July 2020, arsenal cinema

arsenal 5 at HKW – Heading Outside

July 16 — August 23 2020

The final stage in a series of experiments with the cinema space during the pandemic leads Arsenal to the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. As is the case with arsenal 3 (on the Internet) and arsenal 4 (at silent green), the arsenal 5 program consists almost exclusively of films from the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art collection. Cinema is a place of possibility and action, also in the open air. For 6 weeks, the films join us on a trip out-side: we head off to collect images in landscapes that have fallen victim to tourism. We unearth images from the ground and from the archives to take them to where they can tell stories. We observe animals who cast a critical gaze at us in return. We explore and traverse the desert as a resonance chamber. And last, but not least, we investigate the inner workings of our host institution as a stage and production site. A few highlights will bring the program to an end: Ricky Shayne will perform live to coincide with the screen-ing of Stephan Geene’s Film SHAYNE. We will also be presenting a world premiere in the form of Michael Busch’s HOW LONG IS NOW. And finally, archive expert Vaginal Davis and her partner Daniel Hendrickson invite audiences to the final edition of their “Contemporary Vinegar Syndrome” series!

#1 Collecting Images
(Armin Linke, Germany 2011, 16.7., introductary speech: Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Armin Linke in person) „is the result of seven years of research on contemporary perceptions of the landscape of the Alps, juxtaposing places and situations across all eight bordering nations and spanning the territories of four languages. In the film, the Alps are encountered like an island that is connected to various global transformations. We undertook many journeys in the alpine region, which, ironically, led us as far as Dubai. The film shows the Alps as a key location, owing to its delicacy and environmental importance, where one can observe and study the complexity of social, economic, and political relationships. In the Europe of today, the Alps are a hotbed for modernity and its illusions.“ (Armin Linke)
Showing first: TWO DAYS AT THE FALLS(Isabell Spengler, Germany 2015)
In this video installation we are presented with two panoramic video depictions of the iconic Niagara Falls – one that was created onsite and the other, filmed in a three-dimensional model, constructed by the artist in her Berlin studio having never visited the Falls. TWO DAYS AT THE FALLS explores the intersection between the real and the imagined, popular culture and private perception, the monumental and the ordinary against the backdrop of contemporary, "immersive" media technologies.

FOUR CORNERS (James Benning,USA 1997, 17.7.) In this unusual work, James Benning pursues an all-embracing world view. He wants to tackle the story of his country as a whole, in terms of geography as well as history. To do this, he has chosen the four-cornered meeting point between the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. This is a place shaped like a quadrant with four corners, which has been left to the coincidence of politics and geometry. Images and text complement each other impressively, because there are surprising formal connections between his methods of constructing pictures and telling stories – for example, when he dwells on landscapes with different layers on top of each other while describing the process by which various ethnic groups have displaced each other, thus constructing stories composed of several historical layers.
Showing first: OUR MARILYN (Brenda Longfellow, Canada 1987) This film describes the historic achievement of Marilyn Bell, a 17-year-old Canadian who swam across Lake Ontario in 1954. Images produced with an optical printer, archive footage, radio commentaries and music from the time recreate the hallucinatory experience, 22 hours of grueling physical effort.

THE SECOND JOURNEY (TO ULURU) (Arthur & Corinne Cantrill, Australia 1982, 18.7.)
As the camera moves gently from afar into the very heart of the monolith, the magic of the holiest site of the Aborigines unfolds in shimmering nuances of light. Shot at different times of day, the close-up and panorama shots of this more than 500-million-year-old stone formation combine silence and acoustically altered birdsong to convey a feeling of timelessness into which a sense of loss is also inscribed. The areas of discolouration in the film material caused by problems in the developing process were deliberately left in the film as a metaphor for the looming threat to this natural environment through bushfires and tourism.
Showing first: DIVER (Monira Al Qadiri, Kuwait 2018) This immersive video installation by Monira Al Qadiri is a new chapter in her ongoing search for historical ties between the pre- and post-oil worlds in the Arabian Gulf. The video follows the movements of synchronized swimmers wearing dichroic body suits akin to the sheen of both pearls and oil, fully choreographed to a traditional pearl-diving song.

