As Berlin’s film frenzy takes hold, it’s wise to remember that film isn’t just for the cinema – it’s also available across the city’s galleries and museums.
One not to miss this month among Berlin’s many art film offerings is Canadian artist Stan Douglas’ show Splicing Block at Julia Stoschek Collection. On display alongside photographs from his series “Disco Angola” is the 1992 installation “Hors-champ” and six-hour video “Luanda-Kinshasa” from 2013. The works show an imagined 1960s and 1970s, reconstructed by Douglas in spaces built to resemble recording studios such as New York’s legendary The Church (everything from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue to Pink Floyd’s The Wall were recorded here). In both works, musicians (presumably played by actors) convincingly pluck away at funk guitar riffs and play jazz trumpet and saxophone solos. Everything in the films feels genuine: the clothes, music, sets and movements of the players. However, it’s with this exacting blurring of fact and fiction that Douglas so adeptly queries the myth-making powers of the past.
Another dig into the past, quite literally, is the current exhibition of early film posters at the German Cinema Library – Museum for Film and Television. Titled Burn Marks – Film Posters from a Salt Mine, it includes 24 original, restored posters that were discovered as part of a haul of film reels and other film paraphernalia in a salt mine in Grasleben near Helmstedt in 1986. The posters were part of an archive collated in 1920 and then stored in the mine by the Nazis. Hiding national treasures underground during the Second World War was not unusual, but the tale of this archive includes many twists: fires that may or may not have been set by US troops after victory and a spot of covert looting, or was it a miner’s lamp that set it off? A contemporary film about the discovery and excavation of the works tries to unravel some of these mysteries and shows the intricate restoration process.
Equally mysterious are the mesmerising worlds ostensibly plucked out of nowhere by Chinese artist Zhou Tao. A master at refocussing our gaze on the seemingly unimportant human detritus of modern living and industry, he elevates everything from a discarded armchair floating down a canal to an abandoned factory complex by digging into what he calls their “ecosystems”. His films are almost always without a narrative but are replete with images of the human, animal, plant and landscape jumble we all live in. And the new film Winter North Summer South he is presenting at the Times Art Center promises to be no exception: shot over nearly two years in the Gobi Desert, it’s billed as “capturing our modernist obsession and utopian desire to turn deserts into habitats”.
Also noteworthy is Being on concrete by Jana Schulz, a new film by the Berlin artist known for mixing documentary with re-staging, at Eigen + Art Lab until February 22, and in a surprise extension until the end of the month is Post Internet video pioneer Ryan Trecartin’s Re’Search Wait’S at Sprüth Magers (see our four-star review). So if you lost out at the rush for Berlinale tickets, there’s no excuse for not getting a film fix at the artier end of the spectrum this month.
Being on concrete | Eigen + Art Lab, Mitte. Through Feb 22.
Re’Search Wait’S | Sprüth Magers, Mitte. Through Feb 29.
Splicing Block | Julia Stoschek Collection, Mitte. Through Mar 1.
Winter North Summer South | Times Art Center Berlin, Mitte. Feb 15 – May 3.
Burn Marks – Film Posters from a Salt Mine | Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum for Film and Television, Mitte. Through May 31.