingthe futuremodels of participatory photographicexperience under Socialism. 231ff.It is no longer conceived as a single image-print. "From Painting to Photography. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Linkingan individual'scapacity to formmemoryimages to an immediaterelationship withmaterialand cognitive Kracauer's extreme media itis precisely the universal that objects. if being informedmeans havingan image of objects that resemblesthem in a however..already for Rodchenko's definition. In was the case..12 of the photographicobject Such an argumentimpliesa radical redefinition craftedby the itself. photographic specifically those governing theweeklyillustrated magazines.the photo-file-a looselyorganized.These parallels between the conception of the historicalprocess and orderingof the photographicrepresentation become and the construction mostobvious.1989). To the contemporary consciousness.

In theillustrated suffer Artworks thisfatethrough theirreproductions.. and Richter'sAtlasin particular. in 1931 that the historical climax made by Benjamin suggested plausible-arguments of the medium of photography mighthave to be situatedaround 1860."Photography.. This content downloaded from 182.. of articulationand self-determination. This was because at that moment the photograph had barelyaccomplished its transition from the aura-investedobject to the increasinglyemptied structureof mere and at the same time photography-as an emerging technologicalreproduction..Richter'sAtlasseems to consider photogand itsvariouspractices as a system ofideologicaldomination. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .we can easily recognize that Richter'scollection of found amateur photographs combined withjournalistic and advertising the utopian aspirationsof the avant-garde inverts on photography everylevel. raphy as one of the instruments withwhichcollectiveanomie. fromthe very outset Richtercontemplatesthe reigningsocial uses of photographyand their functions Ifthe agitational artistic withan attitude of profound potential scepticism.Thomas Levin (Cambridge.129 on Sat.: HarvardUniversity Press.. 58. amnesia.178.13 Gerhard Panels1 and Richter. p.positioned themselveswith regard to these photographic legacies of the historical avant-gardes. and emancipatory dimensionof photomontagehad originatedin a desire forthe radical transformation of hierarchicalclass relations and of the structures that determineauthorshipand production. emancipatory technology--could still contain the social promise of radically of collectiveinteraction and subjecthood. Kracauer. This was the momentwhen the rise of a photographicmedia cultureallowed a firstinsight into the newlyemerging collective conditions of anomie. moreprecisely. Organized accordingto the rectangular 13.1998)." Siegfried Mass. and trans. see the world that the illustrated magazines people very magazines preventthemfromperceiving. different forms TheBeginnings Atlas ofRichter's If we now consider how the works of artistsof the postwar period. 1962-present.2 ofAtlas. Neverbeforehas a period knownso littleabout itself. If some of the Soviet and Weimar practices and theorizationshad defined photography in a teleological perspectiveas a culturalproject of enactment and empowerment. the moment when it became possible to imagine that mass cultural representation would cause the destructionof mnemonic experience and of historicalthought one of the most enigmatic-and withhindsight ever more Therefore. Richterstartedthis collection of photographic images whose ultimate purpose-at least initiallyseems to have been unclear even to him. the potentially threatensto destroy existingawarenessof crucial traits. altogether. and repression are socially inscribed..239. ed. After his transition fromEast to WestGermany in 1961. in Mass Ornament.

129 on Sat. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .* ii iawII I :I U This content downloaded from 182.239..178.