#2 Unearthing Images 
BALIKBAYAN #1 – MEMORIES OF OVERDEVELOPMENT REDUX III (Kidlat Tahimik, Philippines 2015, 23.7.) Enrique is the slave of Ferdinand Magellan, who circumnavigated the globe. Aside from bathing Magellan every evening, Enrique also has to translate Filipino languages into Portuguese and Spanish. The film opens with a cardboard box containing film rolls being dug up from the ground. Shot in 1980 and now showing their age, the images tell the story of the circumnavigation. Magellan died shortly before the journey was completed, but had authorized that Enrique, now by default the first true circumnavigator, was to become a free man. BALIKBAYAN #1 weaves together the official story with that of Enrique, as well as with the director’s cut of what Tahimik started filming 35 years ago in order to find out the truth and continued in a village in the province of Ifugao in 2013. BALIKBAYAN #1 is a home movie, a flamboyant epic, a study of colonialism, a historical corrective and an homage to what Tahimik calls ‘Indio Genius’. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)
Showing first: STADT IN FLAMMEN (Schmelzdahin, FRG 1984) The basis of this film by Jochen Müller, Jochen Lempert and Jürgen Reble is found footage from the French-Canadian feature film ‘Ville en flamme'. Before the pictures and soundtrack were reworked, the original footage was buried in the garden, deliberately exposed to bacteria and microbes, and copied when the emulsion began to liquefy. (Medienkunstnetz)

SPELL REEL (Filipa César, GER/POR/F/GNB 2017, 24.7.)
The first image is in black and white, upside down and projected into a black box that then becomes the frame. It now hovers like a time capsule near a man’s face. He looks down, listening in on a female guerrilla fighter and translating her words from Fulani. Filipa César's SPELL REEL is the result of a multifaceted research and digitisation project that she initiated in 2011 with Sana na N’Hada and Flora Gomes. Having studied film in Cuba, the two began using the camera to observe the fight for independence in Guinea-Bissau (1963–74). After the decaying visual and audio material was digitised in Berlin, the filmmakers travelled with a mobile cinema to the places where the footage had originally been shot and showed it to audiences for the first time, adding their own commentary. They then moved on, also returning to Berlin. SPELL REEL watches an archive at work to produce the present. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)
Showing first: MEMORY ALSO DIE (Didi Cheeka, Nigeria 2020), the first part of a trilogy that focuses on memory as political taboo, comes fifty years after the collective trauma responsible for the death of memory in Nigeria: Biafra.

WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS / RE-VISITED (Clarissa Thieme, GER/AUT/BIH 2020, 25.7., Clarissa Thieme in person)
In 2008 und 2009, Clarissa Thieme travelled through Bosnia-Herzegovina and set up her camera in places where war crimes had taken place in the 1990s. Those trips resulted in the short film WAS BLEIBT | ŠTA OSTAJE | WHAT REMAINS (2010). Now she returns to these locations and sets up her camera in precisely the same spots, with two women carrying a still from the first film into the frame as a kind of performative act. It’s a process as simple as it is clever, revealing similarities and differences between 2009 and 2019. Furthermore, this mini-performance starts up a kind of game: What can be seen when an image from the past blocks one’s view of the present, or only allows it to be glimpsed from the margins?
Showing first: NEVER (Armando Lulaj, Albania 2013) In 1968, by order of the Labour Party, the army, helped by the voluntary youth, undertakes one of the greatest voluntary works of the Communist era in Albania: on the side of a mountain range nearby the Albanian city of Berat, Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha has his name displayed in a monumental engraving.
44 years later, a group of villagers take the effort to climb the mountain and change the letters by overwriting a new word, referring to the past dictatorship and the current government. ENVER becomes NEVER in a laborious process of ‘(un-)naming’ the recent past.

#3 Observing Animals
BESTIAIRE (Denis Côté, Canada, France 2012, 30.7.) „A drawing course, a safari park and a taxidermist’s workshop: three settings in which humans and animals meet. The focus of observation is on relationships of sight and perception, which often reflect unequal power structures at the same time. Carefully considered shots which allow the viewer time to reflect on beauty and the unfamiliar, on this domesticated wilderness in the midst of civilisation. This all allows a form of choreography to emerge to the accompaniment of the surrounding noises, a cinematic bestiary in which man too takes his place among the stoic, impassive, impatient, wild and rebellious animals.“ (Anna Hoffmann)
Showing first: THE LAMPS (Shelly Silver, USA 2015) “The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, née Plötz, was an unsung member of the New York Dada Movement. She was a poet, artist, vaudeville performer, runaway, rabble-rouser, cross-dresser, and all around public provocateur. THE LAMPS details her trip to the Naples Archeological Museum in the early 1900s where she breaks into “Il Gabinetto Segretto,“ a secret room filled with erotic objects from Pompeii.” (Shelly Silver)

