When I look at Paulien Oltheten’s work capturing and examining the gestures of people in the street, I’m prompted to keep an eye on my own behavior. My mind invents a collection of sketches and photos that track my own actions, and all the while I am fervently trying to think of the most appropriate starting point for writing this text. Word opens and the digital paper draws up a copy-paste sum of pocketbook notes, quotations and fragments of thoughts from the past few months.

- The ‘struggle against dispersion’, which is the ‘most deeply hidden motive of the person who collects’ (Max, Ursula (ed.), Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs, p.8)

- Archive implies structure

- Getting lost if there isn’t any logical system

- Institutionalized

- The words ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear’

- Quote of Michel Foucault in Okwui Enwezor’s Archive Fever: ‘The archive is the first law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events. But the archive is also that which determines that all these things said do not accumulate endlessly in an amorphous mass, nor are they inscribed in an unbroken linearity, nor do they disappear at the mercy of chance external accidents...’ p.11

- A priori, the photographic camera is an archiving machine which captures the environment.

- An anti-system is a system too

- The aesthetics of collecting

- Automatism/mechanism of filing, registering

- Impossibility to manage everything systematically (AF p.13)

- ‘Thus the life of a collector manifests a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order.’ (WBA p.8)

My first step is taken to writing a text that relates to the photographic oeuvre of the two Dutch artists Paulien Oltheten (1982) and Raymond Taudin Chabot (1974). The drafts of arguments and collected citations are at this stage like raw building blocks that are supposed to be arranged in an argumentative order. I see similarities between Paulien’s work and this early stage of organizing my argumentation and ideas. Likewise, the observations which capture her and which she captures on film while wandering through the streets of a city, arrange themselves at random, thus preventing the observer to take a quick and easy conclusion.

The minor motions and behavioral patterns Paulien distinguishes, each act as a pars pro toto (a part for the whole) to represent one and the same image, a ‘Gesamtbild’ of humanity/humaneness: her Theory of the street, as her most recent book is titled, in which she collected miscellaneous photographs, sketches and notes. This visual theory doesn’t seem to require a particular argumentative arrangement in order to be valid; it is revealing anyway. The ‘theory of the street’ transforms itself into an all-round metaphor for human existence, which is recognizable and surprises us at the same time. The automatism of hands that hide away in pockets, followed by an analysis of the clattering of keys caused by a move of hips, a person taking shelter from the sun’s heat under a truck – every single observation is autonomous, without disturbing the overall picture.

The idea that a theory or an analysis can be valid without an underlying line of reasoning is unable to settle in my mind. Aren’t arguments supposed to follow one another in a hierarchical order with a certain beginning and end, in order to make a theory work at all?

In the meantime, I’ve thought up a handful of reasons to stand up from behind my computer. My mind is already drawing up a sketch of arrows around a central point (my computer), charting my actions of the last half hour.

This is where the experiment begins:

I decide to hang on to this passage from thinking into writing longer than usual, keeping to the groundwork of preliminary lists instead of shaping them into an article with a certain hierarchy, beginning and conclusion. I soon discover that it is difficult for me to come to terms with leaving my roughly drafted arguments as they are.

I am too much a fan of filing systems that provide an appropriate place for objects and documents, thus creating an imaginary refuge from chaos and confusion. On closer investigation, they don’t always relate to reality in a way that makes a lot of sense. Then again, I often can’t help but construct yet another new and improved system to outdo the previous. Knowing that my last system will not be the ultimate doesn’t interfere with my wish for improvement. On the contrary, I’ll keep on searching.

Similarly, in his book Cast (part 2), Raymond Taudin Chabot takes pieces of his photo series Silent Queue (2008) and reassembles them. Microwave ovens, chairs, newspapers on a table, and wall decorations, all taken from his series about waiting rooms, are set apart in austere frames, the subject positioned at the very center. The fragments of the photos are appointed a new system. The sequence of images that is created reminds me of my list of notes. Just like my arguments, Raymond’s pictures contain recurring elements, leaving the underlying systematics (as yet) unstated. In Raymond’s case, the system won’t reveal itself and the pictures continue to be symbolic for the act of ‘waiting’ itself. *

* A Two things strike me: #

#A One the one hand, I notice that Raymond reverses his organizational method by cutting up his coherent photo series into separate components. This way, he directs attention to the objects themselves: what do they communicate to the observer, if they don’t merge into their surroundings but made to speak for themselves? The simple mathematical formula 1+1=2 confirms itself visually. The sequence of the images without their context exudes the same morbidity as their sum (the original series of photos) does.

