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We MUST Have Music!

“Earlier, when I was watching musical films on TV, and then recording them, I would try to re-enact the scenes by myself. And that’s why I know some of those songs by heart.” (Vaginal Davis)

One of the participants of the Arsenal project “Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice” was queer performance artist Vaginal Davis, who moved to Berlin from Los Angeles in 2006. As a film lover, she quickly immersed herself in the Arsenal archive and began presenting the treasures she found there to audiences from 2007 onwards. During this period, the series was called “Rising Stars, Falling Stars – We Must Have Music!”. We’re unearthed the trailer to this series and added it to the arsenal 3 program, together with another short film that she shot in 2001, the founding year of the CHEAP Collective (with Daniel Hendrickson, Susanne Sachsse, Marc Siegel, and later Tim Blue, whose film SURFACE NOISE is also part of the program). Arsenal in-house pianist Eunice Martins, another Living Archive participant, entered into a musical dialogue with the archive in PIECES FOR THE ARCHIVE. The resultant video footage allows us to see a space we are all missing greatly right now: the Arsenal 1 cinema auditorium.

As part of our jitsi Q&A (28. and 29.5.), we will be speaking to her about her film accom-panying music. To round off the Q&As, we’ll also be playing a playlist exclusively put to-gether for this event by Vaginal Davis.

Until then, we’ll be spending our time with music by Margarita Fernández, Blixa Bargeld, Ricky Shayne, The Schlippenbach Trio, Kreidler, The Invisible Hands, Genesis P. Orridge, Leila Albayaty, Bengali Bauls, Puccini, Lena Horne, with the musical traditions of Palestine and the Emirates, Brazilian soundscapes, a melancholy folk song from Kuwait, jam sessions at a home studio, and the sound of analogue film material.

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Film Program arsenal 3 – week 9 & 10, 15. until 29. Mai 2020

MEDIUM (Edgardo Cozarinsky, Argentina 2020, OV/English ST, 70 min) is a film portrait of pianist and artist Margarita Fernández. Instead of retelling the story of a life, Edgardo Cozarinsky combines scenes of Fernández playing entire piano pieces with her reflections on music and art, memories of a specific concert, archive footage of performances in the 70s and encounters with her students. Brahms is the other protagonist of the film alongside Fernández, as everything seems to revolve around him for her: when she’s at the piano, in her stories and reflections, in her attempts to articulate what it means to make music, in her thoughts on passion. Fernández has an engagingly calm, intelligent and sensitive way of engaging with the world and the filmmaker and is more than an individual artistic personality in this film: Cozarinsky places her in an in-between space, making her visible as a mediator who builds bridges between the past and the present, between different generations, between scores and music, sounds and images and her art and that of cinema

EIN GLEICHES (Another One, Riki Kalbe, Barbara Kasper, Germany 1998, OV/English ST, 3 min) In September 1780, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote the poem “Over all the hilltops is quiet now” on the timber wall of a hunting lodge on Kickelhahn mountain in the Thuringian Forest. Already in Goethe’s lifetime, these verses had been set to music by all kinds of composers. The newest musical interpretation is composed by Blixa Bargeld for the short film EIN GLEICHES. The film was shot in September 1997 in the area of the same hunting lodge on Kickelhahn mountain in the Thuringian Forest.

SHAYNE (Stephan Geene, Germany 2019, OV/English ST, 120 min) (available from May 22)
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.

ABER DAS WORT HUND BELLT JA NICHT (But the Word Dog Doesn’t Bark, Bernd Schoch, Germany 2011, OV/English ST, 49 min) Can free jazz be transposed to film? Bernd Schoch accompanied the renowned Schlippenbach Trio on its annual winter journey, and also filmed them during concerts at the Jazzclub Karlsruhe from 2007 to 2010. However, his unusual film ABER DAS WORT HUND BELLT JA NICHT is neither the recording of a concert nor the conventional portrait of a band. While the three musicians – Paul Lovens on the drums, Evan Parker on saxophone and Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano – create their improvisations, the camera concentrates calmly on details such as the hands or head, or the intersection between the instrument and the body, where sound is created. Four musical sequences are separated by lyrical black and white images of the wintry landscape in passing. The musicians' thoughts are heard off-screen. This is a film which encourages listening and seeing and reveals what film and music can do with one another. (Birgit Kohler)