DER TAG DES SPATZEN/DAY OF THE SPARROW (Philip Scheffner, Germany 2010, 31.7.) is a political nature film about a country where the line between war and peace has become blurred. Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, November 14th 2005: a sparrow is shot and killed after knocking down 23,000 dominos. A German soldier dies in Kabul as a consequence of a suicide bombing. These two adjacent headlines lead director Philip Scheffner to set out looking for war using the methods of ornithology. In Germany rather than Afghanistan. For it is here that the question arises: do we live in wartime or in peacetime?
Showing first: KAMA TOHALLEQ AL TEYOUR / AS BIRDS FLYING (Heba Y. Amin, Egypt 2016) In late 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork suspected of espionage due to an electronic device attached to its leg. The film addresses conspiracies embedded in the political landscape that shape the present. It confronts the absurdity of the media narrative that has blurred fantasy with realty and turned a bird migrating from Israel to Egypt into a symbol of state paranoia.

HER NAME WAS EUROPA (Anja Dornieden, Juan David Gonzáles, Germany 2020, 1.8., Anja Dornieden and Juan David Gonzáles in person) Aurochs is the name given to the wild ancestor of modern cattle. The aurochs has the distinction of being the first documented case of extinction. The last known wild aurochs died in the Jaktorów Forest in Poland in 1627. Hunting and the introduction of domesticated cattle led to their decline and disappearance. Their value, however, derived not just from them being a source of sustenance. Traits that were attributed to the animal, such as speed, strength, and courage, imbued it with great symbolic power. Some of their body parts were ascribed with supernatural powers. The skin of the forehead and a cross-shaped bone inside the heart were prized for their magical properties. Those who carried them became possessors of the animal’s traits. In the 20th century efforts to bring back the Aurochs from extinction began to materialize.
Showing first: DEAR ANIMAL (Maha Maamoun, Egypt 2016) interweaves two texts: a short story by Haytham El-Wardany about a drug dealer who turns into a strange animal; and a selection of letters written by Azza Shaaban, a director-producer involved with the Egyptian revolution and now living in India, from where she regularly posts notes to her Facebook friends relating stories of travel and healing.

#4 Into the Desert 
(Adamu Halilu, Nigeria 1976, 6.8., Introduced by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus) Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, SHAIHU UMAR starts with a discussion between Islamic students and their renowned teacher, the wise man Shaihu Umar. Asked about his origins, Umar begins to tell his story. The film is based on the eponymous 1955 novella by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, which has been reprinted many times. Balewa was prime minister of Nigeria from 1957 to 1966. The film was long believed to be lost, but the negatives and copies were rediscovered in the archive of the Nigerian Film Corporation in 2016. Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art restored the film with the support of the German Embassy in Abuja. (Stefanie Schulte Strathaus)
Showing first: BLACK DESERT (Stefan Römer, Germany 2007)
In a Samuel Beckett kind of scene people walk silently in a black desert. A minimalistic sketch of (anti-) social life. All paradigms of the ideal artistic space of the White Cube are missing: the stage is the amorphous black desert. Also, the state of consciousness is inverted: instead of a determined and explicit representation a dark-minded disbelief of the self and failed communication dominate the scene – speechlessly they pass each other. In the deregulated zone of the Black Desert all artists are in permanent competition with each other. The economics of capital make life wither. Market laws squeeze the blood out of flexibilized humans and their deregulated bodies.

EL MAR LA MAR (Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki, USA 2017, 7.8.)
The sun beats down mercilessly on all those who cross the Sonoran Desert between Mexico and the United States. Aside from the few people who live here, it’s the poorest of undocumented immigrants that make the crossing, who have no choice but to take this extremely dangerous route, followed by border guards both official and self-appointed. EL MAR LA MAR masterfully weaves together sublime 16-mm shots of nature and weather phenomena, animals, people and the tracks they leave behind with a polyphonic soundtrack, creating a cinematographic exploration of the desert habitat, a multi-faceted panorama of a highly politicised stretch of land, a film poem that conjures up the ocean.
Showing first: BODIES OF THE DESERT (Trinh T. Minh-ha, Jean-Paul Bourdier, USA 2005) In the desert, the mind forgets but the body remembers: reptilian, vegetal and mineral bodies standing still, walking, crawling, winding, rolling, slithering on rocks or sinking in the vast expanse of white. First shown in Jean-Paul Bourdier's solo exhibition of photography "Mineral Time" Gallery Blu (Santa Clara, CA) Nov 10 - December 5, 2005, and released with Bourdier's book of photography, Bodyscapes (San Rafael: Earth Aware, 2007).