#B Secondly, Raymond works with his own photographs as though they were taken from a random photo archive. It looks like he categorizes the photos (of clocks, seating areas, wastebaskets et cetera) thematically. The centered, straightforward arrangement of the images creates the impression of a collection that complies with a kind of ebay-aesthetics. This is interesting because Raymond does in fact keep an archive of newspaper pictures, some of which he used for his book Cast (part 4) and the installation Archive Project (both 2007).

The labeling, redistribution and systematizing of found objects is the kind of behavior that is characteristic for archiving a collection. It’s this pattern of collecting and organizing that gives me the idea to examine my own archives. A table of contents is the result, uncovering the various aspects of my digital existence and, consequently, the architecture of my directories. @

* B In the exhibition space same as in the publication, the images remain indeterminate. This idea of the indeterminacy in art and photography fascinates me. Indeterminacy challenges the observer’s imagination, in order to reject it after all.**

** A The more I try to trace the systematics of Paulien’s and Raymond’s compilation strategy, the more I am thrown back on the idea that I will be able catch on to their choices only to a certain extent. The rest of it will keep lingering somewhere in the indeterminate. It is up to me to make the indeterminate more concrete, which is exciting but also makes me aware of the subjective confines of my imaginative powers. Every one of us develops his or her own subjective system intuitively. To other people, this system is only partly accessible and traceable. When I consider my most elaborate personal system – the organization of the folders on my computer – I am almost surprised that I am able to see the logic behind it myself. How could ever others find their way there? You’re welcome to try.

@ My computer has two folders, which over the years have grown side by side, serving more or less the same purpose. I call them ‘Sammelsurium’ and ‘Etcetera’. In the midst of my system of folders, they are like two islands that don’t adhere to any logical categorization of documents. What is it that distinguishes one from the other? Actually, I can’t name a thing. Etcetera might be a somewhat more elegant name for a kind of corner for a various mishmash of things, while, in German, the name ‘Sammelsurium’ already indicates that it harbors quite a desultory collection. Among other things, the folder called ‘Etcetera’ manages the subfolder ‘keine Ahnung’ (German for ‘I haven’t a clue’) – and here we have reached rock bottom of my folder supervision. You’re wondering why I don’t give the folders and documents in ‘keine Ahnung’ free rein in ‘Etcetera’? Keine Ahnung.

**B I cannot help but briefly go into the concept of indeterminacy in relation to photography. My theoretical basis is shaped by the reflections of the German philosopher Gerhard Gamm on what indeterminate (unbestimmt) and indeterminable (unbestimmbar) is in philosophy and science.’[1]

Gamm considers something to be indeterminate if it reflects a lack of information. Something is indeterminable if such a lack of information cannot be compensated by knowledge, for example. Ideally, an indeterminacy represents its own indeterminableness.

A photograph is a frozen fragment of time, singled out from its continuum. By choosing a subject and pushing the button, the person who takes the picture defines it, and after that, observers are unable to influence it, except by way of their interpretation. Because of the medium’s static nature, every picture emanates its own indeterminableness.

It is paradoxical in itself that photographs enable us to study an object and try to grasp its essence, while that object is absent itself. The French semiologist Roland Barthes, who published La chambre Claire, a standard book of photographical theory in 1980, writes that images are ‘no-things’. The photographed object itself is absent, but the picture shows that the object has existed, in fact, exactly where he, Barthes, sees it. Barthes calls this the foolishness of the medium, that leads to a new kind of hallucination: the object is present and absent at the same time. Being a fragmentary duplicate of the world, which doesn’t actually duplicate the world but simulates it, a photograph is – despite its apparent definiteness – still indeterminate.

The digitalization of photography only adds to this paradox: to some extent, it reinforces the detachment of the photographic image and its material basis. After all, the wide range of possibilities that photography has gained because of digital editing, inevitably leads to the reduction, if not the annihilation of the unambiguous relation of pictures to the real world. In the digital age, pictures aren’t restricted to a single medium anymore, and they can be saved, invisibly and abstractly, without losing any of their inherent information. Photos, then, are becoming less and less determinate as objects, because their physical ingredients are made from invisible electronic impulses. On balance, their independence of the picture carrier, and, at the same time, the liberation of pictures vis-à-vis their referent, seem to have made digital pictures more indeterminate than their analogical antecedents.[2]

Stimulating our reflections on the status quo of the photographical universe in which we live, is one of the aims of photography as an art form. Its objective is to break through the multiplicity of images, and, if possible, generate new visual information. We are provoked to stop taking for granted the photographic omnipresence. In this way, Raymond’s as well as Paulien’s work refers to the ‘use’ of art in general, namely, according to Gamm, to make us more aware of the way we relate to the material world on a daily basis, of our patterns of perception, experience and behavior – and to call it all into question. Both photographers have found a way to use their camera to ‘heal’ observers, even if only momentarily, of a passive consumption of their daily dose of (myriad) pictures.

