In spite of claims of its obsolescence, analog film is still alive. It continues to exist as an inimitable artistic medium, put to use in myriad forms around the world. Nonetheless, in the context of our ever-expanding digital landscape, analog film faces new challenges that have forced it into a process of deep transformation. What steps do we need to take to guarantee that analog film will remain as a living-breathing medium? What are the alternatives to the idea of film as an obsolete, historical object? What new forms will film take and what will that mean for the culture that surrounds it? How do we keep analog film in the Now?
Organised by LaborBerlin in cooperation with the Film Institute of the Berlin University of the Arts, Film in the Present Tense will bring together filmmakers, artists, programmers, technicians and representatives from museums, independent film labs and cinemas to address these questions and formulate ideas, possibilities and plans of action for keeping film current and alive. In addition to six panel discussions, there will be screenings and expanded cinema performances presenting some of the ways in which film continues to exist “in the present tense”.
PANEL 1: THE LOCK AND THE KEY
What is the purpose of the film archive? And perhaps even more importantly, who is it for? All over the world, the transformations within the film industry have forced film archives to reassess their roles. On the surface, the public discussion has focused on digital vs. analog with the advantages and disadvantages that each one entails. Bearing this in mind, with this panel we want to push beyond this discussion and look at the practical reality of numerous archives around the world. They have enormous collections of film and it is unclear what the future existence of this material will look like. Will it be left to decay in vaults and inadequate storage rooms or will it be a living, open resource to the public? What does an open, public archive look like? Can the archive be used to build a film audience? What place does the personal, the independent and the non-government archive occupy?
Dr. Anna Bohn (Filmothek der Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, Germany)
Tiago Ganhão (Cinemateca Portuguesa, Portugal)
Juana Suarez (New York University, US)
Mark Toscano (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, US)
PANEL 2: CHANCE, UNCERTAINTY, DECAY, FAILURE
It should not come as a surprise to anyone to hear that the knowledge of motion picture filmmaking is rapidly disappearing. However, until very recently the type of knowledge that was being put into practice was quite particular: one that functioned according to the technical demands and standards of the film industry.
The ontological nature of motion picture film prescribes another type of knowledge that at this present time has surged to the foreground and cannot be replicated by the digital; not only due to the mechanical properties of the medium, but also because of the philosophical underpinnings of the analog workflow. Choosing to work with analog film today, means having to reckon with the inherent qualities of the medium, which is to say, having to deal with – among others – chance, uncertainty, decay, failure, the non-standard and the impermanent. In our present time, adopting film as a medium implies the ability to create a very particular relationship with these qualities. What is the state of this knowledge right now? And where does its transfer take place? Is it in the independent lab, the university, the archive, the museum? How and in what form can the knowledge of motion picture film continue?
Nick Brandreth (George Eastman Museum, US)
Nicolas Rey (L’Abominable, France)
Philip Hoffman (Film Farm, Canada)
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus (Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Germany)
PANEL 3: THE INTERVENING SUBSTANCE
Film is a physical medium. As a perforated stripe coated with light sensitive emulsion it has a material existence. Although “film” is now used as conceptual support for various cinematographic events, its substance has been defined by its physical qualities as a carrier of moving images.
Since the material of film is no longer demanded at the massive industrial scales of the recent past, the numbers of film stock manufacturers and the variety of raw film formats have declined. Analog film has changed from a cheap mass product to a limited resource, to the point that rare types are hoarded and production strategies, which were once commonplace, are now impossible. At the same time, old emulsion recipes are being resurrected and entire production plants are being reactivated. Artists are producing their own film emulsions and experimenting with the basic ingredients of film at the artisanal level. In the face of these developments, how should we consider the materiality of film? Can analog film exist if its industrial production ceases completely? How does the relationship of artists to the concept of “analog” shape the way in which film moves forward as an artistic medium?
Nicola Baldini (FILM Ferrania, Italy)
Esther Urlus (Filmwerkplaats, Netherlands)
Emmanuel Lefrant (Light Cone, France)
Martin Reinhart (Filmmaker, Austria)
PANEL 4: EYES FOR THE MACHINE
For over a century, the ritual of film exhibition remained at its core unchanged: a dark room, a screen, an audience and a mechanical apparatus pulling a strip of film through a gate in front of a shuttered light. At present, however, the mechanical film apparatus is no longer at the center of the cinematic experience. While some seek to maintain its role within the cinema, the film projector has acquired new prominence in different settings: the museum, the gallery, the art space, and the music venue, among others. Although the experience of analog film projection continues to exist, these new locations suggest a transformation of its value and meaning. For both, artists and their audiences, the analog as a place of encounter continues to be redefined. Is there a sustainable future for analog projection? Which conditions are needed, and which projection sites are suited for its lasting subsistence? What kind of structures must be created to foment a knowledgeable and supportive audience?
Dr. Erika Balsom (King’s College, UK)
Katia Rossini (Kino Climates, Belgium)
Christoph Mondt (Filmprojektion Mondt, Germany)
PANEL 5: OLD BATTLES – NEW TREATIES
It was the existential question par excellence: analog or digital? Which format is more beautiful, faster, better? Until very recently, it seemed like the dispute had been settled with the digital emerging victorious.
The verdict went like this: in the short term, for the nostalgic, the qualities of analog film should be regarded as aesthetic ornaments which could easily be emulated by digital means. Eventually, the imminent arrival of a new generation of filmmakers, themselves digital natives, would finally make the digital supreme and the preeminence of analog film could be regarded as no more than a historical anecdote. But what if this means jumping to conclusions? What if this situation presents conditions for the beginning of a new cooperation? With analog film no longer subject to the requirements of the industry, is it possible to see a new space for the creative co-habitation of the digital and the analog? What form could this relationship take? Is there a possible analog-digital hybrid state and what could it mean for the production and distribution of moving images?
Prof. Dr. Siegfried Zielinski (Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, Germany)
Prof. Dr. Christa Blümlinger (Université Paris 8, France)
Guy Edmonds (University of Plymouth, UK)
Dr. Kim Knowles (Aberystwyth University, UK)
>> Berlin University of the Arts [Grunewaldstraße 2, 10823 Berlin]
FILM PROGRAM: THE PRESENT TENSE
A program of films that are and dare us to be of and in the present. Probing futures, presents and pasts, individual and collective, technological and societal, they offer glimpses of an analog film practice that – despite or precisely because of its perceived state of emergency – is as varied and vital as ever.
>> Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art [Potsdamer Straße 2, 10785 Berlin]
EXPANDED CINEMA: THE OPEN FRAME
The basic elements of projection – frame, screen, theater – have always been constructs, historically at the mercy of subjective propriety and commercial interests. For decades, the live manipulation of analog projection has provided artists with an opportunity to push beyond the physical limits of the traditional frame and the commercial screen. In this program, we present works that transform sound, image and space to create unrestrained, exuberant and wide-open cinematic events.
>> Circular Economy House [Rollbergstr. 26, 12053 Berlin]
Tickets are now available here!
Film in the Present Tense is the closing event of RE MI.
RE MI is a two-year European cooperation project run by Mire (Nantes, FR), WORM.Filmwerkplaats (Rotterdam, NL) and LaborBerlin (Berlin, DE), focused on the creation, preservation and circulation of technical knowledge of analogue film in order to support its use as a creative medium.
Congress language is English.