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KEYwording is a project by Madhusree Dutta and Ines Schaber.
Until the late 80s, the Arsenal, in whose context this project takes place, had used keywords as a search criterion for films in their collection. This practice was later abbandonned because "the standard categorizations used to sort films and make them accessible in a popular form would exclude many films as the given categories do not and cannot be applied to many of the experimental films that Arsenal collects."
Retrospectively though, the terms can be read not as a normative function within an archive, but as a positioning of an organization and its political agenda. The current project is to address, yet again, the space that lies between the possibilities of opening and locking of themes and practices when anchored on keywords. Keeping the Arsenal archive as the immediate context, instead of avoiding the pitfalls of applying words on films we attempt to pluck a few words from the contemporary cultural practices to rethink the ways of archiving and the struggle to keep contemporizing that what is archived.
Madhusree Dutta is a filmmaker and curator based in Bombay. Ines Schaber is an artist and writer based in Berlin.
KEYwording is part of "Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice".


Analog is a soliloquy that maps a circuitous journey between the spoken and the shot, that are collated and archived within the niches and crevices of living cultures. Approaching cinematography or writing with light through the older-pre-modern practices of words and diagrams, this text traces back the source of imagery and narrative, and our ways of apprehending them, to the base line of memory and thus, to the core of our consciousness. In this rendering image, perception, narrative and memory, both experiential and contrived as well as individual and collective, overlap and become indistinguishable - resembling an archive of unlabelled film cans. And thereby allowing the reels to get mixed up and then, eventually, to thread a new film by unwinding the canonised celluloid texts. (Madhusree Dutta)

Analog, 2013, 20 pages, English, 6 €


Bazaar / market is a scrutiny of the practice of the bazaar through which the historical unconscious comes to terms with what is perceived as excessive in nature's productivity. It posits abundance and plenitude as an intellectual problematic that human societies have had to resolve over time, a problematic that has gotten obscured in contemporary economic and historical thought that has on the whole theorised the subject around the idea of lack, life around the idea of time and aesthetics around practices of iconicity. Such is the ideation underlying the idea of the market. Bazaars on the other hand work around experience of flow, action and aniconicity. A sub-plot examines the birth of the cinema in the bazaar and the various traditions of cinema that have arisen from its functioning in different kinds of bazaar cultures.

Bazaar, 2013, 28 pages, English, 6 €


English is not a language but a cryptic history of the world in the 20th century. The contestations and ambivalences related to the myriad practices and the receptions of the language have been mirrored in all other histories of culture; including cinema, music, food, fashion, knowledge dissemination et al. The films in subtitles… the texts in italics… the sound from unfamiliar sources… the smell of local oils in food…, respectively, have made subsections in the ways of archiving and memorising cultural habits and artifacts, even in the most forward looking set-ups. That, there are more works kept in subtitles and italics and with other kinds of notes in the margins than those which are marked as original, does not, in any substantial way, change the status of the former being categorised as the others. This is a testimony of a practicing poet, born in post-colonial India with English as her first language, of coming out of the italics.

English, 2013, 24 pages, English, 6 €


So…what do we do with our cravings? Our voracious appetite for food, for recipes? Our gluttonous relation to television? What do we eat when we get hungry? What do we eat when we go to the cinema? How to stomach food blogs? How to translate the oral pleasure of food talk into writing? 
This monograph munches into a few ingestive and digestive thoughts and cross-cuisinal keywords, along with a film program based on the Arsenal collection, on eating practices, food blog readings, cookbooks, reality TV and the food industry. (Madhusree Dutta)

Food, 2013, 12 pages, English, 4 €

Geschichten erzählen/Storytelling

The first term that came to my mind in the context of Keywording was Storytelling. The term not only related to contemporary discourse on the relationship of the cinema and exhibition space, it triggered questions of the categorization of films in terms of genres. Decisive in using the term, though, was the way it was challenged by film producer and crime novel author Merle Kröger and filmmaker Philip Scheffner. In their collaborative work with film, ongoing for many years now, they had arrived at a point where they wanted to tell a story in different modes. This was a story that happened at the German-Polish border in 1992, where two people were shot. Kröger and Scheffner tell the story in the film REVISION and then in the crime novel "Grenzfall". Very different forms of narration evolve out of the question of a position in relation to the event: on the one hand the position the storytellers occupy, and on the other the positions formulated by the subjects that form the story. In REVISION and "Grenzfall," a remark by Walter Benjamin, on the storyteller, reverberates in multiple directions: “The storyteller takes what he tells from experience – his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale.” (Ines Schaber)

