[Official 72nd FIAF Congress program]
The 2016 Il Cinema Ritrovato festival was not the only filmic event in Bologna where EYE was present. Partially overlapping with the festival, the 7th FIAF Congress was held from June 22 – June 26. A great opportunity for the Cineteca Bologna to showcase its plans and ambitions, as an institution that joined the FIAF in 1989 and since then hosted the Congress in 1994. Moreover, it was host to the most recent FIAF summer school editions.
This might seem like a strain for interested archivists, curators and other parties to divide their time over all these interesting events, but it actually helps to combine important yearly film preservation events like these. They attract more or less the same audience, so when these events coincide, attendees can kill two birds with one stone. Moreover, seeing films, joining tours through the Cineteca’s collections and the L’Immagine Ritrovata film lab, and theorizing at the same time can be inspiring. For Bologna and its Cineteca, it solidifies the city even further as an important site for film archiving and restoration.
The congress consists not only of the conference, but also involves a symposium with a specific theme on which case studies are presented. This year, the theme was 'New life for cinema's past'. This is a very broad theme, which makes for a broad set of case studies from the partaking institutions and experts. It not only forms a platform for case studies from archives all over the world, but moreover workshops are held and ideas and projects are being discussed for future cooperation between archives, institutions and independent experts. Not only were there presentations and discussions about the many FIAF members’ restorations and changing workflows due to the expanding amount of born-digital films, EYE’s director Sandra den Hamer gave a presentation on the newly built Collection Centre. Other presentations concerned for example the rise of historical theaters and of film heritage screenings at a time when general theaters seem to be closing. Another session was that of The Reel Thing, which is a semiannual event curated by founders Grover Crisp (Sony’s Film Restoration & Digital Mastering) and Michael Friend (UCLA Film & Television Archive). EYE will be hosting The Reel Thing in the spring of 2017, more specifically from Sunday 28 to Tuesday 30 May. This follows up on the yearly EYE Collection Day on Saturday 27.
Besides the film festival and congress, FIAF’s Summer School took place at the same time but went on after the festival, until July 15. This Summer School has been organized yearly by FIAF since 1973 and has been hosted by many FIAF members, from the Reichsarchiv in Berlin to George Eastman House in New York. The course consists of three steps: starting with an online theory course in May, then having hands-on theory lessons at the Cineteca and attending the festival as well as the congress.
[Photo by L’Immagine Ritrovata]
Then, after the festival wraps up, restoration classes took place at L’Immagine Ritrovata. Participants from all over the world are selected, but all have a background in film archiving, be it as working in institutions such as film archives or studying in this specific area. Also, scholarships by FIAF and ACE are granted to eight participants yearly in order to help them with the program’s 3000 euro fee. This might be considered a high price, but with the extensive hands-on program and the involvement of many well-known archivists and technicians from the field, the Summer School is a steady vehicle of the training of new film archivists.
EYE’s Film Conservation and Digital Access department was represented at this year’s Summer School by head of the department Anne Gant. Not only did she give a glimpse into an interesting case study that is the management of born-digital films, but it was also a good opportunity to interest young film archivists in EYE’s archive, museum, and the EYE Study for researching its collection. She made sure to not give a glamorous view of the life of an archivist, but rather show that it is often a matter of arranging, rearranging, conserving and maintaining objects: “only a small percentage of the items really get the big treatment of a full restoration” (Anne Gant, Summer School Presentation June 2016).
Moreover, the large EYE vaults in which over 210.000 cans are kept are really breathtaking, but it is the growing digital-born collection that needs our attention just as much. This especially since we are still figuring out what standards to use and how to process everything efficiently. Although born-digital films still make out a small portion of EYE’s collection compared to the analog material, they require much work and the numbers are increasing at a fast pace:
1 born-digital film in 2009
88 born-digital films in 2011
125 born-digital films in 2016
This is not unique for EYE, and therefore other institutions and people like Anne Gant had to come up with digital workflows and plans to fit these into the collection more swiftly. Maybe more importantly, since EYE is to collect, protect as well as provide access to Dutch film heritage, criteria for filmmakers, distributors, producers and other people who submit their films to the archive are to be agreed upon so that the depositing runs smoothly. Dilemmas that were never there before, such as questions like: should I backup first, then harmonize/fix the data structure, and then back up again? Also, where before things could physically get lost because parts of a film were not put together on one shelve, now the problem gets more complicated if all metadata is not catalogued properly. This might be something often mistaken by people when thinking about digitization: it is not necessarily less labor-intensive.
