Streetscapes

There are streets, paths, high­ways, alleys, dirt tracks and pro­me­na­des… And the­re are cour­ses of lives, thirst­lands, cross­roads and dead ends…

German thea­tri­cal release date: October 12th, 2017 - English or German with English subtitles

Film dis­cus­sions with Heinz Emigholz & Arno Brandlhuber on October 15th (14:30)
and with Heinz Emigholz & guests on October 22nd (15:00) at fsk-Kino Berlin!

  • fsk-Kino Berlin: October 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29

Everyone Experiences Space Differently”

An Interview with Heinz Emigholz at the Akademie der Künste by Christoph Terhechte

With the four-part “Streetscapes” seri­es showing at this year’s Forum, direc­tor Heinz Emigholz and Forum head Christoph Terhechte met at the Akademie der Künste at Hanseatenweg, one of the key scree­ning venues for Forum and Forum Expanded. They spo­ke about framing and edi­t­ing in archi­tec­tu­re films, the Akademie buil­ding and the neces­si­ty of rese­arch trips. (Source: arsenal-berlin.de)

In STREETSCAPES [DIALOGUE], you sta­ge a con­ver­sa­ti­on with psy­cho­ana­lyst Zohar Rubinstein befo­re the back­drop of buil­dings by Eladio Dieste and various others, with American actor John Erdman in the role of the filmma­ker and Argentinian direc­tor Jonathan Perel in the role of the psy­cho­ana­lyst. Was the con­ver­sa­ti­on always inten­ded to form some sort of script?

No. That only emer­ged over the cour­se of the five-day con­ver­sa­ti­on, which is what’s unusu­al about the film: it’s during the con­ver­sa­ti­on its­elf that the direc­tor comes up with the idea of making the film we see. It’s the­re that a tem­po­ral inver­si­on takes place. The film depicts a pro­cess that’s actual­ly impos­si­ble to depict. But I asked Zohar befo­re­hand if the­re was any rea­son why I couldn’t record our con­ver­sa­ti­on, as I was worried I might for­get some­thing. That obvious­ly goes against stan­dard psy­cho­ana­ly­ti­cal prac­ti­ce. As it was clear to him that we weren’t doing any sort of clas­si­cal psy­cho­ana­ly­sis, but rather an inter­ven­ti­on or “mara­thon”, as he cal­led it, he was fine with it.


2+2=22 [THE ALPHABET] by Heinz Emigholz

The con­ver­sa­ti­on bet­ween the two of you also revol­ves around the idea of crea­ti­ve blocks and the strength nee­ded to bring a work to com­ple­te. What made you want to get four films off the ground at the same time?

The four films were actual­ly made over the cour­se of three years. I shot 2+2=22 [THE ALPHABET] in October 2013 alrea­dy, but then I didn’t know whe­re to go with it and put it asi­de. Talking to Zohar sud­den­ly pro­vi­ded me with the solu­ti­on as to how the films could be made to fit tog­e­ther. The dia­lo­gue with the psy­cho­ana­lyst is obvious­ly the key to the other films. I edi­ted the dia­lo­gue down to the parts that focus on filmma­king. I ori­gi­nal­ly had 260 pages, of which 60 remai­ned at the end. The basic struc­tu­re is an ana­ly­sis of filmma­king that then its­elf beco­mes a film. My archi­tec­tu­re films were often cri­ti­cis­ed for not inclu­ding any sort of text, for showing spaces but not exp­lai­ning anything. This is what now takes place in the third film. In STREETSCAPES [DIALOGUE], the filmma­ker recounts what makes sen­se to him when making films. In this sen­se, the­se four films each offer explana­ti­ons for one another.

You’ve brought your archi­tec­tu­re films tog­e­ther under the tit­le of “Photography and bey­ond”. Why pho­to­gra­phy and not cinematography?

