Realm of possibilities

(1) – (4) Forum Expanded 2012 ©Jane Katharina Di Renzo, (5) – (6) Forum Expanded 2012 ©Nanna Heidenreich

Archival Viewing Acts

at the Arsenal cinema (speculations about the invention and emergence of new subject constellations in cinema)
The first part of this project was presented at the Forum Expanded 2012.


Between 2009 and 2010, the "Möglichkeitsraum" (The Blast of the Possible) developed as three different formats: First, as a poster installation in Berlin's sculpture park, then as a film/performance for the Berlin Documentary Forum (BDF) and lastly as a stage set for the dance-theater play "As If".

In the BDF's "Möglichkeitsraum", we discussed the likely statements a "new archivist" might make about an archive whose life he/she knows and is working upon. Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Brian Holmes and Bettina Knaup were invited to imagine themselves in the role of the new archivist, whom Gilles Deleuze invented via Michel Foucault by associating his revolutionary 20th-century political concepts with the life of a document in an archive. The new archivist who, according to Deleuze, can say something about a story's possibility and truth, does not want to obtain the statements (virtually recorded facts or statements) that he or she finds in the archive by using lateral or vertical methods. Series and sequences (the sequence of films) are not so important and nor are stratification machines (e.g. the analysis of all films that begin with an A or can be brought together under keyword X, or the statement AZERT that might be encountered when using the keyboard of a typewriter etc). The new archivist seeks the statement along a diagonal or transversal line, amid the construction plans and segmentations of an archive (its constituent practice and its institutional and material existence). This statement releases shapes, pathologies and systems into the realm. It creates genealogies on the basis of generative transitions. It is at the same time a statement about the film archive itself and can say something about what is possible and real in a story, about the possible memory politics of the impending media society. For Deleuze, the emission of a statement (which for Arsenal could mean the screening, programming and promotion of a film) is the emission of singularities in a corresponding realm. Foucault (in the spirit of Deleuze) did not care whether this meant the first emission of a statement or a repetition or reproduction. What was important was the congruity of the statement: between the moment of original formulation and the uttering decades later or a sentence that is more or less rendered in exactly the same way, "it (the statement) does not establish a hierarchy of values" (in the sense of morality) but allows for a regularity to be established (sameness in difference) and thus the assertion of the transmission and genealogy of the statements (What is a document at different times?). The new archivist examines the zone of the possible story as a potential, autonomous structure that cannot be attacked by governments and is not consumed by the schedule of topicality, but instead understands the transitions between phases and the probability of rules.

To examine the statement, the immediacy and the rules of a zone that a film brings with it when it comes into the archive means that a film has to be thought of in terms of its actualization and furthermore that the live aspects of the archive have to be dealt with.

The statement not only concerns the scene, what happened before or alongside the camerawork, the relationship between sound and image or the war machine of cinema, but also the space in which it is emitted (the cinema, the media, an exhibition space, the audience, the discursive spaces of film, the further processing of the image or its re-use, the life of a film after being screened, the route to being stored, the margin notes on its archiving etc.).

The "Möglichkeitsraum" (The Blast of the Possible) for the Living Archive project

picks up on the format used for the BDF film/performance. Once again, a film editing table will be placed on the stage and will be filmed during the performance, alongside the film and video projection. Thus the cinema will be transformed into a post-editing or screening room. Therefore, the room in which the construction usually takes place before the moment of presentation will be turned back into a production space in the representation space. The archaic and theatrical function performed by the cinema stage (performance) will be combined with the zone of association (control desk, montage) and screening. The relationship between the clash of different timeframes (cinema and performance), which in the history of cinema has been celebrated as a progressive moment towards advanced consciousness (expanded cinema), but has also cropped up as a regressive element of porn cinema, is performative.

In the Living Archive project, the cinema will give way to the realm of possibilities for performative archival viewing acts. The film (its current interpretation, its possible past and its power for the future) in the archive (its arrival, stay and disappearance) will become a live performance through the act of being seen. The format will be developed prior to the performance.

Developing the format

In order to further develop the cinema stage that has already been expanded by a 16/35 mm editing table and double video projections, we are mapping all "in and output relations" between the Arsenal cinema and the editing table. The idea is to explore the stage with its trapdoors (stage effects, special effects) and the technical possibilities for the montage/performance because in the realm of possibilities the stage is understood as a collective mental space that constitutes the group subject but only wants to be understood in the cinema itself.