In her presentation, Anne Gant stressed that archives, although new to the digital born issue, need to see this issue as an opportunity. The archives should skill their employees so that they can deploy not only a Steenbeck viewing table, but also a digital scanner and know how to cope with difficult file systems. Needless to say, with the collection that EYE has, it will always be important to have specialists in analog film restoration, and no one can be an expert in both that and digital processes. Also, at some point in time it will be hard to find people that still know how to restore analog film, so we have a duty as film archive to maintain and teach this craft.
Last but not least, as department of Film Conservation and Digital Access but also on an institutional level for EYE in general, new policies had to be developed. In this, we are working together with other film institutes since we are dealing with similar issues everywhere and benefit from each other’s experiences. If you are interested in how this is voiced by EYE, see the 2014-2017 Collection Policy here.
[Both photos by EYE staff]Tag:FIAF, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cineteca de Bologna, restoration, L'Immagine Ritrovata, FIAF Summer School, born-digital film, collectie, collection, The Reel Thing, metadata, digitized, digitization, digitalisering, film labs, filmfestival
The EYE Study is slowly but steadily taking shape in the new Collection Centre. An important part of its rich collection are the film journals and periodicals. One of these, both in print and digitally available at EYE, is FIAF’s Journal of Film Preservation. FIAF stands for the International Federation of Film Archives and was established in 1938 in Paris. Its founding institutions are the British Film Institute in London, the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, the MOMA in New York City, and the Reichsfilmarchiv in Berlin. All were relatively new institutions at the time, with different ideas and goals about film preservation. (The Dutch Filmmuseum was only to be established in 1943, and joined FIAF in 1947). Of the four founders, the Reichsarchiv was the oldest, inaugurated by Hitler in 1933. Not coincidentally, Joseph Goebbels was known to be a film enthusiast with an understanding for its cultural and political and is therefore believed to be one of the motivators behind the Reichsarchiv’s founding.
In the following years, the war had far-fetching consequences for the cooperation between the FIAF members. Fortunately, after the war, the FIAF members (excluding the Reichsfilmarchiv) re-established their contacts and welcomed new archives as members. These new archives were often set up in the hausse of the post-war years in which national heritage became an important political issue. In the decades that followed, FIAF expanded both in activities and recognition. In 1973 the first FIAF Summer School was held. Ever since, these regular events have helped train archival personnel. In 2015, the number of 155 affiliates was reached, in 74 countries worldwide.
In 1972 the first issue of the FIAF Information Bulletin was published, which would in 1993 be renamed the Journal of Film Preservation. With issues published twice a year, it provides an international forum for current-day film preservation discussions that range from theoretical to technical and historical aspects of moving image archival activities (source). In the latest issue, EYE and the EYE collection play a prominent role. Ulrich Ruedel, Professor for Conservation and Restoration in Berlin, wrote a review on Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory: The Adventurous Years of Film (1907-1916). This book was published by EYE in 2014 and coincided with EYE’s exhibition by the same name. Ruedel takes readers through the different sections and contributions of the book while at the same time hinting to the importance of the Desmet collection for EYE. Not only did the Desmet films for a great part lay the foundation of EYE's collection in the fifties, it moreover was of great importance for films such as Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate (1991), which was reissued on DVD at the time of the exhibition and book launch.
EYE’s head of Film Conservation and Digital Access Anne Gant has written a case study for a more elaborate article on the FofA group. This group first came together in 2012 and was formed by nine film preservation experts from the field, amongst them Giovanna Fossati, but also preservationists from Cinématheque Française and Library of Congress. Within an informal setting, the group gathers on a yearly basis, and have been discussing the many challenges that film-archiving community is faced with since the move to digital film production. Examples of this are the availability of raw stock, continuation of laboratory services (for example film lab Haghefilm Digitaal next to the former EYE Collection building at Overamstel) and the manufacturing of film digitization equipment. Other important issues are the imperatives of long-term preservation and staff training. By keeping to its original 2012 agenda (Raw stock; Laboratories; Scanning; Storage; Training and Succession; Formats and Materials), revision and continuous discussion makes for all kinds of impact and results. For more information on FoFA and its agenda, goals and debates, do read the main FoFA article in the latest Journal of Film Preservation issue, written by FoFA’s chair and BFI’s Head of Conservation Charles Fairall.