example in a long-standing just ason the other side of that historical divide-Warburg's Mnemosyne Atlas had acute "memory crisis. Mnemonic activatedespeciallyin those momentsof extremeduressin which the traditional materialbonds among subjects. the efforts both to theorize the conditions of memoryand to enact new cultural models of the mnemonic. This would undoubtedlyhave been a condition foundationalto postwarGerman culturein particular.3 and4 ofAtlas. the images appear to have been chosendisplaysystem. begun at the and Wolfi.The second one by contrast. Panels Richter. The others-including the fourthpanel."14 responded to a similar experience of a particularly But as we indicated earlier. Present Past: Modernity and theMemory Crisis (Ithaca: Cornell Press. Only family images fromthe first subjects would later serve as a matrixfor one of Richter'sphoto-paintings. These photographicimages appear at first had been torn from a album before Richter's shortly flight family though they from East Germanyto serve as souvenirs of a past that was being leftbehind or as thoughtheymighthave been mailed to him fromhis relatives in the forever. Germany possibly-but not entirely14. of humanistsubjectivity anteriorto the historicaldestruction but not anteriorto the rise of a photographic mass culture and its devastating (or emancipatory) on the auratic workof art and the mnemonicimage. grid'swhollytraditional for their value: recordinginstancesand at sentimental at first glance least-solely from one of the four panels history.betweensubjectsand objects. Richard Terdiman coined the concept of "memorycrisis"to analyze those historicalcircumstances thatgeneratean actualizationof mnemonicefforts withinthe culturalpracticesof modernity. timewhen the initialpanels forthe Atlaswere assembled (Christa 1964).The first of these perspectives is difficulty historicaland specificto the social and ideological framework of postwar utterly afterFascism.and betweenobjectsand theirrepresentation appear to be on thevergeofdisplacement. consistingalmost entirelyof amateur landscape photographs taken during holiday travels-would remain seemingly as mute.1993).a different type of "memorycrisis" had been confronted of photography by artistsand theoreticians alreadyin the late 1920s. photographic productionto solicitartificial Those two ratherdifferent withinwhich Richter'sAtlascan be formations conceived of as respondingto the condition of a "memorycrisis"give rise to a withregardto how to positionthe effects appears then. If we assume that the initialimpulse to formthe Atlasin factoriginatedin and social contextas well as in Richter's recentexperience of the loss of a familial of its identity as a nationthe encounterwithGermany's self-inflicted destruction state. See Richard Terdiman. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .inconsequentialdocuments. University This content downloaded from would be plausible to consider the Atlasas one more. entangled as it was in the double bind of the collective disavowal of historythrougha repression of the recent past and an almost hysterically accelerated and expanded apparatus of desireand consumption. East to console the youngartist about his recentdeparturefromhis loved ones.239.178. verydifferent.and in manywaysa traditionof culturalpractices. if not outrightdisappearance.129 on Sat.

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would now have to rephrasethis Richter. family of and the referent Afterall." in it in succeeded that of artistic constituted the form.178. singularity "monogram" a the resolution within of death to the givenrepredeepest knowledge bringing at itsmostprofoundlevel.even more a repressionforwhich photographicmedia-culture as a painter. at moment the collectively images had become now. and again Roland Barthesin 1979 (when withthe death of his mothermade him writea contemporary the confrontation on the phenomenologyof photography)-as the point fromwhichthe reflection would originate. this is the imprintwhere physicalcontiguity psychicinscriptioncould not be questioned. This content downloaded from 182. enacted repression of the mostviolent.Richter than in Kracauer's time. Clearly. on the considersthe impactof photographicmedia-culture unrelatedto the first. at the authentic on of the of and object large. Die Mnemeals erhaltendes Prinzip im Wechsel (Leipzig. Panel Richter.15or whetherit would trace the more or AbyWarburg's less successfulpsycho-sexual organization according to the Oedipal laws that of psychic definition of subjectivity the formation determine (e. Whether this mnemonic would be definedas thatof geneticand hereditary encoding (the foundaimprint as suggestedin the ideas about memory tion of a proto-racist developed by theory teacher. mnemonic experience.the primary agent. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . namely. of history.. alternatingly-likephotography-assuring and assaulting the formation of identity. produced. whetherit could even be possible to conceive mnemonic veryquestion.129 on Sat. experience project painting of all the devastating the questions raised by Kracauer concerned first impact of contained of which work aura-filled on the artisanally the photograph art.or whethermemory social institution (as proposed in Durkheim'stheorizationof memorystructure). this In Kracauer'senigmaticdefinition. Simultaneously. resisted sentationand thereby repression as a subjectof the postwarperiod.239.g.It was and historicalmemory between photography relationship as a dubious agent simultaneously as thoughphotography's oscillatingambiguity.RichardSemon).5 ofAtlas. could at least be fixed for one enacting and destroying momentby situatingthe image in an analogue to the mnemonic imprintof the relationitself. withthe apparatusof photographic from a confrontation within members that make up the Therefore the photographic images of family first four panels of the Atlasseem to have served Richter-as theyhad served Kracauerin 1927 and Benjaminin 1931. whathe called the "monogramof history. 1904). it is in the reflection image that the power of mnemonic ties to upon the family on could be mostcredibly verified the pastand theirinextricable impact the present as material processes. where the causalityand materiality of mnemonic experience seemed to be guaranteed. See Richard Semon. faced-as were all otherpaintersof his generation-with would have seen himself the question of whetherand how paintingscould even continue to be conceived massculture. des organischen Geschehens 15. Freud'sinherent would be conceived of as determinedby class and memory).

