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SISV : Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism

Construction.gif working notes for a project in development

SISSV (Proposal)

The archive: photographs depicting "10,000 Years of Nordic Folk Art" from Asger Jorn




  • Some 25000 photographic negatives
  • Contact Sheets (Est: Digitization of contact sheets might take 1-2 days)
  • Some 500 photographs have been digitized in preparation for the upcoming exhibition


  • Workshop
  • Online website + work/(b)log
  • "Digital contact sheets" available online
  • PDF bulletin (to be assembled and printed after) (collaboration with Matthew Fuller?)


Archives of Modern Art, Hal Foster
Dennis Hollier "On Paper" (on Malraux)
  • Can images be posted online? What's their legal status?
  • Can we think about the SISV project in terms of a specific historical archival regime (defined by photography, offset print, post war culture etc.), cf. Hal Foster's essay on "Archives of Modern Art", with our re-materialization of the Institute being part of another archival regime, thus staging an encounter btw the two? Can we conceive of digital/electronic archiving and art in more productive and technologically precise terms than Foster?
  • Involve Matt Fuller in the workshop?

What is “comparative vandalism”?

  • Compare our vandalism with that of Jorn’s institute as belonging to different techno-archival historical regimes
  • Consider vandalizing current ideas about making comparisons by means of digital tools, such as Lev Manovich’s cultural analytics software and his bid on “How to compare one million images?”. What could a vandalist comparative methodology be like? Contra, or at least differing from, the neat, noise-free visualizations of Manovich &co? How to compare one million images?What kind of comparing procedures would be interesting to develop?


  • Introductory presentation of SISV and SISSV, by Ellef Prestsæter
  • Interactive workshop led by Michael Murtaugh and Nicolas Malevé, with set up of scanners and projectors
    • Part 1: Towards a digital contact sheet
    • Part 2: To scan and skim
  • Closing discussion, with Matthew Fuller (leading scholar of digital culture, with great interest for Asger Jorn)


Postscript to 12th Century Stone Sculptures of Scania
The classic mode of history writing must give up where there are no literary sources in relation to which it can develop its chosen subject. Given that almost the entire area that we seek to engage here is, strictly speaking, ahistorical, it is necessary to engage it by means of completely different principles, methods, and ways of structuring the material. Over the course of the last hundred years these methods and ways of structuring have been collected into a scientific discipline that is called archaeology. The literary mode of history writing explains relics of the past according to the written sources. Archaeology writes its history directly from conclusions based on the inner logic of the remains of the past themselves, and in this way reverses the order of the interplay. History writing is a hybrid between art and science. Archaeology cannot allow itself to become that. On the other hand, archaeology remains hypothetical in the way that it arranges phenomena, while the literary mode of history writing allows itself to make claims and state conclusions, even if it acknowledges that these reflect the interests that lie behind the desire to preserve an account of a specific event seen through a particular lens.
— Asger Jorn, "Postscript" to 12th-Century Stone Sculptures of Scania.
As long as one uses [existing Latin] histories as the foundation for a Nordic history of art, then Nordic art will present itself as a provincial and meaningless derivation of southeaster European and Middle Eastern art-historical currents, without active influence on the general development of art in Europe. However, the concept of provincialism has absolutely no meaning if one does not agree that the valuable in art at each moment radiates out from designated centers. The fact that such centers exist, and can be made the basis of coherent account of various developments in art, does not exclude the fact that other modes of description are possible and productive.

Stone Sculptures, pp. 74-75

The coherence that archaelogy can bring to the fore is based on the study of the development of the most ordinary types, that is, on the homogeneity and variation of repetitions. By means of this material chronological order as well as geographical movements can be described an collected in stratigraphic overviews. Where an object cannot be inserted into such a traditional course it must be marked an archaeoloical alien element, until the context wherein it fits naturally has been round.

Those repetitive, tradition-bound patterns, which as a rule are called culture, turn into an unbearable emptiness and a uniform routine if they are not countered by art's rich variety.... [Out of this undertaking] came the classical aesthetic, which conceived the work of art in splendid "isolation" as an autonomous formal unity. This aesthetic, too, is inapplicable as a measure of Nordic art, in which art is integrated into social, practical, and human functions as a sort of spiritual/intellectual [åndelig] accompaniment to life. That is why the account of a work of art can never be completely divorced from the typological, the traditional, and the functional if it is to be truthful.

More translated Jorn texts from October's special issue on Jorn

Books printed in offset are not an entirely new phenomenon, but up until now they have been made to imitate Gutenbergian books. The new freedom offered by this technology will bring us closer in a certain way to medieval manuscripts as well as to the cartoons of Walt Disney, with one essential difference, which I implore you to observe, that this publication is neither for minors nor for priests.
— Letter from Jorn to printers of Mémoires, addressing offset as the end of the Gutenberg era



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