Nine years ago Catherine Cormon, the current head of the collections management department, had a dream to obtain a winding bench that would be suitable to deal with compromised and decomposed film materials. The purpose of such a table is to reduce exposure to noxious gasses that are created by both acetate and nitrate film materials and a purpose-built winding table would then allow staff and volunteers to work in relative safety.
The move of the collections department from Vijfhuizen to the Collection Centre has given the department the opportunity to finally commission a customized ventilated winding table. This commission was given to local craftsman Kees Malingré of Profgear who specializes in building equipment for audiovisual uses such as our winding bench.
To make the new table Kees reused materials from an old winding table and repurposed the plates, winding mechanism and the meter counter/ruler. He then created the body of the table from scratch and attached a Plexiglas hood to protect the operator. Kees also designed a ventilation system in the back of the table to suck the noxious air and filters the gasses up a separate ventilation shaft.
As well as installing the new ventilation system Kees added a frame counter and reader to the table. The counter reader was an old broken machine that was fixed especially for the table and the counter mechanism was also repurposed from another broken table. One of the greatest (and funniest) features of the table is that the counter mechanism can be switched in and out of the path of the winding film by simply rotating plates. This movement allows the operator the freedom to handle delicate films in the way they best see fit without encourage further perforation damage.
The key lesson learnt in the creation of this table is that old tables and broken technology can be repurposed for future film handling materials and technology. Therefore, it is necessary to hold onto those bits that can help in the creation of new interesting and helpful winding tables and more.
While a new ventilated winding table might not be the most exciting thing to happen to most people, for us in a the collection management department this is a great day. We will be able to better manage and process our materials in a safer environment as well as having a new shiny toy to play with. We thanks Kees for his diligent work and we look forward to attending to our ‘nasty’ nitrate collection in relative safety.
By Krystel Brown, student intern at the EYE Collections Management Department.Tag:machine, toxic, damaged film, decay, ontbinding, safety, nitraat, nitrate film
This summer, Fleur van der Woude and Juliet Baines carried out a challenging conservation treatment of a huge, beautifully designed film poster from 1931 in the film related collections of the EYE Filmmuseum. The poster was in a terrible condition when it arrived in the conservation studio, but it returned to the museum fit for handling and display!
Fleur and Juliet are post graduate book and paper conservators in training at the department of Conservation and Restoration of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). This blog post will take you through their experiences and will touch upon some of the challenges they encountered.
Unfolding the folds
The poster arrived at the conservation studio folded. Due to tears and brittleness, it was impossible to handle the paper without causing more damage. When carefully unfolded the poster turned out to measure an impressive 240 cm in width and 160 cm in height. The lithograph depicts a lady in a bright red jumpsuit kicking a grey cooking pot. The text on the poster is all printed in black. The use of only three colours gives the poster a minimalistic look while the composition is lively due to the body movement of the lady in red. The poster is from a French comedy called ‘Nicole et sa Vertu’ that was released in 1931. The poster itself dates from around the same time. To make handling and viewing of this attractive poster possible, a conservation treatment had to be carried out. Tearing of the paper meant the poster was now in four parts while it was initially compiled of two halves that could be attached using a pasting strip in the middle. However, the pasting strip showed no sign of it ever being used, indicating the two halves of this poster were never adhered together. Therefore, the decision was made to keep the two halves apart. The size of the two halves, both 120x160 cm, still meant the conservation treatment was a challenge for the two conservators, demanding a creative use of tools, space and workforce.
Exciting times for ‘the lady in red’
First, the paper was washed to remove degradation products and strengthen the paper. Next, a lining of Japanese paper was adhered to the back of the poster using wheat starch paste. For lining of the poster a flat surface was needed. None of the tables available in the studio turned out to be big enough. Particle board was cut to size and covered with a sheet of Melinex®, a transparent polyester foil, to create a big enough flat surface to work on. After a first lining, Japanese paper and starch paste was used to fill in missing areas and reinforce tears. Finally, a second lining was applied.
The Japanese paper used for the lining weighs 6 grams per square meter, which is extremely thin. In comparison, the paper generally used in printers weighs 80 grams per square meter. The decision to line the poster with this type of paper was based on previous conservation treatments on film posters in Eye’s collection carried out by Art Conservation Europe. These posters were machine-lined with 6 grams Japanese paper and had gained a lot of strength while maintaining their original thickness and flexibility as much as possible. Also, the writing or printing on the back of these posters is still visible through the thin lining paper.
The choice for lining by hand with extremely thin Japanese paper in combination with the size of the poster, meant the lining had to be made up out of thirty smaller sheets of paper instead of one single sheet. After the first lining, a second lining was applied to prevent undesirable tension because the orientation of the paper fibres of the second lining was positioned perpendicular to the orientation of the fibres in the first lining.
To apply the pasted Japanese paper to the back of the poster, a Japanese lining technique was used. The lining paper is placed on a flat surface and with a special, traditional Japanese brush, the thin paste is applied evenly. Then, a corner of the pasted paper is lifted and adhered to a wooden stick. The stick is used to lift the paper and to place the paper onto the object. While one hand holds the stick horizontally, the other hand positions the edge of the pasted lining paper on the back of the object. Because of the extremely thin and fragile lining paper, a second set of hands was needed to accurately position the paper. But even with two pairs of hands, the two conservators could be heard whispering to one another, wishing for a third pair!
After drying under light weights to flatten the paper, retouching was carried out using water colour pencils. The water colour pencil was only applied in the areas where the Japanese paper lining was visible through a hole in the original poster. Here, the white Japanese paper was retouched to a yellowish brown close to the colour of the original paper to make the repair less visible. In consultation with Soeluh van den Berg, curator and head of the film related collections at EYE, it was decided to be modest in retouching and allow the age of the material to be visible. The same goes for the brown chequered pattern caused by degradation of the folding lines, as well as the discolorations caused by fatty components in the printing ink created in areas where ink and paper were in direct contact when folded. Both patterns of discoloration are still clearly visible on the poster. Removing them would require a more invasive approach using bleaching techniques that would weaken the paper in these areas even more. Although, by some viewers, these areas with stronger discolouration might be experienced as distracting, they are part of the history of the object as they show what the poster has been through.
A bright future in a dark archive
The poster is now stored in the archive of EYE. In the archival storage, a stable climate of around 18 °C and a relative humidity of around 50% is maintained to slow down the degradation of the materials. Light is only turned on when staff members need to handle objects in storage. The poster is stored in a folder made of acid-free cardboard with sheets of TST® interleaving between the two halves of the poster. This prevents more discolouration as the interleaving keeps the printing ink from being in direct contact with the paper on top. The folder is kept in a big drawer where the object is stored flat. After conservation, this poster has a future again, and it has helped two young paper conservators to gain more experience in dealing with a fragile and oversized object.
Photography and image editing by Juliet Baines, Fleur van der Woude and Nick Kuijpers.
Text by Juliet Baines, Fleur van der Woude (editor) and Aafke Weller (editor)
This year, me and several other interns worked together with Silent Film curator Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, with the goal to completely inspect, identify and register the films to the EYE Collection database and from there, see what choices needed to be made in terms of preservation, restoration and presentation. The start of this project and process of nitrate identification were already discussed in an earlier blogpost. Now that we have finished registering all the nitrate elements of this collection, let’s discuss our findings, provide you background information on the origins of this collection and unveil the treasures we encountered!
Biographical background and naming the collection
This collection originally belonged to Mr. van der Molen, and was donated to the EYE Filmmuseum back in 2013 by an acquaintance of the van der Molen family, Gerard Manshanden. Mr. Van der Molen was a film projectionist and collector from the Dutch city Den Helder; where he worked as projectionist for the marine until the onset of WWII. Generally speaking, he mostly created personal film screenings for private clients, ranging from showing films at children’s parties to screening more ‘erotic’-oriented materials for adults. After he passed away, Gerard Manshanden, an acquaintance from the local film theatre, was asked to sort out the large collection of films which were kept in the house and several garages.