Geschichten erzählen/Storytelling, German/English, 40 pages, 2013, 6 €


Riki Kalbe (Photography), Wolfgang Kil (Text)

The place, in whose underground the cinema Arsenal is located since 2000, received a multitude of descriptions in the last three hundred years: adornment of the residency (Friedrich Wilhelm I, 1732) – between octagon and square (Friedrich Nicolai, 1786) – a paradise (Bettina von Arnim, 1811) – the political heart of Germany (Eugen Szatmari, 1927) – barren land (Zaha Hadid, 1991) – historically contaminated area (Naturschutzund Grünflächenamt Mitte, 1992) – special building land with a high proportion of green (Flächennutzungsplan, 1992) – a space without footing (Rolf Lautenschläger, 1994) – and – place with a peculiarly sedimented past (Moshe Zuckermann, 2000). Riki Kalbe named the place simply terrain. She photographed it and the divers, often ephemeral uses and appropriations, that happened there between 1989 and 2000. She recorded the rebuilding of the Akademie der Künste and the construction of the Holocaust memorial with her camera and she initiated the exhibition Ministergärten by the ngbk (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst) in 2000. Also Wolfgang Kil, architect, writer, and prominent critic of Berlin’s city development, wrote on the terrain time and again. The conflation of those two voices, who have observed the terrain thoroughly for more than a decade, attempts to recall a time, in which an in-between space gave a promise, for a short moment. (Ines Schaber)

Gelände/Terrain, 2013, 48 pages, German/English, 8 €


One of the fundamental points in critique of the archive is its seeming neutrality. Regarding photographic archives, artist Allan Sekula wrote that archives treat images as atomised entities, depriving them of any context. The Arsenal, by contrast, considers itself a place of production – a place, in which working with film acts on our perception of the present, understands itself as political, asks questions, and allows for incompleteness. Archive workers, filmmakers, and film curators have, in this way, materialized and created a kind of “dealing with” films, producing, sometimes very deliberately, active relations with and inbetween them. As part of his practice as an artist, film curator, and author, Florian Wüst concerns himself with various types of documents he then edits, collages, and reassembles. The short film programs and film series he curates at multiple venues, among them the Arsenal, live by juxtapositing and contrasting diverse films and film genres. relations intermixes the viewing of some Chilean and West German films of the early 1970s with personal notes, historical information, and literature quotations. Materials are set into a new context, that provokes new readings of them. What do we really see and hear in a film? How does the situation of viewing a film change our understanding of it – there and here, then and now? (Ines Schaber)

Relations, 2013, 40 pages, English, 6 €


Mit Filmvorschlägen von Alexander Boldt, Hans-Joachim Fetzer, Anna Hoffmann, Gesa Knolle, Birgit Kohler, Angelika Ramlow, Markus Ruff, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Uli Ziemons.

Das Licht geht aus, das Kino wird dunkel, ein Film beginnt. Eine weiße Fläche strahlt Licht zurück und macht Bilder sichtbar. Diese weiße Fläche und die Situation des Schauens wird seit dem Beginn des Kinos perfektioniert: Glasfaser ersetzt Bauwolle oder Leinen und der Raum verschwindet zunehmend. Doch oft ist ein Screen auch heute noch ein Stück Stoff oder eine Hauswand. Ein eigenes Kino wird rasch gebaut, man improvisiert.
Der Künstler Erik Göngrich fotografiert seit Mitte der 1990er Jahren auf seinen Reisen um die Welt. Dabei entstand auch ein Archiv von Fotografien, die unterschiedliche Nutzungen, Interventionen und Situationen im gebauten Raum zeigen. Die normalerweise als Vorlage für Zeichnungen, Referenzen für Aktionen, Bücher und Installationen gemachten Fotografien werden zu Schauplätzen imaginärer Filmveranstaltungen. Wäschestücke, Brandwände oder Werbetafeln werden zu Orten, an denen man sich vorstellen kann, Filme zu sehen, Filme zu zeigen und sich einen Ort temporär und spontan anzueignen. Dinge in Archiven wiederzufinden geschieht auf unterschiedlichen Wegen: Wir finden sie durch Kategorien wie Titel, Autoren, Länder, Schlagwörter und oft auch durch das Wissen der Leute, die mit ihnen arbeiten. Dabei sind Archive aktive Gedächtnisse ihrer Produzentinnen. Und so schleust Screen sich in zwei verschiedene Sammlungen ein: zum einen in das fotografische Archiv des Künstlers Erik Göngrich und zum anderen in das Archiv des Arsenals. Alle Arsenalmitarbeiterinnen wurden eingeladen, einen Film für eine Fotografie aus der Serie der Screens von Erik Göngrich vorzuschlagen. Die Verbindung der beiden Archive produziert so ein imaginäres Filmprogramm, das auf dem intuitiven Wissen seiner Produzentinnen beruht. (Ines Schaber)

