The films of Robert Gardner (1925–2014) are reflections about human existence, the cycle of life, dealing with death and the relationship between the sexes. At the same time, they seek a more profound understanding of what it means to be human. Gardner’s radical, subjective gaze and his poetic, suggestive style lend his films an expressive force, which let them become classics of ethnological and documentary cinema. Their intensity is based on the sheer beauty of his images and the audience’s immersion in a visual and acoustic universe.
After studying anthropology, Robert Gardner turned his hand to filmmaking. He made his first short documentary about the Kwakiutl in a village on Vancouver Island in 1951. He established the Harvard Film Study Center, the first center for cinematographic anthropology in North America, and ran it from 1957 to 1997, producing not only his own films but those of many others. Inspired by Andrei Tarkovski and Basil Wright, whose facility to examine the human soul in moving images he admired, he connected his literary and philosophical affinities with his profound interest in the structures of societies and finding the universal in the unfamiliar. He also always kept an eye on his own society. He put the spotlight on the creative process in a series of artists' portraits. His interest in the artists of his generation was also reflected in the TV series Screening Room that he hosted from 1973 to 1980, inviting experimental and documentary filmmakers to partake in long discussions.
Gardner's influence on documentary and ethnographic film is also reflected by the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University (which became known to a wider public in 2012 through Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor's "Leviathan"). Like Gardner, the films that were made there and continue to be made there do not focus on analytical knowledge but on the production of aesthetic experience and a direct, sensual perception of the world.
From June 21-29, we are showing Robert Gardner's most important feature-length films, two shorter works and an homage to the experimental filmmaker Robert Fenz.
White suits, red shoes, black coats, dark sunglasses – there is many a piece of clothing or accessory to be found over the course of film history that seems to encapsulate an entire film, even outside of its immediate context. Yet even before costumes attain this iconic status, they tell stories within the film, give their wearers new life, conceal hidden chasms, create atmospheres and leave their mark on the look, texture and often even the soundtrack of films. The dramatic, narrative and psychological function of costumes in film is undisputed, as is their influence on the zeitgeist, fashion, trends and styles which they call into existence, play a role in and launch. This month's Magical History Tour invites audiences to take a look into the studios of international artists, costume and fashion designers, over nine decades.
Each year the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art offers a Summer School. For three days participants engage with a topic located at the interface of theory and practice in cinema.
This year’s Summer School entitled: Communities of Legacy. On dealing with what will be" takes place from August 25 to 27 at silent green, a new venue that also serves as the home to the Arsenal’s film archive. This year the focus is on concepts of cultural legacy. What does it consist of, who does it come from, who is it for? How does it move from the past into the future? It’s about films, buildings, but also about ephemeral things like messages and performance art. And of course about cinema.
Please register until August 10.
Dealing with the past is an important precondition for shaping the present. It is the only way of legitimizing responsibility for the future. The "Future of Memory - Nationwide School Cinema Program for Remembering the Holocaust in Film" project follows up "Asynchronous. Documentaries and Experimental Films on the Holocaust. From the Collection of the Arsenal." Throughout 2016, school events featuring films from the Asynchronous project such as SHOAH and SOBIBOR, 14 OCTOBRE 1943, 16 HEURES by Claude Lanzmann, VOICES FROM THE ATTIC by Debbie Goodstein and DARK LULLABIES by Irene Angelico and Abbey Neidik will take place all over Germany.
Intensive educational work is crucial in the area of school cinema. When it comes to the culture of memory, there is a huge gap between the generations who grew up with eyewitnesses and today's children and young adults, both in cognitive and aesthetic terms. The classic codification of the topics Holocaust, fascism, National Socialism and anti-Semitism is often not accessible to young people today because the language and form seem to be outdated and therefore no longer understandable. That's why it is important to rethink aesthetic and emotional approaches and find means of opening up the world of memory to this generation and those to come.
Further information about the project will be available soon. If you are a cinema or event organizer, please get in touch with us now.
Top Hat Mark Sandrich USA 1935
With Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Edward Everett Horton
35 mm OV 101 min
Mark Tobey Robert Gardner USA 1952
16 mm engl. OV 19 min
Sons of Shiva Robert Gardner, Ákos Östös USA 1985
16 mm engl. OV 29 min
Correspondence Robert Fenz USA/Germany 2011
16 mm silent 30 min