Living Archive

50 years after its foundation, the association Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art now boasts a film collection of over 8,000 titles. It reflects half a century of non-mainstream international film art and the living history of a Berlin institution whose structure is unique in the world. Since the beginning of 2011, large parts of the Arsenal’s work in Germany and abroad have been executed under the label “Living Archive”. We believe that an archive can only be significant if it refers to the practices of the present.

The first step in this process was to publish an online database. Following a project duration of two years, the results of the project Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice were presented in June 2013. Around 300 films from the Arsenal collection were presented in screenings, discussion events and performances as well as an exhibition. They were the result of the research and project development carried out by the 38 participating curators, artists, filmmakers and academics, as well as by four additional grant-holders from India, South Africa, Jordan and Brazil. The various different approaches and perspectives utilized to this end were brought together in a comprehensive catalogue containing texts from all the project participants.

In June 2013, the networking project Visionary Archive about African cinema and the current challenges facing film archives started. The project’s partners include the alternative film centre Cimatheque in Cairo, the independent cinema The Bioscope in Johannesburg, the filmmaker Gadalla Gubara’s archive in Khartoum, and the archive of the national film institute in Guinea-Bissau Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual (INCA). All partners will examine the question of what shape independent film and cinema practice can take today and what role archival work plays. Under the banner of "It all depends", regular events will take place using different formats at the Arsenal cinema. In spring 2015 the project will culminate in a comprehensive closing program in Berlin.

In conjunction with the Goethe-Institut, two three-month grants per year are awarded to international curators, who will then develop projects based on the archive’s holdings. Any necessary restorations and digitalization that come to light through their work will be carried out as far as possible. This enables their projects to be realized whilst securing the archive’s survival at the same time.