Reel 57

Reel 57

One-channel video, 4K to HD, 14:24, lightbox (34 cm x 39 cm)


The 16 mm film slides through the archivist’s hands accompanied by a grinding machine noise. She stops the film and takes a closer look at a frame through the magnifying glass. A stain eats into the film layer; the material erodes. She photographs the frame with her cell phone. The film continues to move through her hands. To save the film frame, a strip of film is first cut to fit the damaged area and then precisely glued to the torn film – an act of repair.

Reel 57 focuses on the often invisible work of the archivist, who meticulously analyses the material in order to read part of its history. And so, during Archival Assembly 2, the archivist realises, just by looking at a single frame, that reel 57 is part of the film fragment Fi al-dar gharibah (Stranger in the House) created by Syrian director Youssef Fahdeh in 1961.

The archival material used in this work is part of the Baalbeck Studios’s collection, which is organized and kindly made available by UMAM Documentation & Research (Beirut). The material was digitized in collaboration with Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin) with funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the German Foreign Office.

Installation views: archive of the unknown, Kunstraum Munich, 2022; photographs: Benjamin Gerull

© 2018 mazefilm - Sandra Schäfer