DESERT VIEW (Daniel Kötter, Constanze Fischbeck, Germany/Egypt 2018, 8.8., Daniel Kötter and Constanze Fischbeck in person) is dedicated to the study of building and living in the semi-finished satellite city Madinaty, located in the desert east of Cairo, and allows a closer look at the desert dreams of the Egyptian middle and upper classes. DESERT VIEW was made during a four-week residency experiment, to which the filmmakers had invited the three-generation Barakat family from ashweyat (informal residential district) Bashtil as a sort of cinematic diary. The temporary residents of Madinaty, filmmaker and Barakat family, captured their observations and experiences of architecture and their use from their respective perspectives and cameras.
Showing first: TELEMATCH SHELTER (Wael Shawky, Egypt 2008)  is about the aspiration of a rural Bedouin society to develop into a prosperous farming community.

#5 Exploring the Desert
MODERATION (Anja Kirschner, Greece/Italy/Egypt/Great Britain 2016, 13.8.), set in Egypt, Greece, and Italy, revolves around a female horror director and her screenwriter, whose latest collaboration is haunted by encounters with its ‘raw material’ and the escalation of conflicting desires. Faced with the disintegration of their project, the director becomes more and more drawn into conversations with the actors she has cast, who reflect on the way horror traverses the affective and material realities of their lives on and off screen. As the movie horror increasingly crosses the threshold between reality and fiction, lo-fi special effects are combined with HD camcorder, Skype, and mobile phone footage to heighten the sense of immediacy and interplay between fictional, factual, and genre elements. MODERATION references and pays homage to the horror cinema from cold-war Europe, Infitah-era Egypt, and post-junta Greece, neither naturalistically representing lived experience nor sublimating it by recourse to the irrational. Rather, the ‘irrational’ is used to externalize and to de-subjectify what haunts the protagonists, in order to reground the possibility of rational agency operating at its limits.

AL-HOUBUT / THE LANDING (Akram Zaatari, Lebanon/United Arab Emirates 2019, 14.8.) The film takes place in Shaabiyat al Ghurayfah, a public housing project in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates built in the eighties to provide descendants of the Ketbi Bedouins with their first concrete homes. This site, now totally deserted, witnessed the first move of Bedouin families from tents into modern designed habitations. The film unfolds as a repertoire of simple gestures, a few of which are inspired by the photographic documentation of performances by Hassan Sharif, playfully engaging with architecture, vegetation, space, movement, threshold, surveillance, and perspective. Cables, sewage pipes, tubes, shovels, kitchen tools, electric air blowers, and even a helicopter landing on site are all deployed in this film for their sonic rather than narrative potential – creating refractions, confrontations, and transformations in a broken-off, folded narrative.
Showing first: AL HABIL / THE ROPE (Ibrahim Shaddad, Sudan 1985) documents two blind men making their way through the desert accompanied by a donkey. Connected by a rope, sometimes the two men decide the way, and sometimes the donkey leads them through the desert.

DOMESTIC TOURISM II (Maha Maamoun, Egypt 2008, 15.8.) Exclusively utilizing scenes from Egyptian feature films that use the Giza Pyramids as a backdrop, DOMESTIC TOURISM II explores the ways in which these iconic historical monuments, and by extension Egypt, are re-appropriated from the “timelessness” of the touristic post-card and re-inscribed, through cinematic narrative, into the complex contemporary political, social, and urban realities.
Showing first: AL WADI (The Valley, Firas Taybeh, Jordan 2011) is a comedy that takes place in the future where things go back to a primitive set in a desert where there has been a river that has gone dry. Two characters inhabit the valley: a digger and a valley crosser whose work is to make people pass to the other side of the valley. A conspiracy creates a conflict between the two men and they leave the valley. Inspired by folk stories from the Middle East, this experimental work in progress is a study for a feature-length version.

