HOW TO FIND MEANING IN DEAD TIME
Exhibition In the framework of Archival Assembly #1
Reinickendorfer Straße 17 13347 Berlin
Opening 26.082021 19:00
On Show 27.08.–12.09.2021 Daily 14:00–19:00
Curated by Kayfa ta (Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis)
With Adel Abidin, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Kamal Aljafari, Filipa César with Sana na N’Hada and Zé Interpretador, Bady Dalloul, Martin Ebner, Haytham El-Wardany, Dana Enani and Nadine El Banhawy, Maria Iorio and Raphaël Cuomo, Nihad Kreševljaković and Clarissa Thieme, Anna Kutera, Randa Megahed, Bodo Pagels, Walid Raad, Anri Sala, Sanaz Sohrabi, Fiona Tan, and Dorothee Wenner
Photos © Raisa Galofre
Martin Ebner, Film Without Film, 2013/2021
(after The Evil Faerie by George Landow, FLUX Film No. 25, 1 min., 1966)
painted wood, ca. 300 x 10 x 10 cm
The Evil Faerie, by George Landow aka Owen Land, was made in 1966 as part of George Maciunas‘ Fluxfilm Anthology. Following a comprehensive title sequence, The Evil Faerie only shows one single gesture by an actor whose identity remains unknown. The film is thus of a purely informative nature, only transporting this one not clearly decipherable gesture. What the „evil faerie“ wants to express, we don’t know, this is potentially free for interpretation. We do not even know for sure who made the film (Landow, or rather Maciunas himself?), but at least, this is agreed upon, even if it is a very short one: it still is a movie. It even found its way into an archive.
The work Film Without Film (after The Evil Faerie) acts as a kind of Non-NFT (Non-non-fungible token), stored in loose pieces of painted wood instead of chains of data blocks, refering to a decidedly communitaristic and playful approach on copyright, ownership, memory and proof, as practiced by a generation of maybe humble, maybe dislillusioned, maybe artists some years ago.
In the framework of Archival Assembly #1 – the (temporary) end of the five-year project and extended international collaboration “Archive außer sich” – this exhibition by the independent publishing and curatorial platform Kayfa ta (Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis) takes a closer look into experimental languages of cultural production and dissemination, as well as the alternative histories and possibilities embedded in the archive. How to find meaning in dead time reflects on some of the key issues surrounding the archive – its agency, inert and active modes of resistance, as well as its transformative potential in expanding personal and collective histories beyond the dominant conventions of constraint and erasure.
What is dead time? In physics, it is a technical term referring to the time that passes unrecorded by our detection systems due to a technical lag in the recording device. As such, dead time is unrecorded time. In history, dead time may refer to time that has disappeared from the records, due to a deliberate act of deletion, because it has been deemed unworthy or incongruous with the desired canonization of history. It may also refer to time that goes unaccounted for because the records attesting to its existence are no longer materially present, concealed by loss or decay. Moreover, the records of this time may be of a nature that is unreadable by our devices; records in minor languages, voiced by unacknowledged subjects or subjectivities, and contained in subsidiary media. Alternatively, dead time may be time that has wilfully withdrawn from our reach, “playing dead” in wait for a more opportune time to reinsert itself into the purview of the living. In all the above cases, time is not dead in itself, it is only insular to us because of our inability to attend to it.
1. If you sit in your room for hours on end with nothing to do, place an empty cassette tape in the player and press the record button.
Haytham El-Wardany, How to Disappear 
This exhibition contains fragments of time that are inert, have escaped the record or are in the process of resurrecting from their transitory host media. These host media include but are not limited to: 16mm films, 3D-printed cassette tapes, CCTV footage, colonial photo archives, human bodies, a jeweller’s closet, matchboxes, VHS tapes, the vaults of the Louvre museums, VHS tapes, a Persian carpet and others. More than a finite collection of material that we visit and employ, this archive of temporalities is also an immaterially expansive being that chose to visit and employ us, animating our bodies and possibly expanding our narratives of self, place and time.