A MAGICAL SUBSTANCE FLOWS INTO ME (Jumana Manna, Germany 2016, OV/English ST, 68 min) In her film Jumana Manna considers the diversity of Palestinian and Eastern Jewish music in and around Jerusalem. The film was inspired by the work of German-Jewish ethnomusicologist Robert Lachmann, who explored the musical traditions in Palestine in the 1930s on his radio program "Oriental Music“, aired by the Palestine Broadcasting Service. The program presented songsbymembers of urban and rural Palestinian communities,Kurdish, Moroccan, and Yemenite Jews, Samaritans, Bedouins, and Coptic Christians. Decades later, the artist visits representatives of these manifold groups at their places of domicile in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and asks them to perform their music. A series of vignettes of her family home intercut these encounters, thereby embedding Manna’sown subjectivity within the larger historical narrative portrayed in the film.With empathy and humor, she traces the complex connections between physically and culturally segregated communities.Her work aims to make visible the intertwinement of these identities, resilient to the erasures and displacements enforced by the Zionist project. (Jumana Manna)

2+2=22 [THE ALPHABET] (Heinz Emigholz, Germany 2017, OV/English ST, 88 min) Worn-down pavements, broken paving stones. Trees that jut out of the concrete, casting shadows on to crumbling facades. The centre of Tbilisi in the summer of 2013. Glimpses of side and main streets, over railings and under balconies, of an architectural cacophony. The voiceover spoken by Natja Brunckhorst reflects on the nature of streets and public spaces. In an oak-panelled sound studio, the Düsseldorf band Kreidler records their album “ABC”. The drummer wears headphones; his drum kit is placed on a carpet whose colour matches the mosaic floor, which is covered with a tangled collection of cables and electronic equipment. Only the complex geometry of the soundproofed ceiling is white. The atmosphere is focused; the musicians often communicate without words. The third element between which the film cross cuts are the director’s familiar notebooks, being rapidly leafed through as always, with their close scrawl and the cinema tickets or catalogue clippings pasted inside. Each notebook carries a letter and they appear in alphabetical order. With this first part of the “Streetscapes”, Heinz Emigholz reboots his “Photography and beyond” series and opens up a fascinating new chapter. (Christoph Terhechte)

THE INVISIBLE HANDS (Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh, Greece, Egypt 2017, OV/English ST, 92 min) After landing in Cairo as a stranger shortly after the 2011 uprisings, maverick underground American/Lebanese musician and ethnomusicologist Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, Sublime Frequencies) teams up with three young Egyptian musicians to translate his old songs into Arabic. Under Bishop’s mentorship, this unlikely collaboration transforms into a band, “The Invisible Hands”. The film unfolds between the two crucial elections that marked the post Arab Spring period in Egypt. Structured around fly-on-the-wall scenes, archival ghost apparitions, absurd cameos, and poetic diary narrations by Bishop, the film juxtaposes the tragicomedy of politics and art-making in the so-called periphery.

PAPAL BROKEN DANCE (Marie Losier, 20081, OV, 6 min) In Memory of Genesis P. Orridge: A campy music video in the style of a scopitone from the early 1960s, with the wonderful cast of 10 boys in sexy red singlets and girls in red tutus, all joyfully dancing with Genesis P-Orridge in a boxing ring- all the ingredients for a slapstick boxing match in music.

BERLIN TELEGRAM (Leila Albayaty, Belgium, Germany 2012, OV/English ST, 79 min) Leila is a singer-songwriter who lives in Brussels. When the man she is in love with suddenly walks out on her for another woman, she leaves for Berlin to start a new life. The feature film debut of Albayaty is a musical road-movie that leads from Brussels to Berlin, Lisbon and Cairo. A story of crossing paths, re-learning to live, and opening herself up to the world.

HALF STEP (Joe Namy, Lebanon 2014, OV/English ST, 2 min) A single take from an improvised rehearsal for a dance documents a b-boy’s attempt to break to traditional Emirati folklore music. The documentation of this performance deconstructs specific aspects of sound and step within certain rituals in order to emphasize the fluid nature of the signified movement codified within traditions. In the process dance is traced as an art of erasure. The dancer’s actions take on new meaning reflecting how the ever-evolving nature of choreography (movement) can also create new ways of perception – ultimately asking: where does dance come from and to where does dance go?

INTERLUDIO (Gabraz Sanna, Brasil 2016, OV/English ST, 53 min) After arriving in a new city Vanessa and Duda are looking for soundscapes for their next project. The film follows the creative couple on their artistic process during a residency. The film follows the creative couple during a residency in their artistic process, their interaction, their discussions about concepts and (gender) politics. It seems Gabraz often opens his pictures by very slow and intense reflections on his subject.

SURFACE NOISE (Paul Rowley, David Phillips, Tim Blue, USA 2009, without Dialogue, 7 min) By re-programming instruments used in film restoration labs, the artists were able to digitally isolate the damaged elements of old film prints, the dust, dirt, and scratches. The selected material focusses on excerpts from the archives of cinema which depict political conflict, demonstrations, riots, and state interventions in public assembly. As the damaged images rush across the screen, interesting parallels emerge between the mechanics of cinema and patterns of social disturbance and unrest. The process of creating the soundtrack followed the making of the images.