This unsystematic method of writing is starting to irritate me. I get a sneaky feeling that I will not be able to pull this off. Because of my determination to do things unsystematically as well as my choice of an anti-structure, I end up being systematic after all. I realize that my intentionally constructed text without a plan is falsifying itself – and ends with a reductio ad absurdum.

Finder => Documents

I 9x2

A design invite

B Recepies

C Notes

II balcony stills

A balcony sailers

B moulin

III application

A letters

B Curriculum

1 D


3 NL

4 old


V de l’amour


B Maxl

VI etcetera

A calvin&hobbes

B Gebubi

C Gedichten

D keine Ahnung

1 domicilio

2 kwek recordings

3 monolo(o)g

4 tosse

E Mails

VII Ideas

A arles

VIII metDressing


1 cheesy chicks

a Flyer

b Promo



2 Entertrain me!

a Photos

3 Knapsters

a Logo

b Newsletter


d business

4 ragazze

a newspapers

b Close Watch

5 strip-IT

B Taxes

C Performances

1 festival de beschaving

2 beschaving

3 Flachlandfest

4 foodforthoughtPRINT

5 Frascati

6 Gonzo

7 new year’s eve

a oud&nieuw metDressing

8 wintertuin2

a winter2

D Callsheets

E dennis

F Factsheets

G Invoices

H Forms

I Photo archive

1 entertrain me

2 strip-IT

a Club Ndsm

b Mitros Playground

c Npox met Dennis

d wintertuin

J Contracts

K Knapsters

L Minutes


1 flickr slideshow

2 Chistmas box

3 logo metDressing

4 metDressing banner

5 metDressing print

6 press material metDressing

a cheesy chicks

b Disco Women

c Entertrain me!

d Knapsters

e metDressing

f Ragazze Paparazze

g Strip-IT

h Video Rendez-vous

O readymates

P Visiting cards

1 NEW Visiting cards

2 visiting cards 2

3 visiting cards 3

4 visiting cards persoonlijk

Q Website

1 favorite website photos

2 sketches_metDressing

3 salad

4 website texts

R Business

IX Out oF foCus

A Drucken

B heute

C master chronological

D development

E prikkelende afwezigheid images in PDF

F print thesis

G thesis images

H Layout

I citations

X designs

A balcony stills

B ex libris

C calender Holland

D Memi

E Visitenkarte

F Visitenkarte NL 2004

XI photographic projects

A Vlaardingen CvC

XII sammelsurium

A Fernweh

B mmmh food

XIII Studium

A GrAffiTi

B leiden

1 Collaborative

a OP stap met Willem

aa andere versies

ab Barvrouw

ac Buschauffeur1

ad Henk

ae Interviews

af Karen PDF maken

ag Linkie

ah misschien


ak twijnstraat verkopers

al verbeteringen

am Wendy

b project workshop

2 Critical Writing

a critical writing to do

b review

3 Curatorial Training

a images teder

b Curatorial

c Some Marswomen

4 Historiography

a END History

b Henri CartierBresson

5 organisy

6 Research & Methods


7 Admission

b presentatiehintergrund

c voyeur

8 vernacular

C monash university

1 australia

a Trajectum

2 Avantgarde

3 Camera Culture

a blog

4 Narrative Cinema

5 Visual Culture

D Rietveld entrance

E Utrecht

1 travel committee

2 Universiteit Utrecht

a studium

aa Italië in Europese Context

ab KLM

ac MCM

ad SPS

ae TCS macht van smaak en geld

af architectuur en stad

ag Fotografie+Kunst

ah psychologie van het beeld

ai Visual Culture Nijmegen

aj Warenhuis

XIV grown-up

A Tax authorities

1 ib2008

B contracts

C Expense accounts


E inSURance

XV work

A past

1 art berlin contemporary

2 DEAF07

3 Mister Motley

a Barbaren

b Bewijs

c Licht


e Taal

4 Stedelijk Museum

a invoices

b presentation

B present

1 Fotodok

a Funds

aa -old

b Info

aa concept


ac old documents

c Planning

2 FW

3 Nederlands Fotomuseum

a BC

b Capa

aa kaarten scans

ab Panelen Capa ontwerp

ac Taro Panelen schets

ad titelborden


af titelbordjes Folder

c DCC Shanghai

4 shanghai 2010

XVI Zingzang

[1]Gamm defines indeterminacy in philosophy and science as an indicator of a lacuna in the unison of motivation and argumentation. Phenomenologically, he says, this lacuna can be traced back to a loss of faith in the world, which results from the insight that our knowledge is limited.

[2] Gamm, Gerhard (ed.), Das unendliche Kunstwerk: von der Bestimmtheit des Unbestimmten in der ästhetischen Erfahrung. Hamburg: Philo, 2007, p. 46