The collection consists of safety materials of all kinds; mostly erotic films from the 1970s, but also newsreels, amateur films, 35mm films and reductions on 16mm (both fiction and non-fiction). Our initial acquisition entry mentions items ranging from “Laurel and Hardy” to “Waterskiing people in Bali”. Among those (roughly) 800 cans, approximately 150 cans turned out to contain nitrate stock. All of these materials were delivered to the archive at separate times: the first items came to EYE in 2013, whereas the last ones arrived in 2015, when another garage belonging to mr. van der Molen was discovered.
All the nitrate materials known within this collection have now been processed and registered. Further down, you will find a list of the silent films from this nitrate collection.
Pictures of the delivery of the cans to EYE Filmmuseum’s former location Vijfhuizen, back in 2013.
Findings, statistics and conclusions regarding this collection
Though, as mentioned, the complete collection including the safety material consisted of an estimated 800 cans, we assessed and looked through 150 cans of what was considered to be nitrate materials. From these 150 cans we found and have registered 88 unique or individual titles into the database Collection EYE. 85% of these titles have been identified, while 15% remain unidentified. The nitrate films are mostly silent: 70% vs. 30% sound films. The films are mostly fictional; 67% fiction vs. 33% non-fiction. Around 55% of the films were either complete or ‘complete enough’, and the length of these films varies anywhere between very short fragments, up to a complete film of six reels.
In terms of origins, most of the films were from the 1910s; 33% to be exact. The peak seems to be 1918; with 7 titles produced in this year. 25% is from the 1920s, and 19% from the 1930s. The oldest film we looked at was from 1905 (the Pathé title Les petits vagabonds) and the ‘youngest’ films we found in this batch were from 1959 and they were mostly Polygoon journals and fragments from safety colour films, such as The Nun Story with Audrey Hepburn. Most of the silent films were also in colour, often tinted, but several also containing toning and stencilling or a combination of tinting and black and white. Regarding their national origins, the films mainly were from the United States (around 40%) followed by France (19%), the Netherlands (14%), and Germany (10%). We also found films from Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Belgium and Great-Britain.
One particularly interesting example regarding the origins of the films, is a German-Austrian co-production; between Messter film (based in Berlin, and one of the largest film producers and distributors at the time), and Sascha Film, one of the main Austrian film producers in the silent era. However, the collaboration between the two and the use of their logo together on the intertitles was not something the curators had seen before and seemed quite unique. This film was also specifically compelling because it features Henny Porten, one of the major silent film stars from Germany. The film was identified as Gräfin Küchenfee (with the Dutch copy title being De keukenmeid als gravin) from 1918, and is written by Robert Wiene (of Das Cabinet des dr Caligari-fame), who is often also wrongly credited as this film’s director. The story features Porten in a double role: she plays the kitchen maid/aspiring actress Karoline Blume, trying to copy the behaviour of the countess she works for in order to study for a role. The part of this countess Gyllenhand is of course also taken up by Porten and strikingly, we see her in a comic role in a story of ‘mistaken identity’; a truly fascinating find in this collection.
The Sascha Film and Messter Film logos/initials are visible at the top of the frame / Henny Porten in her double role as both the kitchen maid/aspirational actress Karolina Blume and the Countess Gyllenhand in Gräfin Küchenfee (1918)
In terms of physical condition, some cans contained rust and several reels were affected by nitrate decomposition, mould, bacteria and in a few exceptional cases also such heavy decay (in its last stage) that the parts of the reel could not be saved, though overall the films were in very good condition. Regarding genre and themes, the films also vary considerably. Most of the films with USA origins seem to be comedies, such as Mustered Out (1920, formerly presumed lost) featuring Charlie Chaplin imitator Billy West, two Alice Laugh-O-Grams, a romantic comedy about newlyweds titled The Honeymoon Pact (1915) and also two films with a role for Cameo the Dog! In Asleep at the Switch (1923) Cameo plays checkers with Ben Turpin, while in in Nip and Tuck (1923) he cheats at a game of cards. Also from French territory came several comedies: the Max Linder comedy Pédicure par amour (1908), Le homard (1912) featuring Léonce Perret, the trick film La villa aux surprises (1912) about a thief being ‘locked in’ by the house he is trying to rob, and a compilation of several Willy Sanders films (titled De snaackse avonturen van Willie). Several American animations were also discovered, such as Colonel Pepper’s Mobilized Farm (1917), Inklings (1924) and the Mutt and Jeff animation ‘Lots of Water’ (1925).
Behind the scenes photograph (provided by Steve Massa) of the ‘lost’ film Mustered Out (1920), featuring Chaplin-imitator Billy West
Several westerns appeared in the collection as well, such as South of Santa Fe (1919) featuring Texas Guinan (one of the first movie cowgirls) and we also found (in a heavily decayed reel) a very short fragment from one reel of the 18-chapter adventure serial Hands Up (1918), which is sadly still considered lost and from the promising poster-material, it seems sad we found these fragments in a heavily decayed reel, leaving it only up to the imagination what else could or might have been there before.
Regarding non-fiction, we found a beautifully (pink) tinted and stencilled 1912 Pathé film named Printemps fleuri (already mentioned in our last post), several (excerpts of) travelogues, a film featuring the crowning of a sultan in the Dutch Indies, and a film documenting an ice skating match in Den Helder in 1916, the city in North-Holland where Mr. van der Molen lived.
Also striking are several films featuring themes that could be considered ‘exotic’ or featuring (from our contemporary point of view) eccentric elements: Die Kaukasierin (1917) is about a detective Joe Deebs (Max Landa) trying to uncover the truth behind a girl from ‘Caucasia’, the deceased wife of an engineer who turns out to have mysteriously faked her own death to elope with someone else, while in Romance and Brass Tacks (1918) we see a woman idealising a Russian violinist and fantasising about becoming Russian princess, only to be faced by ‘reality’ when she discovers the manners of this man are actually very far removed from her own romantic ideals. In the travelogue film Kudowa: Een heilzaam oord voor hartlijdenden (origins unclear), we are presented with the‘healing’ radioactive waters for those visiting the spa resort Kudowa, while in the Danish (formerly lost) drama I Opiumets Magt, (1918) one of the characters tricks his prospective father-in-law into trying opium, with the intention of making him an addict and inheriting his fortune. The on-screen smoking and subsequent hallucinations of his deceased daughter, lead him into despair.
A woman imagining herself a Russian ‘princess’ in Romance and Brass Tacks (1918)
Opium smoking in I Opiumets Magt (1918)
Despite our efforts and the high percentage of identified titles, some films still remain unidentified, even though we do hope that we will learn more about them in the near future. One interesting example is Het geheimzinnige huis (given title), of which the story was not entirely clear to us, as the film was incomplete and the beginning reel(s) seemed to be missing, the two reels of this film we found featured (again) intriguing elements: a secret passageway leading from one house to the next, doppelgängers, several cases of ‘unmasking’, a safe that can be accessed from a secret corridor, a painting that figures a secret door, resulting in a mysterious tone to it, not quite in German expressionist style, but almost like a film noir avant la lettre. Also in terms of origins it seems hard to determine where this film is from: no indications of setting, backgrounds, streets and looks of the actors gave us a clear indication or ‘marker’ of production country.
Frames from the mysterious film ‘Het geheimzinnige huis’
Next to several of these unidentified films, we also had to register about 10 cans as ‘collective’ cans, containing small bits and pieces of loose (unidentified) fragments that did not seem to belong to any of the other films we viewed. In some cases, these fragments consisted of just one frame, while in other they were short reels of up to 75 metres. For us it is important to keep these fragments, because EYE’s collection policy requires that all nitrate materials which are not fully decayed will be kept. Secondly, because some of these might still be identified later on, if someone wants to return to these cans and do more research and thirdly, interesting fragments might be used for EYE’s Bits & Pieces compilations, in which new compilations are made from unidentified fragments that otherwise would not really be shown, re-used or actively preserved or restored in any other way. Nonetheless, all of the films and also these ‘collective’ cans have been registered with their own entry in the database Collection EYE on both ‘filmography’ and ‘copy’ level, as well as with a full report in the curator’s database.