to an equal and structures of degree fromthe encounterwiththe rapidly changingfunctions the photographic image that Richterdiscovered afterhis arrivalin the West. It is not surprising then to see thatprecisely those categories (fashion.Richtercould now. (let photography pornography) and whereimagessoliciting the desirefortourism would have been banned from the photographicpublic sphere of the Communiststate. a country whereadvertising ofanykindhad been prohibited. thefamily and at first of picturetypes.for the firsttime. becomes apparentalreadybythe fifth panel of the Atlas.In endlesslyperuse these images in we have argued.?-ALA&Aft? Am'' ANN: u~rx~cprow iOil *~W~ I The factthatthe mobilizationof an atlas of remembrance againsta massive of did not from result the apparatus repression just privateexperienceof a loss of a geopoliticalcontextand social-familial order. softcore pornography and advertising) would in factbecome the first to interrupt the homogeneity of the amateurand family of the Atlas's first four photographs panels.178.Richter of public identity construction withthe family thereby juxtaposes media-culture's This content downloaded from 182. but. In an almost exact analogy to the beginning of Kracauer's essay. mass cultural genres that had heretoforebeen more or less unknownto him. heterogeneity a of Introducing variety clippings fromWest German illustrated journals seems to have recordedhis first Richter encounterswiththose (such as DerStern).129 on Sat.239. Havingescaped from wherefashion alone softor hardcore wasoutlawed. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . unfathomable. the homoof the that material had heretofore consistedexclusively of geneity photographic the moreor lesshaphazardcollectionfrom albumis eroded bya peculiar.

And it is precisely thisthat constitutes that complex field of disavowals and displacements. While all of them operate (and in relative separately independenceof each other) in the perceptualand the mnemonicapparatusof the subject. What had made Kracauer's observation in the initial of an image of a glamorous paragraphsof his essay(withtheirparalleldiscussions movie starand one of a grandmother) so uncannywas the realizationthat-with the rise of media culture-the subjectwould no longer be primarily constituted the models of continuity nationwithin and formerly providedbyethnicity family.: ~Y~I:.: ::. photographic generates its proper psychicregisterof responses.Not even the bodilysite of the mnemonicappeared anylongeras a guaranteedreferent. registers Thus rather libidinal in Kracauer's first image.239. encroachedupon as it was by the rapidly constructed fashion Instead. state and culture. experience operating that the family would now enter the mnemonicfield. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . figureshad represented.178.theyall intersect. each of whichpartakesin a different and each of which formation. the field of whichmemory in the register of is constituted repressionand coverimageswithin the photographic order. shifting system.-:--~i~B is 18~ B-:~:?t:l :i: ::-:I ':: photograph's constructionof privateidentity. in different bindingthe desireforidentity representational altogether. class and social customs.129 on Sat. newly signsand and of all the mnemonic forms of outside residing languages. .thereader/spectator's abruptly. neverbe knownother than in the photographicrepresentation.tradition.I ~al-l ? s~ - I :i:X3 : ::: B~E~~ ? :: i:-:"::::: :?:::::~: ::-: ::. Memoryis thus conceived of in Richter's Atlasfirst of all as an archaeologyof pictorialand photographic registers.i ~?:~ :::: . Her body is no This content downloaded from 182. investment one who will is reorientedtowarda femalefigure he has neverknown.

