The Speculative Archive

[person_by] Frank van der Stok

August 2021

In this Post-Truth era, almost every photograph seems to be speculative by nature. Images as featured in The Speculative Archive are marked by ambiguity, disruption and controversy and make new connections and associations with other images, in terms of visual rhyme, the transhistorical cross-link, or the bizarre connection to a motif that did not present itself at the moment of exposure, but is later revealed by association or intervention.

Speculative imagery follows from speculative modes of image-thinking conjuring up a transformative ambiguity by charging the (pre-existing or future) image with transhistorical, associative, incongruous, ambiguous, upsetting, reversible qualities.

Frank van der Stok
Frank van der Stok (b. 1967) is a curator, editor, essayist and intermediary for artists and art institutions. He also works as an editor and producer of artists’ books.


Works in This Study

Marinetti's vehicle in a ditchUnknown Photographer1908

Marinetti's vehicle in a ditch, Unknown Photographer, 1908

Frank van der Stok


Op 1 mei 1909 werd de Nederlandse Tijd ingevoerd. Op zoek naar de vraag hoe dat verwoord wordt in de krant, zocht ik in - nota bene - De Tijd de dag eraan voorafgaande (30-04-1909), maar die werd geheel beheerst door de geboorte van Prinses Juliana.

The Granite Dish in the Berlin LustgartenJohann Erdmann Hummel1831

The Granite Dish in the Berlin Lustgarten, Johann Erdmann Hummel, 1831

Frank van der Stok

Some paintings and sketches of the late 18th and early19th centuries seemed to anticipate photographic techniques.

Hello WorldCenter for PostNatural History, loaned by the lab of Dr. Andy Ellington2006

Hello World, Center for PostNatural History, loaned by the lab of Dr. Andy Ellington, 2006

Frank van der Stok

Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the human gut and a “model organism” for scientific research around the world. The variety shown here was genetically engineered to be the first living photographic biofilm.

Mammoth Blood (still from the documentary Genesis 2.0)Christian Frei2018

Mammoth Blood (still from the documentary Genesis 2.0), Christian Frei, 2018

Frank van der Stok

On the New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean, hunters are searching for the tusks of extinct mammoths. In the thawing permafrost they happen upon an exceptionally well-preserved mammoth carcass, complete with blood and fur.

NsalaAlice Seeley Harris1904

Nsala, Alice Seeley Harris, 1904

Frank van der Stok

After they were made public, these pictures forced people in Europe to face what was really happening and, under public pressure, in 1908 Congo was signed over the the Belgian state. It wouldn't gain independence until 1960. The power of these images added largely to put an end to colonial rule.

Boulevard du TempleLouis Daguerre1838

Boulevard du Temple, Louis Daguerre, 1838

Frank van der Stok

Louis Daguerre, Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the earliest photograph of people (1838). Because the image required an exposure time of over ten minutes, all the people, carriages, and other moving things disappear from the scene.

Hilton HotelTed Seriosca. 1967

Hilton Hotel, Ted Serios, ca. 1967

Frank van der Stok


A thought photograph by Ted Serios (ca. 1967), taken from the book: ‘Photographs of the Unknown’. Serios claimed the ability to project mental images onto photographic film, sometimes with the lens cap still on and sometimes with no lens at all on the camera.

Titanic: The New EvidenceFound Footage / Senan Molony1912

Titanic: The New Evidence, Found Footage / Senan Molony, 1912

Frank van der Stok


Journalist Senan Molony recently came across an amazing discovery hidden in an attic in England for more then 100 years: a collection of pictures taken of the Titanic by the shipbuilding firm before it left the shipyard.