Dealing with cans of loose ‘fragments’, often unidentifiable
Complete list of the silent films and future preservation projects
Please note that this list only contains the silent film titles in this collection. The films are listed in chronological order, and the titles in brackets are ‘given' titles. All films are positive prints, identified and either complete or ‘complete enough, unless stated otherwise.
· Les petits vagabonds (FR, 1905), fiction
· Pédicure par amour (FR, 1908), fiction, incomplete
· Les oiseaux dans leurs nids (FR, 1910), non-fiction
· Soldat et Marquise (FR, 1910), fiction
· De snaackse avonturen van Willie (FR, 1911-1913), compilation: consists of Willy arrête les pendules (FR, 1913), Willy veut monter à cheval (FR, 1912), Willy professeur de gymnastique (FR, 1911) and one unidentified William ‘Willy’ Sanders-film
· Gorki (DK, 1912), fiction, incomplete
· Le homard (FR, 1912), fiction
· Le mouchoir de Bigorno (FR, 1912), fiction
· Printemps fleuri (FR, 1912), non-fiction
· La villa aux surprises (FR, 1912), fiction
· The Man Who Knew (US, 1914), fiction
· The Honeymoon Pact (US, 1915), fiction
· Jane's Declaration of Independence (US, 1915), fiction
· De kleine detectief (DE?, 1915?), fiction, unidentified
· Love, Speed and Thrills (US, 1915), fiction, incomplete
· A munkászubbony (HU, 1915), fiction, incomplete
· One Damp Day (US, 1917), fiction
· Heldersche IJsfeesten. Wedstrijd op Lange Baan. (NL, 1916), non-fiction, unclear whether complete, unidentified
· Never again, Eddie! (US, 1916), fiction
· Colonel Pepper's Mobilized Farm (US, 1917), fiction, incomplete
· Gräfin Küchenfee (DEU/OST, 1918), fiction
· I Opiumets Magt (DK, 1918), fiction
· Kaukasierin, Die (DE, 1917), fiction
· Lucien, Lucette (FR, 1917), fiction
· Secret Servants (US, 1917), fiction
· [Héléne & Baron Edgard de Relais] (FR/DE?, 1918?), fiction, incomplete, unidentified
· L'avarizia (IT, 1918), fiction, incomplete
· Frauen, die der Abgrund verschlingt (DE, 1918), fiction, incomplete
· Hands Up (US, 1918), fiction, incomplete
· Our Mrs. McChesney (US, 1918), fiction
· Romance and Brass Tacks (US, 1918), fiction
· Foxtrott-Papa (DE, 1919), fiction
· Koffie (US, 1919), non-fiction, unidentified
· South of Santa Fe (US, 1919), fiction
· [Het geheimzinnige huis] (ES?, 1920?), fiction, incomplete, unidentified
· Mustered Out (US, 1920), fiction, incomplete
· The Toll Gate (US, 1920), fiction, incomplete
· De watervallen van het schoone graafschap Devon (GB, 1920), non-fiction
· Freiburg in Breisgau (?, 1920s?), non-fiction, unclear whether complete, unidentified
· Kudowa. Een heilzaam oord voor hartlijdenden. (?, 1920s?), non-fiction, unidentified
· [Matadi en Kinshasa] (?,1920s?), non-fiction, incomplete, unidentified
· Chalumeau serrurier par amour (FR, 1921), fiction
· Put and Take (US, 1921), fiction, incomplete
· Asleep at the Switch (US, 1923), fiction, unclear whether complete
· Nip and Tuck (US, 1923), fiction
· Alice and the Dogcatcher (US, 1924), fiction
· Alice the Peacemaker (US, 1924), fiction
· All Night Long (US, 1924), fiction, incomplete
· Inklings (US, 1924), fiction
· Trailing Trouble (US, 1924), fiction, incomplete
· De voetbalwedstrijd Holland - België 1-1 (NL, 1924), non-fiction, incomplete, unidentified
· Kleuren-Cinematographie (?, 1925), non-fiction, compilation
· [Kroning van Sultan Amaluddin Sani Perkasa Alam Shah van Deli, Sumatra] (NL, 1925), non-fiction, incomplete, unidentified
· ‘Lots’ of Water (US, 1925), fiction
· Die Schafräude und ihre Bekämpfung! (DE, 1925), non-fiction, incomplete
· Versailles (FR, 1925), non-fiction
· Wanzen (DE, 1925), non-fiction, incomplete
· En promenade sur le Bosphore (FR, 1928), non-fiction
· The Showdown (US, 1928), fiction, incomplete
· The Unknown Rider (US, 1929), fiction
· The Gorilla Mystery (US, 1930), fiction, incomplete
What will then be the future of these films?
Several upcoming projects have already been initiated. The Hungarian film A munkászubbony (1915), featuring famous Hungarian actor Gyula Hegedűs will be sent to our colleagues at the Hungarian National Film Archive. This was one of the first discoveries back when we started identifying the films in February and was subsequently picked up by Hungarian media. Two previously presumed ‘lost’ Danish films, I Opiumets Magt (1918) and Gorki (1912, an intriguing yet incomplete detective drama) will be preserved in collaboration with our colleagues at the Danish Film Institute. Jane’s Declaration of Independence (1915) will be also restored in collaboration with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the city in which parts of this film were shot. As we only recently finished identifying this whole collection, we hope that many other institutions will follow in collaborating with us in preserving and showing these films, so hopefully some of these titles will be screened in a theatre close to you in the near future!
Conclusively, it is amazing to consider that these kinds of collections are still being found to this day, containing films of over a hundred years old and some of which are often still in very good conditions. Though film collectors (and especially those who own nitrate film) might slowly be becoming a ‘dying breed’, our work in processing and identifying nitrate films is nowhere near done. Almost 80% of silent films are considered lost, but collections like this one give us hope that some of those lost films might still be found today!
Finally, we would like to thank the family van der Molen and Gerard Manshanden for donating this collection to the EYE Filmmuseum, and also express our gratitude to Annike Kross, and the student interns Nicholas Avedisian-Cohen, Aleksas Gilaitis, Olivia Stutz and Julie De Wispelaere for all their hard work in helping us identify and register this collection.
Written by Ilse van der Spoel (intern EYE Collections) and Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (curator Silent Film)
This year EYE is bringing the record number of thirty films to the Giornate del Cinema Muto!
The biggest and longest running silent film festival of the world hosts more than a thousand guests in its immens theater, and is also the place where the international silent film crowd gets together to watch silent films with live music, from 9AM till after midnight. There are daily musical masterclasses, book launches and presentations by archive specialists.
EYE will also present a ‘dialogue’ on Monday (Oct. 2nd) about the recently acquired Van der Molen/Manshanden nitrate collection. The collection has already drawn international attention since the first weeks of its registration, through the discovery of the lost Hungarian film A Munkazsubbony from 1914.
Among the EYE highlights, there is the world premiere of The Reckless Age (US, 1924) on Monday, restored by NBC/Universal from a unique nitrate print found at EYE, through our collaboration project with the National Film Preservation Foundation.
The yearly Desmet Collection screening is called 'For a Better Vision' and is dedicated to films about ‘blindness’. In addition, also our recently discovered and restored film Petite Simone (FR, 1918) will be screened for the first time.
The other EYE films are spread among the other sections of the festival, like the European Westerns, and mainly the ‘Nasty Women’ where we have 16 films!