7. Listen one more time. Note that what you are hearing is the sound of long, empty hours, and that the new-found meaning that you have gradually grown accustomed to is that very emptiness you had been experiencing, now abstracted from your feelings, and thoughts, and presence. You will discover that emptiness is not in itself an absence of all meaning, but rather your inability to understand new meaning.
Haytham El-Wardany, How to Disappear 
This exhibition developed in the context of Archival Assembly #1, in resonance with the extended conversations held with the various individual and institutional partners that shaped the direction of the festival’s program. Kayfa ta (Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis) is an independent publishing and curatorial platform that focuses on alternative publishing practices, their ephemeral histories and modes of survival, dissemination and concealment. In 2019, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus (Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art) invited Kayfa ta to curate the exhibition of the Archival Assembly, taking as a starting point the affinities in the curatorial focus of both Arsenal and Kayfa ta, amongst which are the interest in experimental languages of cultural production and dissemination, as well as in the alternative histories and possibilities embedded in the archive. The exhibition reflects on some of the key issues surrounding the archive – its agency, inert and active modes of resistance, as well as its transformative potential in expanding our personal and collective histories beyond the dominant conventions of constraint and erasure.
Archival Assembly #1: Archive außer sich
Archival Assembly #1 marks the (temporary) end of the five-year project Archive außer sich. During the festival, film archives and other archival projects will meet for a public exchange. While the work of some is guided by and committed to concepts of national legacy, genre, or historical time periods, others are resistant to such ideas. Some of them are state archives and as such either easily accessible or effectively closed off to the world. The specific holdings of others have yet to make any inroads at all into the writing of film history. Archives and counter-archives: It seems as if neither can do without the other. When film archives are seen not as closed entities, but as a site for the negotiation of a transnational practice and the forging of new alliances, perhaps the old idea of so-called “world cinema” can shake off its power structure, allowing us to rethink concepts of both the world and the cinema. There is indeed hope, for the archives are beside themselves. This means: they have become subjects that are no longer satisfied with people looking into them. They want to get out of themselves. They don’t just want to simply be maintained and preserved for some unknown world to come; they want to shape that world themselves. They want to turn their innermost core outwards. Being digitised is exciting, it provides them with a certain lightness and creates new opportunities and paths. Past the old archivist who was once the gatekeeper, controlling who came in and who could go out, towards a multitude of new archivists. Out of the institution and into that living reality that it once created. If they ever come back, it will be into a changed cinematic landscape, one that is right now in the process of inventing itself. But not without their help.
Curation Kayfa ta (Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis)
Management Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock, Lema Sikod
EXHIBITION PRODUCTION Willem van Hoek
COMMUNICATIONS Anna Jäger
GRAPHIC DESIGN Juan Pablo García Sossa
TECH Bert Günther
SHIPPING Nathalie Knoll and Cornelis Los
INTERNSHIP Lia Milanesio
Curated by Kayfa ta (Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis), and commissioned by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art in the context of Archival Assembly#1. Archival Assembly #1 is a festival of the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art within the framework of „Archive außer sich“ in cooperation with the project partners silent green Film Feld Forschung,, Harun Farocki Institute, SAVVY Contemporary, pong film, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and the Master’s program „Film Culture: Archiving, Programming, Presentation“ at Goethe University Frankfurt. „Archive außer sich“ takes place as part of the HKW project „The New Alphabet“.
FUNDING Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media on the basis of a resolution of the German Bundestag.
The title of the exhibition and this excerpt are from “How to find meaning in dead time,” one of the exercises in the manual by Haytham El-Wardany, How to Disappear (Cairo: Kayfa ta, 2013), 23. // Der Titel der Ausstellung und dieses Zitat entstammen „How to find meaning in dead time“, einer der Übungen in Haytham El-Wardanys Handbuch (2013): How to disappear, (Kairo: Kayfa ta), 23.
Ibid, 24. // Ebend. 24