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The Archive

Christian Boltanski Reserve-Detective III

Reserve-Detective III (1987) consists of wooden shelves with cardboard boxes, black-and-white photographs of faces taped on them. The images show perpetrators and victims of violent crime, but Mr. Boltanski deliberately does not label or organize the images that way, depriving us of knowing whether any individual is a criminal or a victim.

– Sewell Chan

Consider the materials that Boltanski is working with here; the archive boxes, the photograph (a visual label for the box), the shelving and the space it constructs. These are all things that give us the sense of an official archive. However by not telling us who is victim and who is a perpetrator Boltanski introduces a poetic dimension that allows viewers to engage in a very different way with these materials. The art here is partly to be found in the way that Botanski uses the materials of the official archive while collapsing two of its most important categories (victim and perpetrator).

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