List of all EYE films on the program:
EARLY EUROPEAN WESTERN:
Coeur Ardent (FR, 1912)*
Sulla via dell'oro (IT, 1913)*
Nel paese dell'oro (IT, 1913)*
RECOVERED & RESTORED:
Reckless age, The (US, 1924) restored by NBC/Universal through NFPF
The Right to Happiness (US 1919) Dutch intertitles
Petite Simone (FR, 1918)
DESMET COLLECTION "For a Better Vision" (Monday, Oct. 2nd. 4pm):
Mieux Valait la Nuit (Was Ik Maar Blind Gebleven)(Fr, 1911)*
Amma, le voleur aveugle (FR, 1912)
Le Coeur et les Yeux (Fr, 1911)*
Modeschau im Zoo (D, 1915)
Water Lilies (US, 1911)*
Mr.Myope Chasse/The Sportsman (FR, 1910)
Le Mensonge de Jean le Manchot (FR, 1911)*
Blinden Instituut en Ooglijders Gasthuis te Bandoeng (1912-1913)
Cunégonde trop curieuse (FR 1912)*
Onésime et la toilette de Mademoiselle Badinois (FR 1912)*
Het Onwillige Dienstmeisje/ Unidentified Cunegonde Episode (FR, 1912)
Le Singe De Petronille (FR, 1913)*
Animal Lover [Dierenvriend] (FR, 1912?)
Le Bateau De Leontine (FR, 1911)*
Les Ficelles De Leontine (FR, 1910)
The New Air Fan [Ventilateur Brevete] (FR, 1911)
Amour Et Musique (FR, 1911)*
Un Ravalement Precipite (FR, 1911)*
Rosalie Et Son Phonographe (FR, 1911)*
Rosalie Emmenage (FR, 1911)
Lea Bambola (IT, 1913)*
Patouillard A Une Femme Jalouse (Fr, 1912)*
Cunegonde Femme Cochere (FR, 1913)*
Lea Sui Pattini (IT, 1911)
Films marked with (*) are from EYE Filmmuseum Desmet Collection.
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Curator of Silent Film.Tag:Desmet Collectie, Desmet Collection, festival, filmfestival, Silent cinema
Hoe word je bekend als filmster? Om jezelf in beeld te brengen bij het grote publiek, zijn er in onze tijd volop (gratis) publiciteitsmiddelen, waarvan Twitter en Instagram misschien wel de belangrijkste zijn. Maar hoe brachten acteurs zichzelf en hun prestaties vroeger aan de man? In de bibliotheek van EYE vind je Nefito, de Nederlandse Film- en Toneel Almanak uit 1935. Als je daar in stond, dan was je Iemand.
Zo belandde de charmante toneelacteur Leo den Hartogh in 1935 zonder enige camera-ervaring pardoes in de zomerfilm Jonge harten. Zeventig jaar later vertelt hij daarover in het interviewboek De Pioniers van Annemieke Hendriks. De regisseurs hadden een oproep geplaatst in De Telegraaf, “waarop meer dan tweehonderd mensen reageerden. Maar ik niet, ik werd gevraagd. Ik stond in vele castingboeken.”
Nu was Den Hartogh niet de meest bescheiden persoon, zoals hij even later in het interview toegeeft: “Om even ijdel te zijn: toen ze mij zagen, sprongen ze een gat in de lucht.” De vermelding ‘vele castingboeken’ zal in ieder geval wat overdreven zijn; voor de Nederlandse filmindustrie was Nefito in ieder geval het eerste castingboek. Maar daar stond hij in ieder geval in, op pagina 77, en hoe. Met een foto waar tienermeisjes bij in katzwijm zouden vallen, wordt hij aangeprezen als specialist in ‘Jonge rollen en charmeur’, speelt gitaar en zingt Franse chansons, en tot slot beoefent hij ‘Alle sporten zeer goed.’
Bijzondere eigenschap: autorijden
De Nefito was een cast- en crewboek, een who’s who voor de film- en toneelwereld. Zulk soort gidsen bestonden in het buitenland al, zo wordt in het voorwoord aangegeven. De eerste editie verscheen vol goede moed in april 1935 in een oplage van 1000, maar de uitgave zou geen lang leven beschoren zijn: voor zover bekend zou de tweede in 1936 ook de laatste zijn. Ik heb ze beide in mijn bezit, en het is een ware schat aan informatie voor wie iets te weten wil komen over de Nederlandse filmwereld in de jaren dertig. Dit is het onderwerp waarmee ik me bezighoud, en bij elke film uit die periode die ik kijk, sla ik de Nefito weer even open (staat hij of zij erin??). Het is daarnaast heel bijzonder om een gids die destijds waarschijnlijk gretig werd doorgebladerd door iedereen die een rol speelde in de speelfilmindustrie, in handen te hebben.
Het is erg vermakelijk om te zien hoe acteurs zich in die tijd presenteerden. Zo zijn er acteurs die hun komische talenten naar voren brengen, en is er iemand die zichzelf aanprijst als ‘De man die NOOIT lacht’. Er is het ‘exotische type’, de ‘karakterspeler’ en een aantal acteurs zijn gespecialiseerd in ‘jonge liefdes- en sportrollen’. Als bijzondere capaciteiten kruisen sommige vrouwelijke actrices ‘autorijden’ aan; opvallend genoeg geven de heren dit nooit aan. Er waren nog weinig autobezitters in die tijd, en voor vrouwen was dit waarschijnlijk helemaal ongebruikelijk.
Dat film en toneel samen een boekje deelden, toont al aan hoe verstrengeld die twee werelden in die tijd nog waren. Omdat er nog niet zozeer sprake was van een echte filmindustrie in Nederland, waren er nog weinig echte filmacteurs. De producenten aasden dus op de vedetten van de bühne. Film was toen al een kostbaar medium en daar kwam nog een crisis bij, waardoor er tussen 1929 en 1934 nauwelijks Nederlandse speelfilms zijn gemaakt. Maar met de komst van de geluidsfilm in Nederland (de eerste, Willem van Oranje, ging begin 1934 in première) was er weer nieuw optimisme ontstaan, wat ook blijkt uit de komst van dit ‘smoelenboek’.
Hotspots Amsterdam en Den Haag
Het boekje geeft ook been beeld van de habitat van de incrowd. Ook het adres wordt vermeld, en daaruit blijkt dat de filmwereld twee hotspots kende: Amsterdam en Den Haag. Daar waren de twee grote geluidsfilmstudio’s, beide net nieuw gebouwd: Cinetone in Amsterdam en Filmstad van filmtycoon Loet C. Barnstijn in Wassenaar. Op een paar uitzonderingen na wonen alle filmacteurs en vaklieden in de Nefito in een van die steden. Je moest dus in de buurt wonen, anders werd het niks.
In Amsterdam was de straal zelfs nog kleiner: iedereen was woonachtig in Amsterdam-Zuid of in het centrum. Evenals het Amstelhotel was Hotel Schiller aan het Rembrandtplein een belangrijke hotspot, het ‘ trefpunt voor Hollands Hollywood’ zoals de advertentie het aanprijst. Ook wordt het aangeprezen met ‘rijks-telefoon, stroomend warm en koud water op alle kamers’. Stillfotograaf en latere Cinetone-studiomanager Bobby Rosenboom vertelde in een interview dat al bij de eerste film die in Cinetone werd opgenomen, de medewerkers op zaterdagmorgen in Schiller zaten te wachten op het loon dat ze maar niet kregen. “De centen bleken al na één draaiweek op te zijn.” Dat was ook kenmerkend voor de Nederlandse filmindustrie in die tijd.
Protesen voor gelaatsverandering
Ook alle benodigde uitrustingen voor film en toneel kon je vinden via het boekje. Zo staan er reclames in van allerlei bedrijven en ateliers: van kostuums, tabak (r. peukert aan de Spuistraat), muziekinstrumenten, touringcars, juweliers, fotografen en decorbouwers. Een tandarts prijst zichzelf aan, gespecialiseerd in ‘protese werk, niet van echt te onderscheiden’, geschikt voor ‘gelaatsverandering’. De bijgevoegde foto’s laten zien dat de tandartspraktijk toen heel wat gezelliger was ingericht dan nu, met Perzische tapijten, schilderijen aan de muur en Chesterfield fauteuils om het wachten te veraangenamen.
