“What is that?,” we ask ourselves when viewing the circular photographs by the Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler. Some of these works look like the iris of an eye; others evoke an impression of a spinning record or of a whirligig in motion. The intricacy of design, transparence and irregularities of what is depicted do not initially disclose that these largescale images actually depict reels of film from the Deutsche Kinemathek’s archives.
The unusual project “The Unseen Seen,” by Reiner Riedler and the film archivist Volkmar Ernst, allows the physical states of film to manifest themselves as photographic works of art. During several visits to the film archives, Riedler photographed archival film materials while maintaining their backlighting under constant lighting conditions, which ultimately emphasized the physical properties and the composition of each individual collection object. The film reels are radiantly displayed in a variety of colors. This aesthetic and the uniqueness of these materials, known primarily only to archivists and projectionists until now, are being made accessible to a wide audience. At the Museum für Film und Fernsehen, every visitor is invited to “project” his or her own cinematic and filmed memories onto the photographs of films such as GOOD BYE, LENIN! (D 2003, directed by Wolfgang Becker) or CASABLANCA (USA 1942, directed by Michael Curtiz).
In addition to this newly discovered aesthetic appreciation, the exhibition calls the transience of analog film materials into awareness, as it is one of the greatest challenges faced by every film archive. Films have to be carefully preserved, oftentimes restored and also maintained for future use through digitalization. The Deutsche Kinemathek’s film archives have amassed more than 13,000 titles – films spanning the most diverse formats, genres and categories, markedly artistic films and films as historical documents, which include national and international productions. Reiner Riedler’s photographs of the DER BLAUE ENGEL (D 1930, directed by Josef von Sternberg), CITIZEN KANE (USA 1941, directed by Orson Welles), TROIS COULEURS BLEU (PL, FR, CH 1993, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski) or GESPENSTER (D 2005, directed by Christian Petzold), which will be shown in the exhibition, also offer insights into the comprehensive collection inventory preserved in the Deutsche Kinemathek’s film archives.
The exhibition brochure is available for download.