Interesting for people curious as to what EYE does regarding these preservation challenges, is Anne Gant’s case study that is one of three to follow Fairall’s text in this issue. Together with Jon Wengström from the Swedish Film Institute, PhD researcher Guy Edmonds from Australia and German conservation & restoration professor Ulrich Ruedel , she shows what digital film production and other facets of the fast-changing field of film preservation can mean for an organization such as EYE. Specifically, she speaks of the shifts in workflows that have come about both in digital and analogue activities. This is directly connected to the project “Images for the Future”, she explains, which had an enormous impact on how the department functions on a daily basis. The other case studies involve early cinema and cognitive creativity (Edmonds), moving image preservation studies at HTW Berlin (Ruedel) and sustaining photochemical laboratory processes in Sweden (Wengström).
When the EYE Study is up and running in October, feel free to reserve a desk and indulge yourself in this Journal of Film Preservation as well as the rest of EYE’s periodicals collection.
[For more about the history of FIAF, click here and here.]
Carpet in EYE Study (still from Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929)Tag:FIAF, EYE Study, Collection Centre, collection, collectie, Dziga Vertov, restoration, technology, collectie-informatie, digitalisering, digitization, Tweede Wereldoorlog
Joost Rekveld (1970) is a Dutch artist and experimental filmmaker. Since 1991 he has been making abstract films and light installations. In his early days he worked intensively with the medium of film, experimenting with all aspects of the process from printing, to manipulating, to developing the images himself. In 1994 he was already using a computer to make an animation film by writing his own software; a practice he returned to later on in his career.
His works display an intimate and embodied understanding of our technological world. They are deeply inspired by science and technology and the systematic dialogue between man and machine. By exploring the various spatial and sensorial aspects of light projection his works intrinsically relate to the early history of optics and perspective and, in many ways, can be understood as a type of visual music. His animated films are often mechanical compositions whereby the computer acts as a controller, orchestrating the precise movement of each optical element of the film-work or installation. Rekveld’s current works-in-progress include a number of projects that relate to his interest in the nature of “Open-Ended Machines,” the philosophy of technology, and the sensory nature of our material environment.
Over the past three decades Rekveld’s works have been presented at many international festivals. Most of his recent films have premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and His film “#11, Marey <-> Moire” was the first Dutch film to ever be shown at the Sundance Film Festival. As well as festivals he has screened works at a wide range of venues for experimental film, animation and short film including the ICA and the Tate Modern in London, The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He has presented a number of programmes about the history of abstract animation and light art, most prominently the 9th edition of Sonic Acts: Sonic Light 2003. Rekveld has a long history of curating programmes about abstract animation, visual music and the interaction between art and science and he is a regular guest at our weekly EYE on Art series where we present the history of the avant-garde. He has been giving lectures since 1993, and has been teaching interdisciplinary art since 1996. From 2008 to 2014 Rekveld was head of the ArtScience Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. He is currently a board member of Sonic Acts (Amsterdam) and of the Centre for Visual Music (Los Angeles).
The Filmmuseum’s relationship with Joost dates back to 2004 when he was commissioned to curate a program and an installation called “A House in 4 dimensions”. In 2015 Rekveld’s films were added to EYE’s collection and we began the restoration and preservation of a number of his early works. These included #2, 1993, VRFLM, 1994, #5, 1994, and #7, 1996. The restoration work has been a joint venture between Joost, Simona Monizza, curator of experimental film and Gerard de Haan, the digital grader of Haghefilm Digital; the lab we used for this work. From the beginning we decided to opt for digitally restoring these films as well as producing digital projection copies. Two factors informed this choice. The first is that for most of Joost’s early films there were already existing negatives in relatively good condition; these form good elements for long-term preservation. The second reason was the wish to enhance the screening possibilities of these films in an era where 16mm projection becomes more difficult or unreliable.
In light of the premiere of these restored works, which will take place at EYE on Tuesday 17th May at 19.15 as part of our regular EYE on Art series, Ruth Sweeney asked Joost Rekveld to share his thoughts on the process of preserving his early film works. We’d like to share this short interview with you.
RS: How do you feel about having your work preserved by a National archive? What is the importance to you of preserving the works in this way?
JR: Hmm..How do I feel? I feel old! No but seriously…during the preservation process we talked a lot about one of the things that I found rather confronting. That was, especially with my first film #2, that I was more or less forced to revisit the mistakes I made 20 years ago. I mean it was my first film so I had no idea about lots of stuff. Technical things especially I had no clue about at that time. What came across during the preservation is that many parts of the original source material is really underexposed so in the lab you have this experience where somebody is looking at the material and saying “Oh that’s really underexposed!”. So yes, that’s very confronting.