Het uiterlijk was toen ook al een factor van cruciaal belang. De toen al gelauwerde theateractrice Mary Dresselhuys kreeg na een proefopname voor de hoofdrol in de film De Kribbebijter van de Duitse regisseur Hermann Kosterlitz in het Amstelhotel te horen: “Leider, gnädige Frau, sind Sie sind nicht zu fotografieren.” In de Nefito is ze niet te vinden.
Net als nu werden schoonheidsfoutjes op de foto’s vakkundig weggetoverd, zij het nog niet met Photoshop maar met retoucheertechnieken. In het boek van het Stadsarchief Amsterdam over fotostudio Merkelbach, die toen aan het Leidseplein gevestigd was, wordt verteld dat retoucheren eigenlijk een vrij standaard procedure was, maar ‘de zorg die aan de retouche werd besteed, was het handelsmerk van het huis.’ Om iedereen een vlekkeloze look te geven werd ‘het negatief na ontwikkeling begoten met een natte lak. In deze laag bracht de retoucheur met een naalddun potlood minuscule krasjes aan en voorzag zo iedereen van een gave huid. Zelfs in de simpelste opname zat al gauw anderhalf uur werk.’ Het retoucheerwerk ging toen al best ver: ‘Plooien in de stof of krullen in het haar kregen een extra accent, te dikke vingers werden slanker gemaakt, wallen onder de ogen weggewerkt- alles was maakbaar.’ Dat dit niet altijd even goed lukt, toont de bovenstaande foto van ‘karakter-speelster’ Mies Versteeg.
Merkelbach is al genoemd, maar verreweg de meeste foto’s in de Nefito zijn gemaakt door Godfried de Groot. Kees Brusse, die ik kort voor zijn overlijden in 2013 interviewde, debuteerde als kindsterretje in Merijntje Gijzen’s Jeugd (1936) en werd later door hem gefotografeerd, vertelde over hem: “De Groot was een echte starfotograaf. Hij werkte met glamour: kostuums, de juiste belichting. Mies [Merkelbach, VdL] deed dat wat minder. Als je een foto liet maken bij Godfried, dan werd je voor vol aangezien.” Zijn divaportretten sierden steevast het weekblad Cinema en theater, waar hij tot de redactie behoorde. Brusse staat niet in de Nefito, maar wel het ondeugend en verlegen in de camera kijkende jongetje Marcel Krols, dat Merijntje speelde.
Voor Nederlandse filmkrachten
Het boekje doorbladerend, zou je de indruk kunnen krijgen dat er alleen maar Nederlanders werkten in onze filmindustrie. Het tegendeel was waar. De meeste regisseurs kwamen uit Duitsland. En zo gold het eigenlijk voor bijna alle belangrijke functies in die tijd, van editor tot cameraman en producent; met name Duitse exils die voor het naziregime gevlucht waren, hielden onze filmindustrie overeind. Behalve de grote producent Rudolf Meyer is niemand van hen te vinden in de Nefito. De buitenlandse vaklieden waren veel meer ervaren, en dit wekte wat jaloezie op in de Nederlandse filmwereld. In de kranten was een toenemende discussie gaande over in hoeverre de buitenlanders vrij vertaald ‘onze baantjes inpikten’. Het kan dus ook deze minder kosmopolitische beweegreden zijn geweest voor de Nefito, om de Nederlandse filmkrachten meer voor het voetlicht te brengen.
Een belangrijke vraag blijft onbeantwoord: Wat moest je als acteur of andere professional doen om in de Nefito te komen? Moest je ervoor betalen? De vermelding in de oproep ‘Billijke conditiën’ lijkt hier wel op te wijzen. Was er een commissie die zorgde voor selectie aan de poort? Het voorwoord vermeldt dat de gids gratis en ongevraagd werd toegezonden aan ‘belanghebbenden’, waarmee wordt verwezen naar ‘Regisseurs, Productie-leiders en theater-Directie’s.’ Het vervolgt verontschuldigend: ‘Uiteraard de korte tijd van voorbereiding, hebben wij niet aan alle aanvragen kunnen voldoen, daar wij rekening moeten houden met het belang der contractanten’. Het voorwoord is ondertekend door de uitgever, A. Leo Bonefang in Den Haag. Dit is wellicht familie van Alex Benno (zijn werkelijke naam was Benjamin Bonefang), een regisseur die ook in de Nefito staat. In ieder geval zullen er criteria zijn geweest voor selectie, maar die zullen waarschijnlijk nooit worden opgehelderd. Dan is het in onze tijd, met de invloedrijke sociale media, toch een stuk democratischer geregeld.
Piles and piles of dusty ‘banana’ boxes stacked on 6 pallets, handwritten scribbles and stickers: Pretty much every archivist’s nightmare awaited me on the first day of my internship at the EYE collection center. I was taken on to assist experimental film curator Simona Monizza on the rather extraordinary (for EYE standards) Peter Rubin collection. Consisting of mostly VHS (and Super VHS) tapes, photographic slides, audio cassettes, an immense amount of documents but also some 16mm reels and even floppy disks, this project is outside the EYE’s comfort zone. This collection was donated to the EYE by the Amsterdam VJ academy in 2016 since it seemed like a logical home considering Peter Rubin’s film collection is already stored at the EYE. The second week (of my four month long internship) is coming to an end, and this blogpost is to share with you the progression of the challenging Peter Rubin collection.
Before I dive into the progress of this collection, some words about Peter Rubin and his work. Rubin was born in 1941 in the U.S.A. and studied filmmaking at the New York University. In 1968 Rubin moves to Amsterdam where he continues his career as a filmmaker. In 1976 he starts working for Holland Experimental Film (HEF) until well into the 1980’s. The 80’s were the real turning point for Rubin’s career as he digresses from film and enters the glitchy wonderland that is VHS. It was then that Rubin started working at the infamous Amsterdam club Mazzo as their in-house VJ (Video Jockey). Rubin worked 7 days a week at the Mazzo producing live video shows everyday until Mazzo finally closed its doors in 1989. At that point Peter Rubin’s career was at its highest point and it was then that Rubin started VJing in Germany in the Techno collectives Mayday and Love Parade. He worked closely with the renowned German DJ Westbam producing the collection of music videos “A Practicing Maniac at Work”. At the time he still kept Amsterdam as his base and also worked in several parties at the Panama and Melkweg and raves like Immortality and Awakenings. He lived most his life in Amsterdam but soon before his death moved to Berlin until he passed away in 2015. After his death the VJ academy with the help of his family and friends managed to collect all his work and belongings which is now in the possession of the EYE.
For this project we have decided to focus on Rubin’s VJ work in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as we see it as the core of this collection, and assess the overlaps between his film and VJ practice. Once the research phase is done, the goal is to preserve and digitize a number of VHS tapes we find critical and eventually be able to reconstruct one of his shows. But before we get to that, we have to sort out the collection we acquired from the VJ academy which is what we are focusing our efforts on at this moment. The collection arrived at the EYE in boxes Rubin put together himself with his written notes on them. These boxes contained his works as well as a lot of his personal belongings; from postcards to sweaters to an entire boxes of taped sports championships (see figure 2), VHS tapes with anything related to 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, and it is tapes like these which prove to be one of the main problematics of this project.
Figure 2. Euro and World Cup Soccer championship tapes
The first two weeks consisted of a lot of inventorying, sorting and carrying boxes. The pallets we focused on were those which contain boxes of VHS tapes (namely pallets 1 and 3). Each pallet consists of ~20 boxes and each box fits 69-72 tapes, so a total of ~2400 tapes and the boxes were given an individual number.