I do the framing and while I’m pre­pa­ring the image, Till Beckmann takes care of the tech­ni­cal side of things so that an opti­mal image is crea­ted. I see framing as a pho­to­gra­phic act: set­ting out the frame in full awa­reness of what you’re still going to film or what you’ve alrea­dy filmed. That’s a cine­ma­to­gra­phic decisi­on, but at the same time, I think that each indi­vi­du­al image has to be com­po­sed in such con­cen­tra­ted fashion that it can stand for its­elf, rather than just fil­ling in a gap or being inclu­ded for edi­t­ing pur­po­ses. That’s the same com­po­si­tio­nal effort also found in pho­to­gra­phy. Yet the ele­ment of time plays a part here too. Duration and edi­t­ing are always an inter­ven­ti­on into how time is con­struc­ted, almost like in sci­ence fiction.

The approach to framing used in your archi­tec­tu­re films has deve­lo­ped into a sort of trade­mark of yours. Architectural pho­to­gra­phy is usual­ly much more con­ser­va­ti­ve than your way of grasping spaces photographically.

That came about on the one hand from my fea­tures. “Die Wiese der Sachen” and “Der zyni­sche Körper” were alrea­dy to a lar­ge extent devo­ted to archi­tec­tu­re, the only dif­fe­rence being that the­re were still actors wan­de­ring around and say­ing stuff. But I wan­ted to get away from such fore­ground-back­ground rela­ti­ons­hips, as I felt that the so-cal­led back­ground was just as important as the fore­ground. When I left out the actors, I could, of cour­se, devo­te mys­elf far more to spaces. All spaces have a par­ti­cu­lar lan­guage and you have a par­ti­cu­lar sen­se of them. You approach such spaces, which also takes place via the sound­track, of cour­se, and place your body wit­hin each one, as it were. The pho­to­graph emer­ges from how I react to this space. I luck­i­ly don’t have the same pro­blem as archi­tec­tu­re pho­to­gra­phy, wher­eby ever­ything has to be encap­su­la­ted wit­hin three images. I have ent­i­re sequen­ces and can thus put much more com­pli­ca­ted spaces back tog­e­ther. You call it a trade­mark, but such films actual­ly never exis­ted befo­re. The first of them were shown at the Forum in 2001. I shot them in the 1990s and thought that it was a cru­cial idea, yet also a simp­le one, to enter buil­dings and show how the rooms unfold wit­hin them. I thought that the­re must alrea­dy be thousands of films like this, but the­re weren’t. I don’t want to use that dumb expres­si­on “uni­que sel­ling point”, but what you refer to as trade­mark just deve­lo­ped from the logic I app­ly to space. Everyone expe­ri­en­ces space differently.

If I may equa­te you with the prot­ago­nist of STREETSCAPES [DIALOGUE], which is, of cour­se, a fic­tion film, then you descri­be yourself as a nomad equal­ly capa­ble of being in Berlin or in a hotel room in Montevideo to which you have no real con­nec­tion. Yet archi­tec­tu­re pre­sup­po­ses the very oppo­si­te of this. Whether public archi­tec­tu­re like the Akademie der Künste whe­re we are right now or resi­den­ti­al archi­tec­tu­re: buil­dings are immova­ble, they seek to crea­te a home.

I some­ti­mes fan­ta­sise about what would it be like if I actual­ly lived in the house I’m filming. Sometimes it’s a hor­ri­ble thought. Architecture takes on so many dif­fe­rent tasks. Let’s take Bickels’ kib­butz archi­tec­tu­re, for examp­le: I would have loved to live in such a con­text. But this con­text hard­ly exists any more or hasn’t yet re-emer­ged. What I find inte­res­ting about all the many archi­tec­tures I now have in my head is that I can lie down and say to mys­elf: now I can remem­ber exact­ly how it was being in one place or ano­t­her. It’s like taking a holi­day in your own mind – thanks to the brain’s odd capa­ci­ty to con­ju­re up spaces anew. There’s some­thing soot­hing about that. But I’m inte­res­ted in a wide ran­ge of dif­fe­rent con­struc­tions, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in rela­ti­ons­hip to film, and not the one dream house built for me. And I’m equal­ly inte­res­ted in all the myri­ad tasks lin­ked to con­struc­tion: social housing, cul­tu­ral buil­dings, brid­ges, engi­nee­ring struc­tures. I’m inte­res­ted in brid­ges but I wouldn’t like to live under one.

