The Panayotis & Effie Michelis Foundation – Street Memories

Demonstrations as cultural production through the photographs of the Serge Collet archive. 

Location: The Panayotis & Effie Michelis Foundation

A Few Words about the Exhibition (from the book gave us in the foundation)

As for the question of how the French ethnologist thought to utilize the photographs, the research proposal presentation he submitted in 1982 to the French Ministry of Culture, located in his personal archive, envisages the organization of an exhibition (“since it is visual material”), which in the end never took place. By proposing to carry out, forty years later, and to the best of our abilities, this fond desire that remained unfulfilled, we are adopting on our behalf this approach to the exhibition as a research tool, as a means to visualize research that is itself concerned with the visual, the spectacular dimension of the demonstration. In this way, we intersect with contemporary issues in the realm of art and exhibition curation regarding the processes producing and diffusing knowledge (Athanassopoulos and Boutan 2016).

Nevertheless, the point of this intersection is not purely aesthetic, in the traditional sense of the term: the photographs of the archive do not claim the autonomy of the visual object, and do not aim to be beautiful or technically perfect. The intersection is based more on a kind of creativity, common to science and art, which is not about individual objects but about structures and processes, not about the object of the gaze but with the gaze itself and the numerous ways it gives sense to reality: a kind of visual reflexivity. As Collier and Collier observe:

Both art and science face the challenge of abstracting new insights and experiences from the visible shape of reality. This creative process goes beyond documentation for discovery is an act of creation, and reality must pass through alchemy in which the documentary record becomes new knowledge that creates a new reality. Such creation is at the core of scientific discovery just as it is at the core of art. (Collier and Collier 1967: 169)

Thus, this is neither a purely artistic nor a purely anthropological exhibition. The photographs do not in and of themselves constitute works of art, nor does their selection and organization seek to support a particular scientific hypothesis. By presenting unpublished archival material, the exhibition rather seeks to spotlight an original gaze, that of Serge Collet and the Meme Group, and through it, to explore the relationships between image and body, photography and knowledge, and archive and collective memory. This exploration permits us to observe the research in the making, the creative moment of knowledge, with all the bricolage (handywork) this entails (Collet borrows the term from Claude Levi-Strauss [Levi-Strauss 1966]*°), uncertainty, risk, and experimentation. Not only the studium, the network of identities, signs, and cultural meanings in which the demonstration is involved, but also the punctum. “the disagreement between the parts of an identity inscribed in the form of riddles, rebus puzzles, and almost poetic impressions, and this because the demonstration’s practices constitute a living and moving space of metaphorizing processes, a construction site of signs”.

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