EYE Opening & Found Footage

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During the EYE symposium on Found Footage on April 20th 2012 my words of thanks for receiving the catalogue of the opening exhibition:

I am very honored to receive this beautiful catalogue of this opening exhibition on found footage and I would like to say just a few words of thanks to Jaap Guldemond, Giovanna Fossati and  Marente Bloemheuvel (the editors of the book), Gerlinda Heywegen (as organisor of the symposium), all other members of staff of EYE who have been working around the clock over the last few months, and of course to Sandra Den Hamer, whose unpurturbable leadership is truly admirable. If I had a hat I would humbly take it off, or as we say in Dutch: “Petje af”!

So, as you notice, I am using this occasion to thank you not only for this beautiful book and the wonderful exhibition but also to congratulate you wholeheartedly for the incredible work “against all odds” having managed to move to this splendid new building. International visitors at our university last week asked me how on earth it has been possible to get such a building for cinema in these times.  And this is indeed a remarkable achievement. Our students, who over the last twenty years always went with pleasure to the Vondelpark for their weekly viewings (albeit in four separate screenings per film to fit the theater), will now enter into a an experience: they will step into a futuristic time machine.

When I saw the Found Footage: Cinema Exposed exhibition two weeks ago, I myself had a trip down memory lane. Not only because so many of the works present historical film material that bring us in close contact with the past: a polar expedition of 1897, the colonial past, Hollywood cinema, bits of and pieces of wars, passions, scientific observations and daily life from all over the world come alive, start moving and touch directly our historical sensation.

But it was also a trip down memory lane because all these wonderful installations brought me back to the beginnings of my own cinephilia in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Seeing Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi’s powerfully fragile found footage images as an installation which allowed me to almost dwell in them, gave me flashbacks of  the little theaters such as Zaal de Unie in Rotterdam, Lightcone screenings in Paris and of course the Parisien zaal in the Vondelpark where I first discovered Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi’s films as experimental cinema, together with other “lyrical nitrate” in the work of Peter Delpeut, Péter Forgács, Bruce Conner and others. These were the moments, in the dark, where I was struck by the poetry and politics of these “other kind” of films.

And it brought me back to the mid- and late 1990s, another flashback, when I went to the Van Abbe Museum and other exhibition spaces to rediscover Hitchcock in a different speed and light in Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hours Psycho, and the rhythmic repetitions of classical Hollywood in the works of Matthias Muller, Christoph Girardet and many other artists. This was a moment where cinema invited artists to investigate the intrinsic qualities of the image, whereas the small film theaters increasingly had to give way to vast multiplexes to attract big audiences with blockbusters that can be wonderful, but that do not uncover all the richness of thoughts and affects that the cinematographic image can raise. In this flashback I often thought that cinema had to seek shelter in the museum. And in the archives of course.

Cut back to 2012, it is therefore quite unique to enter this found footage exhibition in this new artistic “multiplex” building (futuristic from the outside, expressionistic from the inside) that is indeed a “Gesammtkunstwerk”. Combining early, classic and contemporary screening facilities in dark theaters of all sizes, an exhibition space that acknowledges the place of the cinematographic image in history and in art, an interactive panorama and web presence, debates and reflections such as the one we are having today, all this presents cinema as a medium of the 21st century.  This building, this institution has changed, is changing,  and will change the “image” of cinema (image as “imago” and as image in all its ontological, political and historical meanings).

Let me conclude by reiterating that as the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam we are proud of having been working and to continue to work with EYE in and on the multiple pasts, presents and  futures of cinema. So also on behalf of all my colleagues a great thank you and congratulations with all this marvelous found footage exposed: a great applause to you and to continuing collaborations!