#6 In-House Work
(Thomas Heise, D 2019, 19.8., Thomas Heise in person) What remains? Lives leave behind traces; so does the passage of time. Thomas Heise’s filmexamines how the one relates to the other. Using documents from his personal archive – letters, photographs, school essays, diary entries – read by Heise himself in voiceover and shown on screen, he traces out the story of four generations of his family in Vienna, Dresden and (East) Berlin. We see black and white images of the places and landscapes mentioned in the correspondence as they look today, which bear the marks of time: the labour camp in Zerbst, the former National People’s Army barracks, a university auditorium, terraced houses in Mainz. There are also cracks in the earth, mounds, open strata and railway stations, trains and tracks again and again. First loves, fathers, mothers, sons and brothers, the deportation of the Viennese Jews, war dead in Dresden, art and literature, East German socialism and staying respectable – using fragments from the repository of personal experience, meticulously chosen and pieced together with gaps, Heise tells nothing less than the story of Germany in the twentieth century. A great film, and one that will remain. (Birgit Kohler)

SHAYNE (Stephan Geene, Germany 2019, 20.8., Stephen Geene in person) Ricky Shayne briefly streaked like a comet through West German popular culture from 1967 to 1972. Born in Cairo, raised in Beirut, he became a star in Rome in the booming Beat scene. He was then imported to Germany, where there was more money to be made. Shayne found himself in Berlin between BRAVO and ZDF Hit Parade, celebrated and exoticized. Stephan Geene, who was ten years old at the time, was changed forever by this phenomenon, and now explores his fascination. The encounter with the nervous, rough-edged Ricky Shayne, today 72, survivor of his own star and teen magazine history (the magazine BRAVO alone dedicated two of its celebrity puzzles to him), leads Geene down a variety of paths: including with Shayne’s sons Tarek and Imran, both now the same age as Ricky during his Berlin period and the spitting image of him (at the time). A serial TV anti-portrait, framed by rehearsals for a gala, the attempt to give one last moment to an aborted career; an architect thinks out loud about photography and theatricality and the possibility of mounting a gala as a ruin, in order to do justice to the figure of Ricky Shayne, to his ruptures and contradictions.

HOW LONG IS NOW (Michael Busch, Germany 2020, 21.8., World premiere, Michael Busch in person)
Between 2015 and 2019 a long turn series of lectures, exhibitions, talks called "100 Years of Now" took place at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Scientists and artists like the literature nobel prize winners Herta Müller and Wole Soyinka contributed to the idea of opening up the time lense of the present time asking, which parameters of the past can be used to shape the future. The film essay combines quotes, narratives, statements from these events with visual layers of found footage material in a stream of consciousness manner about the past century.

SIGN SPACE (Hila Peleg, Germany 2016, 22.8., Hila Peleg in person) follows the installation of an art exhibition. From the building of false walls up to the moment the exhibition opens its doors to the public, the film tracks the many considerations, both formal and procedural, that go into staging an art show. An exhaustive observation of this process reveals how, in providing a highly codified type of setting for our apprehension of art, contemporary exhibition spaces are as much a deliberate construction as any artwork. The film meticulously documents what occurs on site, while an accompanying narration reflects on exhibitions as a historical form, recounting the chain of processes which, over time, produced the set of normative architectural and institutional protocols in use today – practices effecting not only what contemporary art exhibitions look like but also how they function epistemologically, and what relation the forms of knowledge they display have to the public at large. In fact, art spaces have played a significant role in the emergence of what we now call the public sphere, helping to create the audience for what they display.

NEURASIA (Werner Schroeter, FRG 1968, 23.8., presented by Vaginal Davis and Daniel Hendrickson) Does the smell of vinegar evaporate in the open air? Since 2017, archive expert Vaginal Davis and her partner Daniel Hendrickson have been getting to grips with the aging and deterioration process suffered by film prints referred to as vinegar syndrome in their “Contemporary Vinegar Syndrome” series. The perspective taken on by Vaginal Davis here doesn’t just focus on the chemical reaction, but also gives just that little bit of extra information along the way. The new edition of the series is taking place at arsenal 5 @ hkw, that is, on the terrace of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Alongside a surprise film, they will be presenting NEURASIA (1968) by Werner Schroeter, which consists entirely of interiors and was described by Frieda Grafe in “Filmkritik” in 1970 as follows: “Neurasia is a silent film with music. The tunes fit to the images like they did back then, when the pianist still used to sit in the auditorium. Sometimes you have the illusion of synchronicity, until the music stops and Carla’s mouth stays wide open. You understand her. In the elevated realm in which the film moves, one doesn’t form words. (…)”

arsenal 5 is a cooperation between HKW – Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst.
Tickets at https://www.hkw.de/de/service/tickets/ticketinformation.php