In the beginning of this process we were very thorough, giving an inventory number and cataloguing each tape in a spreadsheet. Each tape got a unique inventory number which indicated Peter Rubin (PR), the given box number and their given tape number. So the first tape of box 34 would indicate PR-34-001 (see figure 3). This strategy, although the most thorough, proved to be extremely time consuming. I could only get through 2 boxes in each day which meant working on each box for 3.5 hours nonstop. We found that a lot of tapes seemed entirely personal, movies he liked, sports matches and world news which meant a lot of work thoroughly inventorying tapes which would likely be discarded later in the process.
Figure 3. Box 34 inventoried with individual numbers
After an interview with Daan Nolen from the VJ academy which was illuminating on Peter Rubin’s and VJ workflow in general, we decided to change our strategy. Instead of inventorying each and every tape we decided to go through boxes and mark the tapes we thought would be most relevant and take photos to document everything (See Figure 4). The photos would then be sent to people who are more knowledgeable on Rubin’s work and then be checked to see if we missed marking any important tape in our selection. Of course this method runs the risk of missing something that could potentially be important but the limited time and funds do not allow a deeper investigation at this time. Our motto is: “When in doubt, mark it!”. This change of strategy proved to be faster and more efficient in terms of output and as I write this, we managed to go through all of the boxes with VHS tapes and can definitely say that we have a much clearer overview of what is in the VHS collection.
Figure 4. Tapes marked with the green dot as important.
The above process ran rather smoothly but there are some issues we faced which I will highlight in the following paragraphs. Firstly, a main issue we dealt with at this moment is deciphering what is on the tapes. Fortunately most tapes have some sort of identifiable text and from viewing some tapes we discovered that the text matches the content. The issues with the texts is that they range from a number, to an event name, or in a lot of cases a large amount of content information which at times is rather obscure (See figure 5). A number of tapes also contain pieces of paper, a lot of the time with what we discovered to be time codes relating to specific images (see figure 6). In time a lot of these texts became more and more clear. For example we found a number of “Barb” tapes, which in the beginning we thought referred to Barbie but later on I found out that they refer to a specific event series at the Panama in Amsterdam called “Barbarella”. Similarly a lot of tapes referred to an Elsa which I discovered refers to Elsa Wormeck a.k.a. Elsa for Toys, a VJ who worked with Rubin in the Love Parade parties and at the production company Mediamorph in Berlin. The abbreviations IMM refers to Immortality (a party in Amsterdam), NF refers to No Frontiers another event in the Netherlands, TJ to Tape Jockey and LP could refer to either Love Parade or Long play (a method of recording content on a tape which allows for more content in less space). Though these names and abbreviations have become clearer, some are still obscure, for example he used the abbreviation NG, ODY, SLUV and LIB a number of times and the name Jos is constantly reappearing but we do not know what and whom Rubin is referring to (if anyone has any idea do let us know).
Figure 5. Example of tape with a lot of content information.
Figure 6. Example of paper note with information inside tapes
Figure 7. IMM tapes referring to the Immortality parties
Furthermore another question, which is also a more ethical one, is what to do with all the content tapes we have received. We call content tapes, tapes which contain material directly recorded from television, either for inspiration or for entertainment, these tapes can also be referred to as “source” tapes. Being a VJ, Rubin relied heavily on not only the animators and technicians who worked with and for him, but a great part of his work process was taping footage directly from television. A lot of the time he would tape entire TV programs but then would copy an excerpt from them and would add it to a compilation tape, thus: Do we then keep the source tape (what we also call content tape) or simply the compilation tape? The line between the tapes he used for his work and the tapes he used for his personal entertainment is permeable and thin. This question is then followed up by another issue: Copyrights. A lot of these TV programs have different authors and owners which EYE does not have the rights to. Of course this is not a problem if the material will never be published or used but simply kept as a document of Rubin’s work flow, but their storing also requires space.
In the coming weeks we will continue inventorying and hopefully start the process of making some selections for digitization.
By Eleni Tzialli (Intern Experimental Film Collection)Tag:experimentele film, filmcollectie, VHS, tape, VJ, Peter Rubin, media art
De films die in het bezit zijn van EYE filmmuseum vormen op zichzelf een prachtige collectie. Maar films vertellen slechts de helft van het verhaal. Elementen als de artefacten uit de productie en vertoning van films, zoals de apparatuur, persberichten, filmposters en dergelijke, geven ons de kans om een tijdsbeeld te schetsen van de tijd, waarin deze films voor het eerst vertoond werden. En EYE heeft gelukkig een grote collectie film-gerelateerde objecten weten op te bouwen door acquisitie en schenkingen. In het kader van mijn stage ben ik in aanraking gekomen met glasdia’s of wel toverlantaarnplaten met reclames die rond vertoningen gebruikt werden. Laat me vertellen hoe ik daarbij terecht ben gekomen.
Toverlantaarnplaten staan in het kader van precinema al enkele jaren weer in de belangstelling van de academische wereld. Het internationale onderzoeksproject “A Million Pictures” is een voorbeeld van deze belangstelling. Binnen dit project, waarvan EYE een van de faciliterende partners is, wordt getracht om inzicht te krijgen in de talrijke collecties van lantaarnplaten. Ook binnen de collectie van EYE weten de talrijke platen hun weg naar de tentoonstellingen te vinden. In het Panorama (permanente tentoonstelling) zijn bijvoorbeeld enkele lantaarnplaten tentoongesteld, bij de mooiste lantaarn uit de collectie. De collectie lantaarnplaten bevat enkele duizenden items. Tot nu toe is nog maar een klein gedeelte ontsloten en veilig gesteld voor de toekomst.
De afgelopen twee maanden heb ik een bescheiden bijdrage kunnen leveren aan het ontsluiten en preserveren van de serie bioscoopreclameplaten. Het grootste deel is afkomstig uit een schenking van CARPA-HARPO, een voortzetting van HARPO n.v. uit Den Haag. HARPO is een bekende producent van bioscoopreclame. Naast lantaarnplaten produceerden zij ook korte reclamefilms. In deze schenking is van alles te vinden, van reclames voor uitgaansgelegenheden en cafétaria’s tot allerlei winkels. Al met al heb ik 208 platen gedigitaliseerd en ontsloten, die nu via EYE Collectiedatabase kunnen worden bestudeerd. Enkele platen in de collectie komen uit het begin van de jaren veertig, de meesten zijn geproduceerd aan het eind van de jaren zestig en begin van de jaren zeventig. Het materiaal kan een prachtige indruk geven van de ervaring van de bioscoop in vergane tijden. Het geeft ons inzicht in het uitgaansleven van de met name de jaren zeventig.
In het kader van toverlantaarnplaten is deze collectie bijzonder. Uit het onderzoek blijkt dat lantaarnplaten in te delen zijn in twee categorieën: Commercieel en internationaal/nationaal, tegenover non-commercieel en regionaal. De reclamelantaarnplaten vallen eigenlijk in de categorie van commercieel en regionaal. De platen werden tegen een prijs geproduceerd, maar waren sterk gebonden aan de plaats waar de opdrachtgever gevestigd was.
Wat ik interessant vond aan deze platen is de hoeveelheid van reclames voor cafés, restaurants en discotheken. Op het eerste gezicht lijkt het niet bijzonder dat een restaurant zou adverteren in een bioscoop, deze bedrijven zijn immers ook onderdeel van de middenstand. Wat deze platen interessant maakt is de wijze waarop ze adverteren. Op menig plaat wordt de bioscoopbezoeker uitgenodigd om na de voorstelling naar een café of discotheek te gaan. Een mooi voorbeeld hiervan is bijvoorbeeld de reclame van Van Santen’s automatiek, of de reclame voor Café-bar de Postjager. In beide platen wordt het publiek met een tekst als “tot straks” uitgenodigd om naar de gelegenheid in de buurt te gaan, om daar hun bezoek aan de bioscoop af te sluiten. Dit gegeven maakt deze platen interessant, omdat ze iets kunnen vertellen over wat het inhield om naar de bioscoop te gaan in het eind van de jaren ’60.
