Collection Explore
Visual Response
Interview
Reimaging Erica
Sarah Sweeney Responds to Joachim Schmid’s Archiv
two small strips of photos lined up horizontally
Left: Joachim Schmid (born 1955), Archiv #031, 1988, collage on paper, 15 ¾ x 19 ¾ inches, Tang Teaching Museum collection, gift of the artist, 2016.22.1.546
Right: Sarah Sweeney assisted by Paris Baillie, photographs by Michael Bentley, Across the Water, 2017, digital photographs, dimensions variable, courtesy Sarah Sweeney, CC BY 2.0

For this dialogue, Sarah Sweeney and Paris Baillie ’17 selected panels from Joachim Schmid’s Archiv (1986–1999), a work consisting of 726 panels of found photographs, and responded to them by creating panels using photographs from Reimaging Erica (2017–2018), a digital archive constructed from images of a woman found in the Creative Commons of Flickr, manipulated in Photoshop, and reposted to Instagram. Below, they discuss what they found in these two archives, and how these images speak to one another.


Paris Baillie
What is photography for?

Sarah Sweeney
In both Reimaging Erica and Joachim Schmid’s Archiv, that’s the complicated part. Photography is supposed to capture and preserve, right? That’s what Kodak says, and that’s what other advertisements say, but at the same time, Schmid’s work comes from images that have been thrown away, and so those images have been divorced from their original function of preserving someone’s memories, and they’re now something else.

PB
Originally, photographs were for memory, but now they’re not important in the same way.

SS
They’ve been detached from memory, and that’s true of the Erica project as well. In Erica, we don’t have her memories. The images become a way to preserve a cultural memory rather than a specific person’s memory.

PB
I immediately think of social media when I look at Joachim Schmid’s work. When I see images organized on pages in Schmid’s Archiv, it makes me think of people on Instagram posting photos of their food all the time or people posting the same vacation photos.

SS
It underscores the idea that patterns exist everywhere. The way we’ve organized Erica allows us to see patterns in really stark ways. In June, she’s always going to a specific place. Why do we have so many images in front of the Christmas tree? Why is that a staple backdrop? Or, as you said, the new staple of taking photographs of what you eat.

Schmid sweeney combo bw125 eyes
Left: Joachim Schmid, Archiv #125, 1991, collage on paper, 15 ¾ x 19 ¾ inches, Tang Teaching Museum collection, gift of the artist, 2016.22.1.38
Right: Sarah Sweeney assisted by Paris Baillie, photographs by Michael Bentley, Waiting for, 2017, digital photographs, dimensions variable, courtesy Sarah Sweeney, CC BY 2.0

PB
And then sharing them online. In the end there are thousands of the same images being taken. It’s interesting to see someone decide on certain categories when faced with an endless amount. When we looked through Archiv, I started to wonder what subjects were missing. Does the person organizing the images matter?

SS
I think it does. There’s a perception that the authors are the people who took the photographs, but the choices made by Schmid are just as interesting as those made by the people who shot the originals. There are definitely things that are missing. Did you find things that you thought weren’t represented or were strange choices?

PB
As women, we noticed that there were a lot more images of nude women than of nude men in the collection. We spent a lot of time thinking about why that was. I think because we are two women working on the Erica project, we are telling Erica’s story from a female perspective, and we are also arranging grids based on patterns we are interested in. I’d be curious to see how Schmid would arrange Erica’s images, what he would notice.

Schmid sweeney combo beds hands
Left: Joachim Schmid, Archiv #642, 1995, collage on paper, 15 ¾ x 19 ¾ inches, Tang Teaching Museum collection, gift of the artist, 2016.22.1.439
Right: Sarah Sweeney assisted by Paris Baillie, photographs by Michael Bentley, After the Wedding, 2017, digital photographs, dimensions variable, courtesy Sarah Sweeney, CC BY 2.0

SS
Your point about gender is interesting because it shows that we have subjective perspectives. In its comprehensiveness, Archiv suggests that these are all of the categories of photography. But there was an author who made the grids and made choices; the collection has changed because of the authorship in the same way that our collection has radically changed because you and I are approaching Erica in a specific way. We chose a mom. She’s a mother and she’s a wife. We could have chosen somebody completely different.

PB
What do you think of the grid format?

SS
Grids suggest a scientific quality. There’s a suggestion of juxtaposition and comparison.

PB
On social media, everything is put in a grid for you. With the Erica project, we were arranging it in a grid because that’s how it translated on Instagram.

SS
It’s interesting that both digital technology and Joachim Schmid are using the grid for similar reasons. The grid organizes images…

PB
So that we can study them.

Cite this page

Reimaging Erica: Sarah Sweeney Responds to Joachim Schmid’s Archiv.” Interview by Paris Baillie. Tang Teaching Museum collections website. https://tang.skidmore.edu/collection/explore/180-sarah-sweeneys-reimaging-erica-joachim-schmids-archiv. First published as “Art in Conversation: Sarah Sweeney’s Reimaging Erica & Joachim Schmid’s Archiv” in Accelerate: Access & Inclusion at The Tang Teaching Museum 1 (2017).

Learn more

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Joachim Schmid
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Dunkerley Dialogue: Sarah Sweeney and Joachim Schmid
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