The Collection of nothing 
from the Archive of Modern Conflict.

Research and concept by Francesca Seravalle
Published by AMC
Edited and curated by Erik Kessels

I’ve been commissioned by Erik Kessels to do a research in the Archive of Modern Conflict for a book/exhibition project “Shining in Absence”. This book is a tribute to Frido Troost, an important Dutch collector dead 4 years ago, and whose collection was acquired by the AMC. The concept of the book and the goal of my research were to highlight the absence of the collector: now that the collector is dead there are no more photos to mount in the frames or to fill an album. I’ve started this absurd research looking for materials that could represent the absence, any archival criteria were helping me, so I just dive myself in the archive leaving hundred and hundred of albums from the earliest to the most recent and from everywhere in the World.

I realised that the absence of the photo, as subject, is not a lack of the signifier. In a book, and especially in an album, photographs totalize the focus and blur the signs around it, so I had to image albums empty of photos and I learned how to read an image apparently without a subject, to look behind and around a photo and I’ve discovered many “secondary” signs. So I asked myself how can I show traces of images that are gone? What I see if I take off a photo?

Empty album, empty frames, empty passepartout and empty slides. Step by step all the minor details revealed themselves to my eyes, like in a forensic study when you take off the body, and I could distinguish mounting corners from the common triangle to the silver Dutch mills, from the Chinese golden helmets to the recycled made with clip of magazines, from the acrobatic silver star of the circus album to the flourishing roses to frame the portrait of the lovers. I bump into beautiful and authentic spots and auras that sometimes perfectly match with the captions; I bump in casual dried flowers, sticked newspaper clipping, and fluttering memorial cards. I realized that the graphic of the Victorian album were recalling the style of the Victorian house, that albums were finished as their contemporary fashionable clutch bag.

I’ve seen a variety of layout: from the normal notebook to the golden framed of the mafia family and I was astonished by the vernacular and anonymous creativity of cheap but incredible handmade album.