Living Archive for Children, with Children

For children, with children

"Living Archive for children, with children" is in principal open to learners of all ages. However, the project is explicitly geared towards children of primary school age since they have little access to challenging film education programs. And yet children are inquisitive watchers of film! Surprising encounters with moving images can help maintain or hone the diverse senses of perception they already have. “Living Archive for children, with children” wants to provide an alternative to purely commercial viewing possibilities so children do not unilaterally get used to the aesthetics of the image that are predominant today.

Experimental films for children

The project is focused on the comprehensive experimental film collection in the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art’s archive. Experimental films are generally not made for children, but they can profit greatly from watching them. Experimental films confront their viewers with an unusual view of things. They are often playful in their form and deal with questions of perception that intersect between film and other arts. These aspects mean that experimental films can serve as fertile ground for children’s attentive, yet not fully defined, senses of perception. The experimental film collection in the Arsenal’s archive is a rich treasure trove for all those interested in film and art. It makes sense to open it up for use in film education programs.

In the archive with children

The archive films made accessible to children have been screened and assigned to an appropriate age group. Thus, a pool of films with which children can experience film and the cinema in a different way has emerged. Instead of watching programs that are tailor-made for them, children are invited to make their own discoveries in the film archive. They are given the possibility to select their own films instead of watching films prescribed by adults. They can use index cards (one per film) to decide what film to watch on the day they visit the archive. They can either come for just one morning or they can have a whole project day or even several of them, as well as partake in various activities to do with the archive. The aim of the project is that a film program be put together by children for children. It will then be projected by the participants themselves at the Living Archive closing session in summer 2013.

“Is digital better?”

The "Living Archive for Children, with Children" project stemmed from the conviction that understanding and knowledge of analogue media have not fallen by the wayside in what has come to be known as the digital era. Analogue media help us understand what a moving image actually is: I can take a filmstrip in my hand and study the course of individual pictures. This I cannot do with a DVD. The fascination for analogue has not subsided either: Whenever a filmstrip is unspooled at an Expanded Cinema event or on other such occasions, children, young people and adults alike are attracted as if by magic. Enthusiasm for the material itself has been observed at many educational sessions at Arsenal or elsewhere. There was no stopping the children who participated in the "Kratzig" experimental film workshop in 2010 when they were told to paint and scratch 35mm filmstrips. They literally churned them out by the meter. On the second or third day of the project, a boy shouted out gleefully: "I could do this 24 hours a day."

At the cinema

Throughout the "Living Archive for children, with children" project, films are screened in cinemas, which offer the best conditions for perceiving and observing a film, and enable better concentration. If a film is watched in front of a computer screen or television, other things will come into the line of sight and deflect the attention. Moreover, the cinema creates a community which is often missing in children’s daily consumption of the media. It is not infrequent for them to sit alone in front of a computer or television. As the cinema is a space of social interaction, an exchange of impressions can take place and at the end it is certain that not everyone will have seen the same film. This is what is so great about film, and also what is so difficult as a film can be seen in such different ways. To find out something about cinema one has to watch films and find the courage to share impressions with others. Only then can one understand film and the cinema. No textbook can replace the experience of joint viewing.

16mm on tour

It is not infrequent that teachers cannot find other places than school to teach. In such cases, a school can also be transformed into a cinema. Many experimental films from the Arsenal collection are available as 16mm prints and they can therefore go on tour in Berlin and the surroundings thanks to mobile projectors. The school just needs to have a room that can be fully darkened. Thus early practices of watching film can be re-experienced in school – "old school is the new cool!" Before the days of the video recorder, each school had a 16mm projector that stood in the room. The rattling of the projector and the flickering of the images provided a particular experience that it is worth discovering anew or for the first time!

May 2012: Open film archive for teachers and educators
Until end of 2012: Internal film screenings and preparation for opening up the archive
January 2013: Open film archive for teachers and educators
January until May 2013: Open film archive for children, youths and young adults

Presentation of the project at Arsenal Cinema

(1) – (28) Exhibition of children's drawings at the Red Foyer, June 2013 ©Marian Stefanowski

Over 200 Berlin schoolchildren were able to gain an insight into Arsenal's film collection. They curated their own programs from short, mainly experimental, films in a playful way. They also drew their recollections of films. Stefanie Schlüter presented the results in an exhibition and three events for families and schools. Films, programs and drawings made by the children have be shown. They also provided live scores. The project was supported by the filmmakers Ute Aurand, Robert Beavers, Milena Gierke and the silent movie pianist Eunice Martins.

Films from Arsenal's archive

A MAN AND HIS DOG OUT OF AIR Robert Breer, USA 1957, 16 mm, 2 min
A MAN AND HIS DOG OUT OF AIR is a masterpiece of the metamorphosing line. It begins with elusive images of the wind, a bird, swirls, and movement, and ends with an amorphous image of an enormous man walking his dog around the circumference of the frame.

FADENSPIELE II Detel and Ute Aurand, Germany 2003, 16 mm, 8 min
Ute Aurand and Detel Aurand – two sisters, one a filmmaker, the other a painter – have created their second collaborative film. The film arose in the beech grove, on the rape field, in the bare woods of autumn, on the snowy path. Cloths are stretched out between trees, balls roll, stems get tangled – rectangles and squares form on the lines, and then little, cut out paper rectangles in the same colours make new forms.

FANTASMAGORIE Émile Cohl, France 1908, 16 mm, 2 min
FANTASMAGORIE is one of the earliest examples of traditional (hand-drawn) animation, and considered by film historians to be the first animated cartoon.

GERTIE THE DINOSAUR Winsor McCay, USA 1914, 16 mm, 12 min
Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality.

HORSE OVER TEA KETTLE Robert Breer, USA 1962, 16 mm, 8 min
HORSE OVER TEA KETTLE is a tour de force of line drawing technique that proceeds according to the law of continual transformation. We are reminded of the work of Emil Cohl as we see a hat turn into a bird, a bird into a man and a man into a frog. The film creates a world of gravityles space where characters and objects (ladies with umbrellas, angels, trees, houses) generally float up. (Village Voice, 1975)

IMAGINATION Mary Ellen Bute, USA 1957, 16 mm, 3 min
IMAGINATION is a lively and swift collage of animated and photographed images partly taken from earlier films, which was broadcasted in the popular Steve Allen Show.

LOOSE CORNER Anita Thacher, USA 1986, 16 mm, 10 min
A young man, a young woman, a boy and a dog, as well as several objects like balls, a box etc. take the audience on an 'adventure' to an impossible place, a 'loose corner'. There our perception and the assumptions we rely on are put to the test through visual impossibilities. (Anita Thatcher)

POR PRIMERA VEZ Octavio Cortázar, Cuba 1967, 35 mm, 9 min
A document of the "audiovisual alphabetization" of Cuba in the 1960s: Cortázar records the screening of a mobile cinema in a remote mountain village and shows the reactions of the inhabitants upon their first encounter with film, which was Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times".

RABBIT'S MOON Kenneth Anger, USA 1950/78, 16 mm, 7 min
Pierrot tries to reach the moon and Columbine, in vain, to the music of Andy Arthur.

RAINBOW DANCE Len Lye, UK 1936, 16 mm, 5 min
One of the earliest experimental colour shorts,this Post Office savings propaganda film is a colourful and surreal fantasy demonstrating why you should save for a rainy day.

VORMITTAGSSPUK Hans Richter, Germany 1928, 16 mm, 6 min
Objects (hats, cups, collars, etc.) momentarily take on a life of their own and rebel against man and the daily routine. As the clock strikes twelve, they return to their places.

Biography of Stefanie Schlüter