In Autumn 2007, at a studio visit of an artist friend, Stefan Pente and Ines Schaber happened on a series of contact sheets by the photographer Karen Peters. They are told that Peters had been visiting and documenting several historical sites in New Mexico, USA in the last years. Researching the history of the State photographically, Peters was now off again, and had left the sheets behind. Eight of them, showing the site of the former Palace Hotel in Santa Fe, caught Pente’s and Schaber’s attention. As one of the first hotels of the town, it had burned down in the 1930’s. Before though, and responsible for its gain of high visibility, it was the place where Aby Warburg, art historian from Germany and creator of the Mnemosyne Atlas, met Cleo Jurino, priest of the Chipeo Nanutsch, who made a drawing for Warburg explaining him the serpent dance. Speculating about Peters’ motivations to photograph the site in Santa Fe and about the readability of the images as such, Pente and Schaber decide to get in contact with her.
They had known the famous story of Warburgs’ incounter with Jurino for some time and been in correspondence with his lecture Images from the Region of the Pueblo Indians of North America. This lecture was held on April 21, 1923 in the sanatorium Bellevue in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, where Warburg was hospitalized, being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. For Pente and Schaber, the lecture and the accompanying slide show poses questions about the translation of experiences. In their solo- and collaborative work, they investigate in how far a site of experience is important as a signifier as soon as that experience is communicated to others. They explore the question how the making of images of those sites corresponds to the need and desire to collect souvenirs – souvenirs of events that are reportable, of events whose materiality has escaped and might only exist in the invention of narrative. In his own words, Warburg was not able to talk about the experiences with the serpent dance in his healthy time. He could only speak about it in a place of dis-placement (ver-rückt sein).