Do you some­ti­mes dream of architecture?

Yes, very much so, that’s what my next pro­ject is about. It’s about the grammar of dreams, about jum­ping back and forth in time or inver­ting it, about the rup­tures in how you expe­ri­ence a dream and the impos­si­bi­li­ty of it ever being repeated. And archi­tec­tu­re has always play­ed a big part in my dreams, also con­struc­tions of a threa­tening natu­re. I also explo­red that in the dis­cus­sion with Zohar Rubinstein.


STREETSCAPES [DIALOGUE] von Heinz Emigholz

How do you choo­se the archi­tects who­se buil­dings you then dedi­ca­te your films to? I remem­ber our mee­ting one time in Buenos Aires, whe­re the Bafici fes­ti­val was taking place in a for­mer mar­ket hall who­se con­cre­te archi­tec­tu­re fasci­na­ted you.

I’d never heard of archi­tect Viktor Sulčič befo­re. After I saw the buil­ding, I went to the city archi­ve and loo­ked up ever­ything he’d built in Buenos Aires. Then I went to see it all. That’s how it hap­pens. I don’t fol­low any sort of text­book enti­t­led “The Most Important Architecture in the World” or such like. I love com­pli­ca­ted spaces and some archi­tects are capa­ble of buil­ding them and others aren’t. I’m not ena­mou­red of faça­de artists, but rather buil­ding that is con­struc­ti­ve. I used to have a list of favou­rites, which I worked my way through, but then the­re were always new names being added to the list, like Bickels or Sulčič, who I hadn’t heard of befo­re. I also look at pho­to­graphs, of cour­se, befo­re I head out on a rese­arch trip and I often don’t reco­gni­se the buil­dings from the pic­tures taken of them, as they’re so hea­vi­ly dis­tor­ted by pho­to­gra­phic inter­ven­ti­ons such as wide-ang­le len­ses that I have a total­ly dif­fe­rent fee­ling of space when I’m actual­ly the­re. That’s exact­ly my the­me: you have to be the­re to be able to reco­gni­se it. I’ve been going on the­se trips for deca­des now, they’ve been extre­me­ly important to me. You go the­re with a small team, there’s no pres­su­re and you have time to pro­per­ly enga­ge. That was a gre­at peri­od for me. There was so much lying fal­low. I’m sick and tired of the self-righ­te­ous­ness of the modern archi­tec­tu­ral canon becau­se the­re are so many dis­co­ve­ries wai­t­ing to be made that are sim­ply not unco­ve­r­ed. There are too few peop­le enga­ging with the subject.

Four years ago, Forum Expanded took place at the St. Agnes Church in Kreuzberg, which was built by Berlin archi­tect Werner Düttmann. For three years now, we’ve also been back in the Akademie der Künste in Tiergarten, which Düttmann desi­gned down to the very last detail. What fee­ling does this place evo­ke in you?

I’ve known the Akademie sin­ce the 1960s, when I came to Berlin for the first time. It was always a place that was extra­or­di­na­ri­ly stran­ge and attrac­ti­ve for me, both in its pro­por­ti­ons and in the way it con­nects exhi­bi­ti­ons spaces with rooms to sit down in and hold dis­cus­sions. And then there’s the ama­zing cine­ma audi­to­ri­um. I think it was 1974 that I had my first films at the Forum, I wasn’t the­re mys­elf that year, but rather in the US. When I came back, the Forum still used to take place in the sum­mer and was based here, which was ama­zing. In 2012, it was also the loca­ti­on for our Think:Film con­fe­rence with over 300 par­ti­ci­pants and we noti­ced in the pro­cess how well the buil­ding is divi­ded up into rooms which you can with­draw to, rooms whe­re you can hold dis­cus­sions in smal­ler groups, and then there’s the lar­ge forum and so on. And then of cour­se there’s the fact that the buil­ding is loca­ted in the midd­le of this park. It’s stran­ge that the buil­ding hasn’t just retai­ned its ori­gi­nal charm, but has actual­ly beco­me more char­ming over the years. Right now there’s so much talk about con­struc­ting buil­dings that are com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve. There was just a com­pe­ti­ti­on announ­ced about the 20th cen­tu­ry gal­le­ry and then you hear that axes were estab­lis­hed that run through the buil­ding, with a com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on point loca­ted at its cent­re. Those are such oddly abs­tract ide­as. Yet all that has alrea­dy been rea­li­sed in this buil­ding, the­re was no need to invo­ke any grand-sca­le axis phi­lo­so­phy. I also like the building’s form, the stran­ge rect­an­gu­lar block, the qua­dran­gles and also the audi­to­ri­um with the sta­ge you can per­form on from two dif­fe­rent sides. The buil­ding still exerts the same fasci­na­ti­on it did near­ly 60 years ago now.

