Living Archive @ silent green

silent green © Cordia Schlegelmilch

Finally! We've moved into our new home at silent green for lively archival practice. There are 10,000 films on the shelves, the editing suites are set up, on the walls are posters that Maria Eichhorn once made for her work 23 short films / 23 film posters that looked at our collection. Arsenal's past and present are acquiring a new perspective.

At silent green in Wedding, analogue and digital films can be watched and analyzed under professional supervision, surrounded by production, event, exhibition and seminar rooms. Like us, our new neighbors in the listed former crematorium, which include the Harun Farocki Institute, SAVVY Contemporary, Musicboard Berlin, the label !K7 and silent green itself, are planning the conceptional questioning and processing of production, presentation and participation of art and culture, for instance with a long-term project called "Film Feld Forschung" (Film Field Research).

The new spaces for thinking and exploring possibilities will expand the work in our two cinemas on Potsdamer Platz: The move will not only provide better storage but will strengthen the idea of a living archive. An archive is only as relevant as its relationship to the present and this consists more than ever in opening up to the world: We define Arsenal's archival practice as a "living archive" which always takes into account international (knowledge) production and reception.

Since the 1960s, the collection has been a mirror of a world in transformation and gradually films from Latin America, African cinema, the US avant garde, India's film landscape or Hong Kong cinema have been made accessible to audiences here in Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Arsenal purchased Soviet Army film stock that risked vanishing and in the past few years some 80 shorts and feature-length films from Arab countries have found their way into our collection.

"Time Helix", an installation by Mohammed A. Gawad © Gerd Mittelberg

Many films had been forgotten; others were ahead of their time and their significance is only now being discovered. They share a moment of utopia: Each film can be seen as an attempt at the aesthetics of cinema, and considered as social and political contemporary practice with a view to the future. Within this context, digitalization, restoration and making films accessible not only serve to tap into film history but also to re-evaluate it from a critical perspective as well as our self-reflection as a (Western) film institution that has built up the collection. With the audience, new connections and perspectives that reach beyond film work can be created.

We thank the founders of silent green Jörg Heitmann and Bettina Ellerkamp, without whose invaluable generosity and support this move would not have been possible. Thanks also to the Goethe-Institut, which enables fellows to conduct research in the Arsenal's archive, at the Harun Farocki Institute and within the framework of "Film Feld Forschung". We also thank all the participants of the projects "LIVE FILM! JACK SMITH! Five Flaming Days in A Rented World" (supported by HKF), "Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice" (KSB and Lotto-Stiftung Berlin) and "Visionary Archive" (KSB/TURN). They've all helped to ensure that are archive can be as "living" as possible. Thanks too to all those who helped set it up, especially Erika and Ulrich Gregor as well as all the filmmakers in the world whose precious works animate our archive.

Speech by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus at the opening of the Arsenal Archive on April 12, 2016 (download as PDF).

"Time Helix", an installation by Mohammed A. Gawad on the occacion of the Arsenal archive opening (download as PDF).