Thus banalityas a condition of everyday lifeappears here in its specifically Germanmodality as the conditionof the repression of historical as a sort memory. Yet neither Kracauer's theoretical nor Richter'sartisticproject are motivatedby a nostalgic claim to investigation reconstruct the fictionof an authenticidentity centeredin the body or the aura of the artisanalartifact. Panel6 ofAtlas. it is preciselyin the cathexisof desire onto a figure whose bodyis made up of invisible. This separates theirendeavors dramatically fromBarthes's.178. inevitablyalter the face of painting as well. made of an industrially (the femalestar) and itstechnical produced representation As Kracauer would be the first to reproduction.inasmuchas Pop Artitself had posed the (whichit certainly incessantly of authentic experience under the reign of totalized question of the possibility what becomes evident in Richter's commodityproduction). at the level of the image as at the level of the psychicformation. Indeed.129 on Sat. beforeRichterwouldjoin them in the pursuitof understandinghow the shortly of fetishistic desire and of sign exchange-valuehad graduallydisplaced registers and mnemonic experience and how these changes would presence.For in his slightly juvenile assertionof a radical anti-aesthetic This content downloaded from 182. was as well." Once again. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . longer the site of the auratic presence of lived experience and lived encounters or Barthes'smother).corporeality. projectaltogether. proclaimedby Richteras well.239.who in Camera Lucida attempts in factto resituate withinthe image of the mother bodilymemory and attemptsto imbue it withan experience of phenomenologicalauthenticity. then. point out. mostbasic level thisdifference arisesfromRichter's to explore the various attempt withinwhich historical registersof photographyas the representationalsystem enacted and transmitted. fetishism Kracauer therebyanticipated a whole set of painterly concerns thatwould reemerge in the workof Roy Lichtensteinand AndyWarhol in the early 1960s. two attitudes-the historicaland the aesthetic-are fusedhere in a waythatmakesit doublydifficult to unpack the real projectof the Atlas. the psychic armor withwhich Germans of the postwarperiod protectedthemselvesagainst historical insight. archive of the imageryof consumption is the underside of this peculiar West Germanvariationon the themeof banality: the collective lack ofaffect. of psychic anesthesia. itseems thatRichter is engaged in a different At its Bycontrast.Richter. printedbenday dots thatlibidinalsplitting occurs. of course. Ratherit is the body (like thatof Kracauer'sgrandmother. namely. explicitly states that"themostbanal amateurphotograph is more beautiful than the mostbeautiful painting by Cezanne. Its counterpart-banality as a conditionof aesthetic posturewhen he notoriously is. the notoriousattraction repressionis physically of postwarGerman artiststo the banalityof German consumerculturethatgoverns Richter'sextensiveperusal of the materialof the first fouryearsof the Atlas collection (another example would be Polke's iconography)findsits additional thatit is notjust a variationon the themesof Pop Art explanation here.investingthe photographic medium with the condition of in an almostontologicalfashion. More specifically.

