Archive StateJan 21 — Apr 6, 2014


  • Thomas Sauvin / Beijing Silvermine
  • Thomas Sauvin / Beijing Silvermine
  • Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese, Found photos in Detroit project, 2009-2010.
  • Akram Zaatari Dance to the End of Love, 2011. Installation view at Musac. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir Semler Gallery.
  • Simon Menner, Transmitting Secret Signs, Courtesy Simon Menner and BStU, 2013. 
  • David Oresick, Soldiers in Their Youth. Digital video, 2009, 20 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese
Simon Menner
David Oresick
Thomas Sauvin
Akram Zaatari

The artists featured in Archive State  use found photographs and digital imagery to investigate significant political and economic transitions specific to particular placesthe epicenter of the twentieth century auto industry in decline, China’s burgeoning capital city, young American soldiers in a war zone, an oppressive East German state, and the activities of apolitical Arab youth on the eve of the Arab Spring. Whether the artists collect discarded photographs, work with state-run photographic archives, or create montages of videos posted to the internet, they all appropriate the original contexts of selected images and use them for a new purpose. Playing with histories, both public and private, Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese, Simon Menner, David Oresick, Thomas Sauvin, and Akram Zaatari complicate issues of authorship and original intent. The artists sift through vast archives to expose unique portals into individual stories, offering insights into prevailing cultural narratives while at times also standing in contrast to them. Archives are assembled by individuals, and their tones vary. While one coldly documents surveillance, another portrays the traumas of war. One sinister, the other sensitive, both reveal how anonymous narratives become not only useful documents but also tender stories of shared history. View or download the complete exhibition essay here.

This exhibition contains works that may not be appropriate for children. We suggest that you preview the show prior to bringing young visitors.

Support for Archive State is provided by the Italian Cultural Institute Chicago and the Goethe-Institut Chicago.

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A special thank you to the Columbia College Chicago Art and Design department and the Photography department for their continued technical support.

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