November 2015, living archive

Our archive has moved

The analogue film prints of Arsenal's archive have a new home. Since the beginning of November, they have been at the silent green Kulturquartier, a space for events and exhibitions in the listed premises of a former crematorium in Wedding. The move was made possible by private sponsorship and not only enables better storage for about 10,000 prints but also facilitates the creation of a living archive that takes into account production of knowledge and contemporary reception in connection with digitalization and restoration projects. The archive will open up new possibilities for research, work, experiments and exhibitions to complement what the two cinemas on Potsdamer Platz already do. We warmly welcome you to the official opening in spring 2016.

The archive plans the conceptual examination and processing of production, presentation and participation of art and culture in close coordination with the team from silent green Kulturquartier and the filmmakers Bettina Ellerkamp and Jörg Heitmann. The other occupants of the building can also be seen in this regard: It includes the Harun Farocki Institute, which is currently in the making, SAVVY Contemporary, Musicboard Berlin and the label IK7.

The premises to store the films is 525 m2; there are also four viewing stations with editing suites and monitors. Film experts, curators, artists and anybody else can rent space by the hour, day, week or month. Specialists are on hand to give advice to ensure prints do not suffer any damage. In future, there will be workshops about how to deal with analogue film material.

Contrary to other archives, Arsenal never had a mandate to collect films. However, the necessity to make them available to the public in Berlin, Germany and the world emerged from curatorial and educational practice. Since 1971, Berlinale Forum films have not only been acquired for the festival but also produced with subtitles to allow their availability for later commercial and non-commercial film work in Germany. Prints have also been acquired in conjunction with other projects or have been given by filmmaker friends. The Arsenal collection reflects world cinematography on the basis of the vibrant never-ending life of a Berlin institution.

Films from many countries, including Chile, Cuba, India, USA, Britain, Argentina, Algeria, Morocco or Senegal have also survived at Arsenal. In some cases, there are no other prints to be found in the world. Many were forgotten; others were ahead of their time and their significance is only now being discovered. All these films seem to harbor a moment of utopia, each one can be seen as an attempt at the aesthetics of cinema, and considered themselves to be social and political contemporary practice with a view to the future. This moment of utopia is the key to a lively archive. The restoration and making available of film not only enable the tapping into film history, but self-reflection and re-discovery. What else would cinema be?