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Projecting an Ageless Future Through Eva Von Schweinitz’s A Film is A Film is A Film

by Joana Quiroga

A Film Is A Film Is A Film_Eva_von Schweinitz_1

The camera follows Roger Getzoff: ‘Oh-oh! Body parts’, he points. ‘Look… they didn’t give it a good funeral’.[1] What Getzoff has just found dismantled is not sliced bloody flesh, but a heavy-iron film projector torn into pieces. We are watching A Film is a Film is a Film, Eva von Schweinitz’s short documentary about the disappearance of celluloid movie projectors.[2] Getzoff is one of the last film projector technicians in New York – probably one of the very few left in the United States. For over 40 years its savior, now he reluctantly plays its executioner.

Gradually many technologies have been left to die: unfitting the bodiless digital age, letters, books and even televisions are, if not directly put to death, left in a kind of limbo, somewhere between a material and an immaterial existence. The disappearance of celluloid movie projectors started around four years ago, dominating booths on a global and rapid scale, and like those other moribund technologies, a lot of discussion follows in its wake.[3]

A Film Is A Film Is A Film_Eva_von Schweinitz_2 Indeed, there are many ways to document a historical change. Indeed, there are many ways to document a historical change. In a kind of meta-discussion, the radical change in one of the most important ways of documenting, such as the shift from analog to digital on filmmaking and film exhibition has been registered in its many different facets. The loss of the medium and the different aesthetic possibilities has mobilized an artistic brigade in its defense.[4] Economically, digital technology allows filmmaking to become unimaginably accessible, yet, on the more worrying side, perhaps turns us into cultural refugees, film archives they will be found profitable enough to be taken along in the process of digital migration.[5] These are only two of the imminent consequences that demand remark. But von Schweinitz adds one more alternative.

Before becoming the interdisciplinary artist she is now, Eva von Schweinitz first became a movie projectionist in her hometown in Germany. She presently commands a role in New York’s Film Forum, one of the last autonomous, nonprofit movie theaters of the United States. So, if on one hand she cannot halt the massive changes taking place within the intimate settings of her once hidden workplace, where she was ‘the performer behind the scenes’, on the other hand, she cannot watch it passively.[6] Driven by an anticipated longing, von Schweinitz creates an anatomical study with the intention to find out exactly what she will miss when the long known film projector has been replaced by the new DCP (Digital Cinema Package). What it is about the soul of that analogical dead body that Getzoff points to, now detached from life that moves her so much? Putting aside nostalgia, she suspects that it something about film that transcends its materiality: ‘Is there a parallel in the way we watch movies and the way we see the world?’[7]

As the epidermis of this anatomy she starts analysing the machine itself: during celluloid move projection, we sit in the dark half of the time due to a shutter that closes between one frame and the next, whereas, on the DCP the image is constant: what is going to happen with our imagination and curiosity if we no longer have ‘moments of unknowingness’?[8] The next layer of Von Schweinitz’s anatomical study is the celluloid. Using a book written by Stan Brakhage and enrolling in 16mm film classes, she tests how the material can absorb histories and images, perceiving that it requires her patience and reverence to the material, before, during and after shooting, otherwise all the work will be lost. Through a digital method these qualities are now superfluous as you can shoot indefinitely: what changes when the achievement anticipates the desire for it?

Finally, as if it were a real human body, she buries the celluloid and later she digs it back up, asking it to show its deepest stratum: its memories. Considering the film is altered as it ages, memorizing its use physically, that dead projector saw and told thousands of stories, each time a little different. On digital, everything is meant to be exactly and indefinitely the same: how will we age? Where will the memories continue to remain? How are we going to build our uniqueness despite the never changing logic? And so von Schweinitz’s suspicion exposes the nuclear layer: our relationship to the unknowingness and time as we know it is, is fading away as the celluloid is.

And as another parallel, von Schweinitz documents something else. Not only celluloid and its transcendental layers, but also a part of herself that is about to radically change too; whether she decides to fight it or not. The transformation she is witnessing is not about medium, theory or market analysis. She has to find her way to say goodbye. And so she performs this ritual of passage for both.

A Film Is A Film Is A Film_Eva_von Schweinitz_3

 

Joana Quiroga is a Brazilian artist, writer and curator, especially interested in the independent and non-institutionalized art forms. Holding a MA in Philosophy, Quiroga’s practice investigates how feelings of belonging manifest themselves and her work tries to dissolve the boundaries between theory and practice, using art to explore philosophical concepts. She merges photography, urban intervention and writing, believing that together philosophy and art can expand exponentially their capability to promote critical thinking and sensibility.

http://www.joanaquiroga.com

 

[1] A Film is A Film is a Film, dir. by Eva von Schweinitz (Brainhurricano, 2013) [online video]

[2] A Film is A Film is a Film – Trailer, 2014. dir. by Eva von Schweinitz (Brainhurricano, 2013) [online video] http://vimeo.com/88539450 Accessed 25/11/2014

[3] http://www.dlp.com/technology/dlp-press-releases/press release.aspx?id=1510Accessed 25/11/2014

[4]http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/feb/22/tacita-dean-16mm-film Accessed 25/11/2014

[5] http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/08/s-all-folks Accessed 25/11/2014

[6] A Film is A Film is a Film, dir. by Eva von Schweinitz.

[7] Ibid.,

[8] A Film is A Film is a Film, dir. by Eva von Schweinitz.

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