In general I am very happy that people are interested enough to actually go through with this restoration and preservation work. For me, as a maker, what I like about film is that when they're finished they're really finished. I’m not really keen to be involved again. These are old films. I’m not distributing them myself and I’m happy to leave that to others so I can focus on new work. Im happy that other people can take control of preserving these films in order to keep them alive and make sure they can still be shown. In that light, however, one thing I do find difficult is that preservation is very archive centric. I want to make my work accessible. That’s very important to me.
RS: How did you feel about revisiting your early work with two other people in the room, the curator and the technician, who may have different perspectives and judgments as they are not filmmakers themselves?
JR: It did feel for me that in some way the restored films are indeed reinterpretations but the aim for me was always to stay as close as possible to the original material and my original intentions. In terms of preservation the goal for me was always about making these works accessible again in a world where technologies have shifted and evolved quite dramatically. Film used to be an easy choice as a medium but now it’s something that is actually rare. 16mm projections are hard to come by now.
Back to your question…the preservation process itself was very technical for me. It was about identifying obstacles and looking for solutions. In that sense I didn't feel that the perspectives of the curator and technician were alien, but rather I was happy to use their expertise. I used to be scared of the grading process because it was so expensive but now I know what I want and there has been some progress in my dialog with graders over the past 25 years.
RS: How do you feel about giving over your film cans to the archive and not having the physical film object with you and in your presence?
JR: I don’t mind really. I’m happy to not have to care so much! If you take the baby metaphor.. the children leave the house and they're on their own. I might be in touch once in a while but yeah..it’s OK they're out the house!
RS: Your early work is defined by the use of the film medium with its laws, rules and flaws, all inherent to the process of filmmaking. With this in mind how do you feel about having these early films now made available on digital format?
JR: That’s a good question! The thing is they also still exist as prints and these are good enough to project. I wouldn't hesitate if people wanted to show those print versions. I see the digital format as a new version of the film but not a replacement. I also understand that in 25-30 years from now it could be just these digital versions that are the ones that are available. Naturally I have thought about this. What I will say is I used to see myself as a film fundamentalist but that has changed. I now realise that these things are not at all binary. For a long time I've made films writing my own software and code so it isn't necessarily a historical progression for me, but instead this transition to digital is much more fluid.
RS: What were your original expectations when we started with the digital restoration?
JR: Well not so long ago I had DCPs made of some of my more recent films, for example #11, Marey <-> Moire which was originally shot on 35mm and had a certain aesthetic. I was actually really happy with the results. I will say I do miss the hummmm of the projector with a digital projection but visually, I’d say it’s different but I don’t miss anything.
RS: More specifically, how do you feel about the digital version of #7, one of the more complex films you made as it involves a hand painted roll?
JR: Yes - that’s a different story! The thing with this film is that it was basically an original that I had given up! I remember bringing it to EYE and thinking you can have it if you want it but to me it looked like a tree trunk because of the way it was all packed together. The paint was totally stuck! I thought I’m never going to touch this myself. I assumed that if we were ever going to restore this that it would have to be from the print copies I made back when I produced the original. In the end we did use the original though and I’m a bit ambivalent about this because unpacking it did do some damage. Sometimes I think maybe we should just roll it up and keep it as a tree trunk! I remember when I made this film. I didn't have money and I wanted to make a 30 minute film as cheap as possible which is why I arrived at this technique with the paint. I was only thinking about production rather than how the film would be stored or preserved. I didn’t store it properly at all and also hardly screened it. The original isn't the most audience friendly film!
RS: Would you say that since you've been through this process of restoring and preserving these early films that you now think more about preservation when making current works?
JR: Yes. I think I do. With the digital stuff, all the code etc I definitely think about it but I don't have secure practices in place. I lose stuff. Things disappear. Actually it’s hopeless. There’s a media artist called Rafael Lozano-Hemmer who makes very complicated installations involving technology and he has an amazing guide on how to preserve your work as a media artist. It’s amazing, very wise. I do think about formats too. I only use open source formats because this is advantageous for preservation. I remember talking to Bart Vetger about code and this open source thing. He was already working in a certain software environment. I remember at some point thinking specifically about what code language I would choose to work with and what would be the best long-term option.
RS: Can you say something about the changing of formats that took place due to the restoration and preservation process of for instance #2, which was originally shot on Super8. Do you regard this as an ethical issue?