Deze lantaarnplaten vormen een bijzonder onderdeel van de collectie van EYE, en verdienen het om verder ontsloten te worden. De vertoningscontext en de film zijn aan elkaar verbonden. Deze reclames hebben lange tijd behoord tot een onderdeel van de voorstelling. Binnen de meeste generaties herinneren mensen zich deze reclames. Vanwege hun intrinsieke plaats in de filmvoorstelling verdienen deze platen een plek in de collectie van EYE. En, het goede nieuws is, er zijn er nog genoeg. Er zijn zeker nog twee andere dozen met bioscoopreclameplaten. Ook daar zal nog genoeg in te vinden zijn.
Intern at A Million Pictures/film related collections EYE
The use of self-adhesive plastic foils in architectural designs in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam (NL)
The researchers of the project Materials in Motion - a research project on animation artwork conservation - found a lot of self-adhesive plastic foils in EYE's collection of animation artwork. These plastic foils constitute a challenge for conservators. A reason to visit our collegues of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam who struggle with the same material in their collection of design drawings. This blog post takes a closer look at examples from both collections.
Self-adhesive plastic foils, transparent sheets, tapes, markers. If a material is time-saving, inexpensive, easy to use, readily available and has a contemporary appeal, you can be assured it has been fully exploited by artists and designers. During our condition survey of the animation artwork in the collection of the EYE Film Museum, we regularly encounter self-adhesive foils adhered to both plastic as well as paper. We found several degradation phenomena that are typical for self-adhesive plastic foils such as shrinkage; sticky edges where the adhesive is exposed; loss of adhesion; wrinkling and bubbling. Example are the study for the film Between the Lights (1975) and the cel used in the production of Reversals (1972) by Karin Wiertz and Jacques Verbeek as depicted below.
Although conservators are familiar with the use of plastic foils and the problems they can present, we know very little about the degradation of these foils or what causes them to shrink, warp, bubble or even weep. In most cases, we don't even know their composition or the composition of the adhesives used. And to make the situation more complicated: manufacturers constantly adapt their recipes and change constituents. To better understand the degradation of plastic foils used in the animation artwork in the collection of EYE, we now survey the whole collection looking for patterns. During an expert meeting on the inventory of damages in archives and libraries organized by Metamorfoze, we learned Het Nieuwe Instituut, the national institute for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam, is coping with similar problems. In many of their technical drawings and artist impressions, self-adhesive plastic foils are used as in integral part of the design. Curious after the ways in which these foils have been used in technical drawings and the specific problems these drawings present, we took a look in the architecture archives in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Self-adhesive plastic foils in architectural designs
When self-adhesive plastic foils came on the market shortly after the Second Word War, they were immediately embraced by architects. With these plastic foils architects could quickly achieve an even colourful fill of the architectural elements in their design drawings. The foils gave an idea of surface quality such as transparency, texture or colour. Moreover, transparent foils could be used in designs on tracing paper or transparent plastic sheest, which permitted their copying by photomechanical processes in which a degree of translucency is often desired. But above all, their textures and colours appealed to the designers and architects of the time.
Plastic foils, in short, were the equivalent of Adobe’s paint bucket throughout the second half of the 20th century. Brands such as ASLAN®, Pantone™ and Zip-a-tone™ offered a huge variety in opaque, transparent and patterned foils. The designer would cut to measure and (usually) paste the foil on the verso of the transparent paper allowing a more fluent integration into the drawing on the recto.
A beautiful example are the designs for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (1963-1971) by Rietveld, Van Dillen en Van Tricht. The studio used transparent and patterned foils to emphasise the different volumes and the play between inside and outside.
Typical damage caused by storage in rolls and tubes
The drawings show damage and degradarion phenomena that are typical for self-adhesive foils: wrinkling and the presence of air bubbles between the substrate and the film. These bubbles are comparable to those we found in the animation artwork shown above, but their elongated shape and predominantly vertical orientation suggest a different cause. Plus they all seem to originate in a corner of the cut out shape.
Architecture archives are often characterised by the large size of the technical drawings they contain. The example above is relatively small (ca. A1), but drawings longer than two metres are no exception. Often these drawings were stored rolled and the small drawings were simply rolled together with the larger drawings, using the roll or a cardboard tube as an archival unit. Many damage patterns we now encounter in architectural drawings are an immediate result of handling or storage in rolls. The drawings by Rietveld, Van Dillen en Van Tricht are an example of these damage patterns. When rolled with the plastic foil on the inside, the foil is compressed and starts to butt at the weakest points: the corners.
Most of the damage occurs during the formation of the archive in the architecture studio. When they arrive in Het Nieuwe Instituut, these drawings are ideally unrolled or unfolded, flattened and stored flat in archival folders, in which they are interleaved with thin, archival quality silk tissue paper. Unfortunately - as a result of the size of the archives and the limited financial resources of institutions such as Het Nieuwe Instituut – conservators cope with backlogs and many architectural drawings are still kept folded or in rolls waiting for an opportunity to rehouse them
By Aafke Weller, paper conservator and researcher at EYE Film Museum for the research project Materials in Motion
If you want to know more about Materials in Motion visit our blog: www.materialsinmotion.nl.
Cinqualbre, Marion et al. “‘Zip’: an Adhesive Plastic Film in Architectural Drawings.” Studies in Conservation 61. S2 (2016): S283–S285. Print.Tag:animation artwork, animation, artwork, plastics, conservation, cel, plastic foil, karin wiertz
Every year, the EYE Filmmuseum inspects one of its three nitrate vaults in its entirety, in compliance with the requirements of the nitrate permit: all the cans are opened to check the reels for damage and decomposition and action is taken accordingly. If necessary films are ‘cleaned’ and re-canned and additionally cans are also moved or reorganised on shelves if necessary and sometimes other tasks are also performed, this year for example we could make a giant leap in terms of barcoding.
Last year there wasn’t any control week, because of the move to the new collection centre. Therefore, this year it was an extra exciting opportunity for me: as my whole internship revolves around nitrate film, this allowed me a break from the identification work I was doing in the Collection Centre, while at the same time I could get a different perspective or gain new skills on working with that very same material, so I felt particularly obliged to participate for the full week and see the process for as much as a I could!
This year, the vaults in Heemskerk were up for inspection. They consist of two bunkers, that were used by the Germans in World War II as a means to safely keep artworks (belonging to the Rijksmuseum) in case of bombings, for example De Nachtwacht by Rembrandt is said to have temporarily been stored here. The Filmmuseum took over these so called ‘Kunstbunkers’ (‘art bunkers’) in the early 1990s, one for storing nitrate prints and the other one for storing safety prints. As all the safety films were moved to the depots in the new Collection Centre last year, the second bunker (which has a higher/narrower door, through which oversize paintings including the frame could be moved in entirely) is now entirely empty, but in the future might be the new residence of all the nitrate films which are now in other vaults.
The tasks performed in the vaults varied from day to day, but the first three days mainly entailed the laborious side of the control: bringing down stacks of cans from the shelf, opening each can and lifting the reels out in order to check both sides, as well as the insides of the can. What we mainly looked for was any sign of decomposition of the reels or reaction of the film with the can. This could be either a powdery residue (to lesser or greater extent) seen on the reel or in the lid and bottom of the can, the appearance of ‘honey’ or ‘bubbles’ on the top of the reel, ‘hockey-pucking’ (the reels getting hard and stuck together), spoking (the film shaping into anything under 6 corners was bad), signs of rust in a metal can and signs of white ‘crystallisation’ in blue plastic cans. We also paid attention to the state of the cans (whether they still properly closed and weren’t too damaged), and looked to find things in the cans that did not belong there, which meant anything other than film: notes, papers, punched tape, paperclips, etc. This all happens under the supervision of our firefighter Chris who is responsible for our safety; he has been our regular fire officer every time in the past years, so he is part of our nitrate team!