An audio or sound recording in the cinema will allude to the archive: Audios recorded in post-screening Q&As or panels play a very important role for us and the Arsenal's sonic archive could become the basis for the development/composition of new audio tracks, which would refer to the sound/image relationship in the archive on the one hand, and on the other to the Arsenal's design (for example, the recording studio behind the screen in Cinema 1 that will also be a production space for our project).

Film did not only emerge from theater and it also serves other dramas than those of the theater. When Arsenal was designed, a cinema stage with entrances and exits, a screen and a stage were also allowed for next to the archive. The building's screening room, the goods elevator behind the projection room, the recording studio behind the screen in Cinema 1, etc, are all being examined for possible associations in the cinema (e.g. windows of light and loud doors, electronic access to sound and image in the cinema, cables, microphones etc.). The work on the editing table will also deal with the opening and closing scenes of the film, searching through a film during playback and this will be documented on video and can then be integrated into the performance: A live making-of a searching-for.

Another way to bring together the cinema and archive's history and architecture productively is to find filmic equivalents for all the above-mentioned openings, corridors, trapdoors, lifts etc. (in a cinematic narrative, in a visual composition, in a dramatic resolution, in a dialogue between two protagonists), and to "project" them – whether symbolically or for real – onto the building. The work on the "access and departure" to and from the Arsenal archive, as well as on the "transmission" (of statements, i.e. films) will describe the "life of the film" beyond the borders of sound and image, beyond the planning of the image production at the level of the maker’s fabrication or experiment. The distribution of the film (festival, seminar etc) describes the cinema as a sensor of events and time with its windows of experience and pro/regressive time-spaces. After the Arsenal cinema has been mapped, the "realm of possibilities" will be thought of as a film/performance stage for screening and projecting specific films.


Continuing our work in the BDF with Stefanie via Arsenal (feminism/film/festival), I/we would like to continue watching films that deal with technical production or the history of the media, and body production. If cinema is considered a realm of possibilities for highlighting new constellations of subject, then to show a film (in a festival or at a political event) becomes a ritual procedure, during which different body constellations (positions) and mental worlds (cosmologies) are projected upon us. Mediality in a cinema can be understood as a schizophrenic/oedipal trick of modern bodies, like in 1970s film theory, in which the production/consumption is dividing into the opposing poles of audience/production. However, this polarization has to be problematized. (Is there a false life in film and in the cinema? Etc.) One can understand cinema as a production space, in which the relationships function in a "schizogamic" manner (i.e. in the way a body produces other bodies by when certain parts of it are detached). The cosmology of "schizogamy" is thus an enabler of different, subjective constellations whose position claims the invention of post-feminism (2007, Elisabeth von Samsonow, Anti-Electra).

The cinema as a production space construes machine-subjectivities with means that experimental film and media art have frequently deployed. What is the moment when subjectivity in a cinema that is linked to an archive is produced? How is the moment that new subject constellations emerge articulated in the time-dramaturgy of a cinema whose history is shaped by the archive?

By associating the woman/machine potentials feminist film highlighted the consistency level of technical and social development that then became central to philosophy (the becoming-woman of production, desiring machines etc.) What does the schizogamic relation (production of bodies from the body as a position of knowledge) in its non-heteronormative history of production? To link the statement to the fabric of statements is to claim an autonomous production zone of statement. (Hereby, performativity is at certain moments a realized form of technological history.) The emergence or invention of new subject positions is considerably more autonomous than one might have imagined. The expression of these inventions is transversal, alive, animistic and magical, which means it is both a technical invention and the invention of a potential sociality at once. Thus expressivity can thus not only be found in the film but also in the combination of film/audience or film/production/archive, and the cinema consequently becomes a production space, or even a post-production space. The subject positions that agitate within this space are ritual, mechanical, virtual and performative. They accompany the cinema with a not yet realized story of collective articulation, which breaks with the theater but makes the break, which the theater claims as a cosmic construction plane for itself, a constituent part of the psyche's narrative. Therefore, it is the cinema which introduces the notion of a collective emotional construction plane into the history of psychoanalysis. With such places, a cosmology remains within reach in the city (Berlin) and thanks to the Arsenal cinema it is open and can be experimented with.

Berlin, 18.11.2011

Biography of Angela Melitopoulos