Screen, 2013, 36 pages, German, 6 €


STRIKE was Sergej M. Eisenstein’s first full-length feature film. In it, he implemented his concept of the Montage of Attractions, formulated in 1923, saying that obsolete ideas about art had to be overcome through aggressive, shocking, montage effects. STRIKE is packed with short scenes that are rapidly cut and a "tendentious composition of events". One of these events is a scene that lasts less than four seconds: a strike leader is captured and presented to the police officer. He is shown a mug shot of himself, then the person in the still photo starts to move, and then the split in the middle of the image opens into another world. The film shows not only a strike and strikers, but the turning and appropriation of the film apparatus. STRIKE does not represent a strike. The striker takes over.
STRIKE was, along with other films by Eisenstein and the film PERFORMANCE by Nicolas Roeg, responsible for the financial survival of the Arsenal in 1970, due to the high number of filmgoers who came to see them. The current copy of the film in the archive of the Arsenal is a 16mm copy that was purchased by the Arsenal from Basis-Film in 1996. As is often the case with early Soviet silent movies, STRIKE was clipped down in the process of copying and of adding a soundtrack. Because of that, a significant part of each image is missing in the copy the Arsenal holds. At youtube and at the Deutsche Kinemathek other versions of the film can be found, which refer to the original silent movie and reproduce its original screen ratio. (Ines Schaber)

Streik/Strike, flip-book (17cm x 7cm, clamped), 2013, 76 pages, German/English, 23 €


Transit as in experience, in notation, in memory, in site, in light, in rights, in document, in journey, and in fantasy and fear.
The word transit is chosen primarily for its prevalent use in film narratives. As the KEYwording project tries to expand elasticity of the spoken words by collating cross-cultural evidences within word practices this monograph engages with the culture specific overlappings and contestations related to transit of myriad kinds. The relationship between images and texts too is fashioned in a fluid transitional style in order to enable each section to loosely connect with films and visual arts of varied forms and genres. This is an (nearly impossible) attempt to document the non-archiving characteristics of Transit.

Transit, 2013, 20 pages, English, 6 €


Veil collates three case studies on implications of wearing veils in Indian context, from the perspective of a practicing women’s rights lawyer and in the context of the work of the Mumbai-based Majlis Litigation Unit, a centre for women’s rights discourse and litigation.
Since the late 20th century, the debates around the veil of Muslim women have configured into a new kind of cultural politics and have consequently evolved a special system of visual referencing. This system of referencing, rooted in Western living cultures and related values, works and spreads with equal ease in the commercial media, academic endeavours and sites of critical art practices.
This monograph brings forward the experiences of three women whose lives, at different times and stages, got entangled in the mesh of rights and laws, in such a way that they dislodged and subverted all the debates around the culture of veils. The stories are embedded within the actual battle for rights and counter every attempt of stereotyping in visual representations.

Veil, 2013, 28 pages, English, 6 €

The booklets Analog, Bazaar, English, Food, Gelände/Terrain, Geschichten erzählen/Storytelling, Relations, Screen, Transit, Veil can be purchased as a bundle for 30 € (except "Streik/Strike).

KEYwording: Madhusree Dutta in conversation with Ines Schaber 1 (PDF)
KEYwording: Madhusree Dutta in conversation with Ines Schaber 2 (PDF)
KEYwording: Erika and Ulrich Gregor in conversation with Ines Schaber (PDF)

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media