The archaeology of Film

The subject of this archeological research is the 16mm copy of the documentary WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE (USA 1980, R: Les Blank) that is in the Arsenal archive. The film shows director Werner Herzog cooking and eating his Clarks desert boots at a public performance in an American cinema. The archeological work involves examining the film's different contexts, as well as preparing a public presentation of the project results.

As opposed to films that are thought to have disappeared or have been found unexpectedly, where the opening of rusty film canisters, the rescuing from damp basements or the snatching from oblivion play a role and thus anticipate an archeological perspective, WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE is a typical "bonus film". Instead of disappearing, the film made a career as an add-on. In film seasons as well as on the DVD market, the film was predominantly relegated to the status of footnote. It effectively disappeared into the role of "add-on".

What happens if a film is removed from its cocoon of add-on and put in the spotlight? How does one reach it? What does one dig out? Which details of the history of film and cinema come to the surface? Which connections (from philosophy to art history to the world of consumers) reveal themselves?

The sub-project involves students taking part in the "Archeology of film and cinema: Theories and projects" course at the Freie Universität Berlin. A public presentation of the results could take place in January 2012. A continuation of the project, with the goal of publishing a book (e.g. a small reader about the archaeology of film without a DVD), would be feasible depending on the results. One could also think about purchasing a new film copy if this made sense and was financially feasible as part of the project.


Biography of Sabine Nessel