Reproducing artworks, activating archives
The Kulturbolschewistische Bilder exhibition and the Mannheim Kunsthalle lost pictures

Taking as its starting point Walter Benjamin’s celebrated distinction between “photography as art” and “art as photography”, the article investigates the complex relationships between works of art and their photographic reproductions. Its focus is the photography collection of the Mannheim Kunsthalle and its 8,000 glass negatives dating from the period 1919–1966, all of them the work of Kurt Schneyer, the museum’s sole photographer during those years. More particularly, the article examines the images relating to the National Socialist exhibition Kulturbolschewistische Bilder (Images of Cultural Bolshevism) of 1933. Foreshadowing the 1937 Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich, this initial show was marked by a specifically anti-modern iconoclasm in the light of which the existence of a photography department at the museum now emerges as crucial. The article explores today’s experimental activation of this visual archive in the form of screenings in Mannheim’s old water tower, presented in 2017 as part of the Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie.

Boîte originale Hauff pour négatifs noir et blanc sur plaques de verre, env. 19 x 25,5 x 3 cm. © Arno Gisinger.

Arno Gisinger is an artist, researcher and lecturer in the photographic department at the University of Paris 8. His research considers the representation of the past and questions the status of photographic images via their material and political aspects. His most recent publications are “Archéologies” in Patrimoines revisités (Loco, 2016), “Gespenstergeschichten” in Farewell Photography (Walther König, 2017) and “Compreender por meio da fotografia” in ZUM 13 (Instituto Moreira Salles, 2017).

Citation: Arno Gisinger, « Reproduire les oeuvres, activer les archives. L’exposition Kulturbolschewistische Bilder et les tableaux disparus de la Kunsthalle de Mannheim », Transbordeur. Photographie histoire société, no. 2, 2018, pp. 148-157.

Annual peer-reviewed journal