In the part of the vault where me and my ‘nitrate buddy’ worked were mostly the larger sized cans, which means they are heavy and the reels a bit more difficult to lift out of the can, because of their larger size, especially if you don’t have big hands or a firm grip. Not only did we check the reels, but the cans in this section also had to be moved to another shelf/wall in the same section. We moved from up to down and from left to right and every column had around 5 or 6 stacks of cans, therefore involving a lot of lifting, climbing and bending, and additionally making sure the cans were in the same order as how we got them off the shelves. Though, as we work in teams of two, you try to do as little lifting and carrying as possible and keep the most restraining movement to a minimum, the first two nights I definitely could feel the ‘work out’ and I don’t think I ever felt as many muscles in my hands from lifting all those reels as in this week.
After a few days, I was promoted to ‘nitrate expert’ (which, if you remember my last ‘nitrate beginner’-blog, must be the fastest promotion I ever made!), a role which for the rest of the week mostly attributed to curators and other EYE Filmmuseum veterans. This meant that you would sit at a table waiting for the ‘runners’ checking the cans to bring you the ‘problem cans’. You then check the can for the ‘problem’, make a quick inspection report, writing down the issue and its severity, the vault number, title and amount of reels. In case there is powder or crystallization or ‘honey’, you would vacuum the top and bottom of the reels (and the cans) with a special vacuum cleaner for nitrate, getting rid of the worst dirt/damage. If a film or can is in such a bad condition that for example the film has ‘eaten through the can’, we would re-can the film. Other than that, the films are not necessarily ‘cleaned’ or ‘treated’ in any other way. What will happen is that the reports we made will be saved and in a few months, it will become someone’s special project to order all these ‘problem’ cans from the vaults, inspect their condition more thoroughly (for example by cutting out the ‘contaminated’ part of the film, e.g. if only the intertitles are decaying you can dispose of these and save the rest) and to confer with the curators whether the print can be disposed of or should get an emergency preservation.
Examples of the appearance of ‘honey’ or ‘bubbles’, ‘spoking’ and ‘powder’
Generally speaking, however – though the pictures may suggest otherwise - most films were in good condition and overall the ‘problem cans’ we found were not in the worst condition yet. Some were incredibly powdery and clearly decomposing, but they were not in the most disgusting of conditions I have witnessed during my internship so far (which must have been the box of soaking wet films I wrote about in my previous blog post). In that sense, it goes to show that these kind of bulk inspections do really work and the collection managers do witness a change: that the damage is less or less severe than before. Nonetheless, it provided for me (as an intern working with nitrate film) a very interesting overview of the possible types of decay in different stages, the ‘honey’ type of decay I hadn’t witnessed before, and the heavy powdering in which the film is starting to eat through the can was also a fascinating sight. Lastly, something I enjoyed about the process that by letting all these cans/reels go through your hands you also, in a very physical and material way, get a sense of (a portion) of the films that are in the EYE Collection. You recognise titles of films you have seen, or notice films being in the collection multiple times, hence making it to certain extent much more tangible, rather than seeing the collection as information in a database.
After the first four days of inspection, most of the nitrate control had been finished already and so for the last day our teams moved on to another task: barcoding. We put stickers with barcodes on all the cans in the vault and scanned them. Later on a barcode will be attached to the shelf, so that a film can be ‘checked in’ and ‘out’ of a location on the shelf and containers can be traceable. Again a very laborious task, but physically less demanding as opening all the cans and putting them back.
Finally, not to be left unmentioned are the ‘excursion-like’ conditions under which we worked, outdoors in the natural reservation, which was definitely a huge difference from the way I work inside the dark nitrate room in the Collection Centre.
Though all in all it was a very busy and demanding week, it was also one that was very fun and educational, as I got to experience a side to working with nitrate that was complimentary to, but very much different than the nitrate identification I have been doing so far. I learnt much more about the possible ‘problems’ with nitrate decomposition and collection management and also the change of scenery to work in such a strange place, but also a place that is very specific to the work in archive did provide a lot of energy to return to my daily tasks of nitrate identification, and I will definitely be looking at all those reels in my own little project with entirely ‘new’ eyes!
By Ilse van der Spoel, intern at EYE CollectionsTag:nitrate film, nitraat, kluis, opslag, controle, inspection, film storage
As a strong believer in new forms of ‘collection outreach’, I’m very happy to have been part of an exciting collaboration with the prestigious Art and Design Academy ArtEZ in Arnhem. This year we commissioned an art work to Michelle van Ool, studying at the Interaction Design Department of ArtEZ, who was asked to find inspiration for her work in our collection. The brief was to engage with the material aspects of our film collection and to bring them under the attention of a wider audience. Without concrete goals in mind, we encouraged a reflection on the characteristics of the medium film. The student was quite free to choose any form or path that suited her.
During the following three months, Michelle was shown films from our nitrate and acetate collection with distinguishable and unique physical characteristics, as an inspiration source. It was clear from the beginning that as an interaction designer and a maker, she was interested in building a machine. Eventually she decided to focus on the technical process of film duplication and the importance of the negative as the ‘authentic’ carrier of information.
The result of this process is a machine called MEDIATED REALITY. This machine is able to perform film developing and printing in real time.
The idea behind MEDIATED REALITY is based upon Michelle’s fascination with the concept of visual perception and how reliable the medium of film is. With her machine she reveals the reproductive characteristics of the medium film and the loss of information inherent to the process of copying. Michelle concentrated her research on a specific film collection: the left overs of Naughty Boys by Eric de Kuyper. These left overs contained undeveloped footage locked in cans for more than 30 years.
In her own words: ‘Photographs often serve as proof of evidence in crime scenes. In the past, negatives were used because these are the first results of developing film. Mediated Reality is a machine that questions the reliability of this medium. This machine is able to both develop and copy film right away… By making a contact print of the original negative film, a positive copy emerges. During this process of copying, many other negatives are produced, which start to look completely different from the original movie’.
The machine allows you to watch in real time how a film reel is developed. The whole process of fixing and drying takes about 20 minutes. While some of us are familiar with this photographic process happening in the dark room of photographers, I was never able to see how ‘film’ develops before. Normally this process takes place in chemical tanks in film laboratories and is never visible. During the performance, the machine is working under the safe red light which allows the orthochromatic film stock (less sensitive to red light) to develop and copy itself unto another stock and produce first a negative and then a positive and then again a negative and so on. Every time the copy ‘appears’ under your eyes, it differs from the previous one. This is due to different factors like the chemicals getting older, the exposure time of the light source, the ‘slippage’ caused by the motor driving the film through the machine. All factors which are difficult to predict or even control and which give rise to surprising visual results when the copies are projected onto a screen.
The remarkable thing about this project is how Michelle van Ool, without prior knowledge of the film medium, managed to achieve these results by means of research and practical experimentation. In only three months she was able to get a grip on how the process of film developing and printing works and to design and build the machine from scratch.
The machine has been recently exhibited at the ArtEZ Academy as part of their final exam exhibition and I went there to see it working during a performance given by Michelle. Even though I had seen photographs of the machine before I was stunned to see how its complexity was translated into aesthetic beauty and functionality. MEDIATED REALITY is really well-thought and designed and it gives a fascinating insight into the magical world of the film medium from a young emerging artist’s perspective.
It is therefore an honour for us to add MEDIATED REALITY to our collection. Hopefully this machine will be exhibited and performed in and outside of EYE in the near future.
For this project I would like to personally thank Martijn van Boven, lecturer at the Interaction Design Department who has supported this collaboration from the start. Special thanks to Mark-Paul Meyer who guided Michelle in the difficult world of film development. And of course Michelle herself with her inquisitive and open curiosity towards our world of film heritage.
For more information and to see the machine at work, you can clcik here.
By Simona Monizza, Curator Experimental film, EYE Filmmuseum.Tag:experimental film, experimentele film, materialiteit, materiality, film medium, installaties, installation, interaction design, film stock