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The Dresden Archive Project. A project combining archival and creative work which places transitional, provisional and ephemeral images at the heart of political authenticity and historical debate. The work has three core components: (1) an artist-collated archive consisting of over 500 items (postcards, letters, photographs and ephemera connected to the city of Dresden from the 1870s to 1950s); (2) documentary pieces comprising digital photographs (magnified) and original commentary; and (3) a series of imaginative responses to the archive incorporating an extended series of paintings, prints, digital prints and texts, some integrating original archive material.

Lookup NU author(s): Alan Turnbull


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Exhibition of documentary prints and etchings/collages based on the city of Dresden.

Publication metadata

Artist(s): Turnbull A

Publication type: Exhibition

Publication status: Published

Year: 2013

Number of Pieces: 45

Venue: The German Historical Institute

Location: London

Source Publication Date: Nov 2012 - April 2013

Media of Output: Portfolio

Notes: Central to this project was the notion of ‘archive’: the incremental accumulation of materials whose meaning can depend on the way they are arranged and presented to the viewer. Its originality lay in the particular combination of ‘archive’ and ‘creativity,’ and in placing transitional, provisional, and ephemeral objects at the heart of political authenticity and historical memory. Research intentions were two-fold: to catalogue documentary material so as to create an historical record and cultural repository; to use this repository as a basis for complementary creative work. The archive, collected by Alan Turnbull, consists of 500 items (postcards, letters, photographs, printed ephemera) connected to the city of Dresden from the 1870s to the 1950s. These were classified into related sequences describing social change: Fascism, Fairgrounds, Cafés, Propaganda, Feldpost, etc. Highly magnified scans of the postcards revealed hidden details which formed the basis for digital prints: snapshots in time documenting memories, scenes, and portraits. Short commentaries lent the otherwise innocent postcard images ironies and chilling contradictions: the youth hostel that was a torture chamber; the 5-star hotel that became the Gestapo headquarters; the flower market where 6,000 bodies would be cremated. Complementing these documentary works was a series of chine-collé etchings exploring themes of transience and loss, where portraits drawn from the archive were printed across old notepapers, with collaged additions of censorship markings and torn manuscript fragments. Additional outputs include: a lecture delivered to an invited audience at the German Historical Institute (22 November, featured in their Quarterly Bulletin). A file of archive material was added to the Institute’s reference library. Reviewed: Times Higher Educational Supplement []; Max Weber Foundation []; The German Link []. Forthcoming outputs: Exhibition of specially commissioned prints/ Guest Speaker at Translating the Holocaust (Trinity College, Dublin, 2013); speaker at Art & War (University of Cork, 2013).