Tariq Heijboer & Mikel H. Orfanos

Tariq Heijboer and Mikel H. Orfanos (HEYBOER–ORFANOS) are deeply fascinated by publications. Not per se the eventual realisation of a book, but more the obstacles that they’re dealing with during the process – concerning the translation of their thoughts and/or technical capacities. The different methods of archiving, compiling and contrasting their material intertwine perfectly with their concept and translate themselves into printed matter.

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Paola Paleari: Since your interest lies mainly in printed matter, what is your approach to photography?

Tariq Heijboer and Mikel H. Orfanos: Printed matter has always interested us deeply, and we apply it to photographical, textual and graphical material, or to any other visual form. We don’t have a specific approach towards photography, although we can say we prefer to derange the visual content of a photograph to make it ours. In our work, there’s always a slight intervention that changes the actual form and meaning into something new. Sometimes the change relates to the use of specific kinds of paper, the printing method or the way of editing. These interventions might clarify or distort the content of our work(s). It could be a photographic output again… but it could also relate to a textual form. For us, everything’s possible.

PP: Which aspects of the photographic archive interest you more?

MHO: I like to focus on the alteration between text and image. The aspect of the photographic archive that mostly interests me is the additional part – which means, its eventual meaning that can be unveiled or hidden according to the context. What if you replace an image with a text, or a text with an image? Every visual translation (text, photo, graphic elements, etc) can be understood in one way or another. Thus, the most interesting aspect of photographic archiving is to change, rectify or erase any addition to its content.


PP: The re–enactment and the appropriation of the archive has been playing an important role in the art field since the ‘20s. What are your major references?

TH & MHO: We would like to refer to a passage of the book, Espèces d’Espaces* (“Species of Spaces”) by Georges Perec. The passage explains how to maintain an inventory, by ordering, compiling or structuring any kind of archive. An inventory of everyday’s things… The outcome is an extraordinary list that has been written through a voyeuristic approach.
This form of archiving has also been used in An Anecdoted Topography of Chance by Daniel Spoerri. He started on October 17, 1961 and listed all the objects around and on his kitchen table, while reporting anecdotes linked to all these things during his observation.

* […]
6 candelabra and one Calder–style mobile
5 telephones
1 upright piano with stool
10 adult individuals of the male sex, of whom
1 is having a drink
1 is typing
2 are reading the newspaper, one sitting in an armchair, the other stretched out on a divan
3 are asleep
1 is having a shower
1 is eating toast
1 is coming through the doorway into a room where there is a dog
10 adult individuals of the female sex, of whom
1 is doing her chores
1 is sitting down
1 is holding a baby in her arms
2 are reading, one, sitting down, the newspaper, the other, lying downs, a novel
1 is doing the washing up
1 is having a bath
1 is knitting
1 is eating toast
1 is sleeping
6 young children, 2 of whom are certainly little girls and 2 certainly little boys
2 dogs
2 cats
1 bear on wheels
1 small horse on wheels
1 toy train
1 doll in a pram
6 rats or mice
a fair number of termites (it’s not certain they are termites; the sort of animals in any case that live in floorboard and walls)
at least 38 pictures or framed engravings
1 negro mask
29 lights (over and above the candelabra)
10 beds
1 child cot
3 divans, one of which serves uncomfortably as a bed
4 kitchens or rather kitchenettes
7 rooms with parquet flooring
1 carpet

PP: Tariq, your book An Alternative Collection makes use of the printed page to put a traditional archive in combination with modern technologies and techniques (Photoshop, Google Image Recognition). What are the motivations behind this project?

TH: This book contains my personal collection of edited and fragmented images of art and design works. For a few years now, I have developed a strong interest in subjective vs. objective reviews. I’m also very interested in the humanistic point of view towards the historic imagery in the era of digital reproductions. Softwares and programs like Adobe Photoshop simplify our possibilities to reproduce and/or alter an image. All the images in this book are edited (rendered, deranged, lifted, smudged, stretched). Is the image still recognisable or readable as something iconic, or does it become representational (a new work of art)?


PP: One last question for Mikel. In the book Archive, historical material connected to the 1968 uprisings is re–enacted by photographic framing and editing. Which kind of reading of the original archive do you want to create through these subjective actions? A new historical reading, a new meaning or a formal reinterpretation?

MHO: The publication Archive was born as a research to explore one of my main interests, that had to do with the following key-words: “Situationism”, “Psychogeography”, “Riots”, “May(i) ’68” and “Banlieue”.
I decided to find some archival material related to these keywords via a database/archive bank, so I took an appointment with the International Institute of National History in Amsterdam and received a confirmation of the requested books. A huge list of printed matter had been reserved for the following day. I went to the Institute and started with browsing… just browsing. I discovered that it wasn’t the main content that I was searching for, but mainly its imagery. When I say “imagery”, I refer to textual forms, photography and graphic forms, anything that can trigger an interest.
After a certain amount of time spent in collecting material like an archivist, I decided to document it through a big scanner available in the Institute, an old scruffy machine that could copy anything I wanted to put underneath the lens. I decided to include my hands in the scans, as evidence that I held those books and chose those pages. Every time I decided to crop an image or to zoom into an image, my hands would consequently enlarge or shrink, conveying the sense of proportion of the books’ dimensions.
The final result of the research is a compiled publication that includes the translation of the keywords through the imagery. The answer to this question is that I discovered that the imagery and its representation is a form of interest to me. Just the action of documenting material that was already a documentation of events was enough to give me the idea that I was developing something new. I enlarged those images, I chose them, and my hands are the physical evidence of me being present there. The eventual conclusion is that, by printing the photos on A3 sheets, I brought them back on a 1:1 scale. Thus, I did not only represent the documentation of the archive, I also translated its natural scale into printed matter.

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