elimination of subjectivitynecessitated this aesthetic recourse to structural. Cage's Zen approach) in the postwarrecurrenceof these strategies. readingof Richter's photographic First. self-determination. juxtaposition functionnot only as establishedaestheticproceduresbut also as a of anomie disguisedas an advanced stateof kind of sociallyenforcedlegitimation individualindependence.129 on Sat. and cognitiveanomie.239. The consistent aleatory decay of the dialectical potentialof the proceduresof fragmentation. model that he hostileto whatever Dadaists or was of the Weimar outright practices of political agitation in photomontagehe mighthave seen in the workofJohn Heartfieldduring his life in the German Democratic Republic..that as early as the late 1940s artistssuch as Nigel advertising. perceptual. of the photomontage aesthetic Henderson recognizedthe problematic conditionsof a merereiteration as is evident in his extraordinary an archivalcounter-aesthetic. authorial claims had changed in the transmission It is not easy to forRauschenberg'scollage culture. In Rauschenberg'shands the collage aesthetichad retheelimination ofauthorialchoice and artistic authority byintrinsically inaugurated advancedconsumer to theactualconditions of experiencewithin linking authorship culture. of the momentratherthan towardthe overshadowedlegacies and Paris activities credits the workof of the 1920s. where the formation of exchange-value residing in the sign solely the constitution of the identity of the consumingsubject. such an attitude provokes the question of how and whetherthis insistenceon anomic banality (even if given only as a posture) and the aesthetic project of the armorof psychic could everbe reconciled.and arbitrary as merestrategies of domination workof Rauschenberg and Paolozzi leads ultimately to theirdeployment in contemporary It poses the question of how the principle of random accumulation fromthose different historical circumstances came to operate under substantially randomness and at a moment now when of photomontage's i. decreasingvalidity social organization. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . arbitrary inception..16 one of the formative figures the radically in whatwas now the period of the neo-avant-garde. This paradoxical historicaland geopolitical shiftposes a number of additional questions in the archive. determine whether. however.Richter publically of Duchamp. the politically enforced or whether. From a position been recentlyrevitalizedin Pop Art'srediscovery oriented towardthe New York primarily quite typicalforpostwarGerman artists. dismantling repression 16. subversive decenteringof the (bourgeois) subject had just become a principleof indifference towardsubjectivity affirmative altogether(e. This content downloaded from 182. transparent But second. since this model alone seemed to enact the and of concepts of communicative action. by formulating photographicpanel Screen (1949-52). in the relationsalreadyevidentin the first instancesof theirpostwarrediscovery order.g.178.This is to say determines the subjectand dismantling momenttechniquesof decentering thatin the postwar fromDuchamp to John Cage. Richterexplicitly of the historicalavant-garde RobertRauschenbergwithhavingprovidedhis introductionto collage/montage unawareof the photomontage whileclaimingthathe was eithertotally aesthetics.142 OCTOBER associateshimself withan avant-garde posturethathad position.e. and most important perhaps fromthe perspectiveof thisessay.

. in whichtheperception and unpredictable. This question willbe partially answeredby Richterhimself. . This suddenly tographs. of course. those coined by Roland Barthes in his 17.129 on Sat. ---------r* Whr . i- .17 the first set of photographs of victims froma concentration camp The terms"studium"and "punctum"are. explore Functioning punctum continuousfieldof banal imagesand theirpeculiarvariationon the conditionof the studium.the second one defining contactbetweenspectator and photograph. Camera Lucida to distinguish two modes of readinga photograph:the first one allowingforan apprehensionof the obviousinformation a peculiarpointof providedbythe image. ii el gg i'I jj44 i lyllfi:: .presumably dating fromaround 1964-65. Richter. subjective highly This content downloaded from 182. since alreadyin the eleventhpanel of the Atlas.239.178. a first set of imagessuddenly within the overallbanality of the foundphoemergesfrom the entire field. . . rupturing positionsthe Atlas puncturing to within the dialectics of and that amnesia we have project memory attempted in this in the of a within manner the heretofore essay. . 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..Panel 11 ofAtlas.

since the photographsuddenlyopens up access to whatwe have called throughout this essay the mnemonic experience. thatthereis stillone linkthatbinds namely..178.1981).Paradoxically. This content downloaded from 182.129 on Sat.A I.239.I I LI If Mg U1 now functions as a sudden revelation. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . See CameraLucida. trans. an image to its referent withinthe apparentlyemptybarrage of photographic the traumafrom imageryand the universalproductionof sign exchange-value: which the compulsion to represshad originated. of the spectatoris "pricked"or wounded. it is at thisvery momentthatthe Atlasalso yieldsits own secretas an image reservoir: a perpetual between in the of the of death death the and pendulum reality reality photograph in the mnemonicimage. Richard Howard (NewYork:Hill and Wang.

.... .... lo t!iii~!i!.178... 6 j ?U!iii ~ 77? .iisii. '- ni :i-i. Opposite Panels17 and 18 ofAtlas.... This content downloaded from 182..i!ii . -IMP-~s-iii i . i~i i~ii~i~ii? i_?ii iE-i:i i... iiiriii .....''7 77' ili~~iiiiii iiiz..ib..ii:-i. i and above: Richter...129 on Sat. 29 Mar 2014 03:20:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..239...