WA WAILAH (Oh Torment, Monira Al Qadiri, Kuwait 2008, OV/English ST, 10 min) A series of repetitive choreographies are set to Abdul Wahab Al Rashid’s woeful folk song of love and lament. Complete with over-the-top costumes, props and make-up, OH TORMENT is lodged somewhere between a Shakespearean play and an MTV music video as rich and colorful contemporary visuals are mixed with traditional attire. Al Qadiri scrutinizes gender roles and conventions (be they social, musical or cinematic) by switching the roles of the sexes: thus the filmmaker herself plays the role of the male singer, while all of the female dancers are played by cross-dressing men.

SAID DEATH TO PASSION (Jeanne Faust, Jörn Zehe, Germany 2008, without Dialogue, 7 min) A singer stops singing in the middle of a song in order to follow an apparition into the garden: reciting a poem, receiving passion, failing.

EGARO MILE (Eleven Miles, Ruchir Joshi, India 1991, OV/English ST, 155 min) “You say you’re a Baul, then behave like a Baul!” as Indian singer Gaur Khepa, rockstar-like long hair, beard and attitude seemingly at odds with his sacred music, remembers being chastised. Tradition and contemporary practice of Bauls, Bengali mystic minstrels, are explored in Calcutta filmmaker and author Ruchir Joshi’s essay film. Baul music, rooted in Hinduism with elements of Sufism, sings of love, desire and the struggle to find – and stay on – the path to enlightenment. In addition to passing on classical verses of 19th century saint Lalon, Bauls pepper lyrics are with references to modern life such as electricity. In the late 1980s, when Joshi began the film, the West showed increased interested in Baul music, which inevitably impacted the culture, for better or worse. Joshi foregrounds his filmmaking process and draws upon Western thinkers such as Foucault as he follows Gaur, new talent Kartik and Mira Mahanta, a rare strong female presence. He captures mesmerizing performances, everyday life and family tragedy. The film often suspends time while heightening perception and critical reflection, perhaps an equivalent to the state Baul music strives to evoke. (Natalie Gravenor)

NOW! (Santiago Álvarez, Cuba 1965, without Dialogue, 5 min) Lena Horne gives a rendition of the Hebrew song “Hava Nagila” with altered lyrics – as a protest hymn in jazz form. By combining images from newsreels and photos of the struggle of North American black people during the events of August 1965 in California in counterpoint montage, Santiago Alvarez creates a call to arms against racism. Alvarez’s short film is edited to the rhythm of the song. Alvarez doesn’t see people as a product of their surrounding but rather as a historical “actors” very much capable of changing their living circumstances. It connects ideology and politics in brilliant fashion in line with Marx’s third thesis on Feuerbach (“The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” (Viennale/John Mraz)

TRE PUCCINI: PUCCINI CONSERVATO (Michael Snow, Italy, Canada 2008, OV, 10 min) uses a CD, a sound recording of some Puccini music (from La Bohème). The source of the sound (the loudspeakers) in a continuous hand-held panning (guided by the music), is intercut with shots of flowers or wood-fire, exemplifying the lyricism in Puccini's music. By being a recording of a recording, the work proclaims the artificiality of the sound. However the beauty and humanity of the music comes through too.

PIECES FOR THE ARCHIVE I-III (Live composition by Eunice Martins as part of Living Archive) was created between 2012 and 2016 as an exploration of the complex of film, sound and cinema or live sound and soundtrack. The reason for the first two compositions was the participation in the Living Archive project 2012-13. Three live compositions with short films from the Arsenal Archive were created. Based on these short films, which experiment with image and sound and their combination/absence, compositions were created live in the cinema space with selected musicians/performers, which reflect, dialogue, go their own way or pause.

Vaginal Davis Special
LA PETITE TONKINOISE (Vaginal Davis, Germany 2001, without Dialogue, 3 min)
When the days get long in Berlin, even the CHEAPies find their way to the roof, with a little help from Josephine Baker. One roof, one city, one shot.
WE MUST HAVE MUSIC! (Trailer, Vaginal Davis, Daniel Hendrickson)
Trailer for the program "Rising Stars, Falling Stars – We Must Have Music", curated by Vaginal Davis. The series took place at the Arsenal from 2011-2013 as part of the project "Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice".

This week we would like to thank the filmmakers and right owners Edgardo Cozarinsky & Constanza Sanz Palacios, Dr. Matthias Kalbe & Barbara Kasper, Stephan Geene, Bernd Schoch, Jumana Manna, Heinz Emigholz & Filmgalerie 451, Marina Gioti & Georges Salameh, Marie Losier, Leila Albayaty, Joe Namy, Gabraz Sanna, Paul Rowley & David Phillips & Tim Blue, Monira Al Qadiri, Jeanne Faust & Jörn Zehe, Vaginal Davis & Daniel Hendrickson, Ruchir Joshi, Audiovisuales ICAIC, Michael Snow & CFMDC und Eunice Martins.

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media