New in 2018:
“re-selected”– film history as print history
A new project at the 64th festival edition
The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is undertaking an innovative three-year archive project in partnership with Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art. It looks at film history as a history of concrete film prints and as a reception history partly influenced by film festivals. During the project, analogue copies from the collections of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (since 1954) and Arsenal (particularly the films from the programmes of the Berlinale Forum section, since 1971), along with other films selected from the Oberhausen archive whose history and reception are particularly illuminating, will be correlated with one another. The project is supervised by the curator and journalist Tobias Hering.
Films that once seemed more or less endlessly reproducible even in the analogue era are now gradually becoming originals, because their negatives are lost or because different prints can vary greatly and the history of their reception has taken completely different courses. In view of what is being dubbed “the end of analogue cinema”, the challenge is to fruitfully exploit the material uniqueness of the copies for the purposes of film history, which thus becomes a social history of cinema as well.
“re-selected” formulates and tries out new ways of interrelating archival, aesthetic and sociological questions. Instead of propagating the digital “rescue” of a film work as an ideal, the project specifically acknowledges the individual characteristics of each print, which, as a rule, are obliterated by digitisation. This further increases the complexity of any film-historical approach, because when films are examined in their materiality, i.e. as film prints, their artistic relevance and historical significance appear against the background of their impact and reception in specific locations, at a specific time and in front of a specific audience, whether a particular film was given the status of a classic or became the stuff of rumour as an unrecognised work.
A direct path leads from the details of each individual print to the respective cinematic experience and social reality in which this experience occurred. Where was a film shown at all? Who saw it, and in what version? Is damage to or loss of the print a consequence of pertinent political events, as, for example, during the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s? Maybe there is no longer an existing negative, only scattered copies – as is the case with the only film made by the Iranian poet Forough Forrokhzad, The House Is Black (1963), which was censored in her own country; for a long time, the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen had the only available uncensored copy in its archive.
The presence of the print at a particular location is also an indication of a curatorial practice or an educational policy. When different prints of the same film are compared, substantial differences can emerge: divergent opening credits, differing language versions, missing fragments and varying cut sequences can give indications as to the audience for which a print was put together – and what may have been meant to be withheld from that audience.
The project “re-selected”, which is planned to run for three years, concentrates on selected works from the analogue collection of the Oberhausen archive. A particular, but not exclusive, focus is a pool of some 80 films held in Oberhausen and in the Arsenal archive in Berlin. From its thorough research on the prints, their histories and their characteristics, the project will develop model approaches and present them to various publics for discussion.
The project will be launched at the 64th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, with further events taking place at a variety of locations. “re-selected” is to culminate in the publication of a book that gives a summary of the results and presents the method used in the project as a contribution to film historiography in the post-analogue era.
The head of the project:
Tobias Hering, born in Siegen in 1971, lives in Berlin as a freelance curator and journalist. His work focuses on thematic programme series that often centre on social issues and themes around image politics. Film and video archives often play a key role here. At Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin, he participated in the pilot project “Living Archive – Archival work as a contemporary artistic and curatorial practice” and was co-curator of the subsequent project, “Visionary Archive”, a collaborative research effort on African film archives. These projects led, among other things, to the project documentation Luta ca caba inda: time place matter voice (Archive Books, 2017) and the DVD edition Specters of Freedom: Cinema and Decolonization (Arsenal/Filmgalerie 451, 2018), both co-edited by Tobias Hering. In autumn 2017, together with Annett Busch, he curated the programme cycle “Sagen Sie's den Steinen” (Tell it to the stones) at the Akademie der Künste Berlin, an exhibition and retrospective on the work of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. Since 2011, he has been involved in programming at the Kassel dokfest, most recently with a retrospective devoted to Peter Nestler.
“re-selected is a joint project of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art within the framework of “Archive ausser sich”. “Archive ausser sich” is a project of Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, part of a cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and Pina Bausch Foundation, part of “The New Alphabet”, a HKW project supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag.
Oberhausen, 30 January 2018
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