JR: No, not anymore. I have done in the past but, like I said, I’m no longer a film fundamentalist. I remember when it was irresponsible and unethical for a programmer to ask an experimental filmmaker to provide a video version of a film work. That was unthinkable! In the beginning when films were scanned to video the quality was a load of crap! It was terrible! Now with HD screening digital versions are much better. What I have also noticed over time is that 35mm is much more stable than 16mm now. It’s more reliable to screen films on 35mm because 35mm projectionists are all trained and know exactly what they're doing. The 35mm projectors are all standardised and I rarely have trouble with 35mm projections. 16mm it’s a totally different story! It is rarely perfect. The reality now is that 16mm projections are mostly crappy so digital projections are preferable because they are much better quality. I see that there are still pockets of film fundamentalism that remain but for me, I now see working with film as a passing phase in my career. I do think about how to make work accessible online. I think it would be great to do, and platforms like vimeo are making this easier but still…what is made available online simply is not the film. It’s so far from the visual experience I want people to have.
RS: In your 2010 essay “Conversations with Machines” you talk about expanded cinema as compositions: “Many of the historic expanded cinema projects are compositions for two or more projectors in which the focus is on the compositional opportunities of several film “voices”, analogous to musical voices. These films necessitate a conscious focusing of attention, so that each spectator has his or her own experience.” How do you feel the restoration of #5 and the conversion of the work to a single-channel piece has effected the nature of the work?
JR: The thing is with #5 is that it was originally made to be shown in a gallery space, not in a cinema. What I liked then is that I could sort of reconfigure the work and adapt the screening format to the space. This posed an interesting challenge when the piece started to be integrated into film programmes, either with my other work or other single-channel works. I then found myself needing to present the work in the standardised space of the cinema. After some trials and experimenting I found that this single-channel screening is actually the optimum way to screen the work in the cinema space. I see this preservation as a way of freezing that choice in time in a way. The prints do still exist so it can still be shown in different ways and we also talked about making digital copies of each of the individual “tracks” as it were so there could still be various screening options. In a gallery space for example it still makes most sense for it to be screened as a three-channel work. I like to keep these possibilities open!
RS: Also in relation to #5, you mentioned before that you like the hummmm of the projector. With this in mind how important was it for you to consider the lack of the 16mm projector in the new digital version?
JR: For me, presenting #5 was always so exciting! However, it’s an excitement that I know the audience wouldn’t have experienced because for me it was about the anticipation. When I would screen this work using three projectors I would do a test run and figure out delays and syncs. There was always a lot of tension for me then. I would be anxious about if the projectors were running at the same speed. It was exciting in the same way a horse race can be! The projectors are three horses approaching the finish line and will they be in sync?! This moment gave me a sort of nervous excitement! Like I say this is purely personal and the audience don't know about this element or experience that tension. For that reason now when I think about the digital version of the film which is perfectly synced it’s actually just boring! I’m totally aware that there is no change here for the audience…for the audience it’s boring all along!
RS: So the final question is how do you feel these early works - in their restored form - relate to your current work?
JR: That’s an interesting question. If we go back to the baby metaphor; the child leaving the house and starting a new life of their own etc but then, at the end of the day, they're still family! That’s how I feel about my films. I can definitely learn a lot from revisiting the films but it’s a new kind of interaction, and of course I still have a strong connection. If I take #2 for example, a film which, until very recently, I hadn't screened for a very long time. Just before we started the preservation process I screened the film in Japan as part of a retrospective type programme and it was the first time i’d seen it again in maybe 15 years. It triggered a lot of thoughts. I was writing a lot of proposals at the time I revisited it and I realised then that this film captures something that I've tried to do in all my films. Something I didn't realise until that moment. I thought in some sense I have always been making the same film, and actually continue to do so! What I mean by this is that I have a fascination with processes where forms emerge and structures come into being. I see that I was doing that in #2 and it’s basically what I'm always doing. I always think my projects are completely different but in fact they're not. In that sense revisiting the films has been very interesting.
RS: Which restoration do you feel happiest with?
JR: I think I would say #5. Thinking of how Tuesday will go I feel very confident and I feel like it’s going to be really nice and thats not easy to do with 16mm screenings. My films were made at a time when you could just rent film projectors but thats becoming more and more exotic. Preserving films gives them a new life. I’m happy that this preservation process makes my films more accessible. This is so important to me! I want my films to be seen!
Blog post by Simona Monizza, curator Experimental Film EYE & Ruth Sweeney, student intern.Tag:collection, experimental film, Rekveld, restoration, EYE on Art