In your film BICKELS [SOCIALISM], you place a grea­ter focus on how the loca­ti­ons are used than in your other archi­tec­tu­re films. I could feel your sen­se of melan­cho­ly about some­thing being built for a pur­po­se that no lon­ger exists.

I came across Bickels by acci­dent becau­se I found how the light is con­struc­ted in his muse­um in Ein Harod so unbe­liev­a­ble and was remin­ded that Renzo Piano adop­ted the same con­struc­tion as Bickels for his muse­um buil­ding in Houston, Texas. Bickels was a very edu­ca­ted man, his libra­ry is part of the muse­um in Ein Harod. But his main inte­rest was the spe­cial requi­re­ments of kib­but­zim and cul­tu­ral buil­dings. Yet he was also con­cer­ned with how buil­dings rela­te to one ano­t­her, public squa­res, the many thea­tres that now often lie empty sin­ce tele­vi­si­on has asser­ted its aut­ho­ri­ty. That inte­res­ted me more and more: how is the social moment situa­ted wit­hin the kib­butz? Culture is extre­me­ly important in the kib­butz move­ment. Bickels show­ed con­si­derable inven­ti­on in con­ti­nu­al­ly working on new solu­ti­ons that were then rea­li­sed in a par­ti­cu­lar kib­butz. It’s also inte­res­ting that he worked with the who­le collec­ti­ve on this. It wasn’t about the star archi­tect tur­ning up and just buil­ding some­thing, but rather ever­ything was dis­cus­sed very pre­cise­ly: what do we need, what can we afford, what dimen­si­ons should the buil­ding have and what sta­tus does it have wit­hin our com­mu­ni­ty? That’s a uto­pian form of con­struc­tion. It’s the oppo­si­te of stan­dard con­struc­tion, whe­re often not­hing more is crea­ted than a sculp­tu­re for the archi­tect. I des­pi­se it when the sculp­tu­ral is para­ded in such a way. That’s why the who­le pro­ject is cal­led “Streetscapes”, it’s about being out on the street and see­ing what cat­ches your eye. No indi­vi­du­al buil­dings are picked out and pre­sen­ted as masterpieces.


BICKELS [SOCIALISM] von Heinz Emigholz

The epi­lo­gue of the fourth film DIESTE [URUGUAY] shows the works that this Uruguayan archi­tect rea­li­sed at the end of his life in Spain. They come across like a mocke­ry of his buil­dings in Uruguay.

They’re smal­ler ver­si­ons of the church­es we saw in Uruguay, but in Spain they don’t work. They’re perhaps more pho­to­ge­nic becau­se they’re smal­ler and more com­pact, but all that we heard from the peop­le using them in Spain is that they’re useless. They’re too hot in sum­mer and too cold in win­ter and the con­gre­ga­ti­on prays in the cel­lar, becau­se ups­tairs it’s eit­her too hot or too cold. Those were his last years and he was just repea­ting hims­elf sty­listi­cal­ly. But when you see the Iglesia de San Pedro in Durazno, whe­re the brick hexa­gons are pla­ced wit­hin one ano­t­her and then you see it in Spain with dou­ble-paned glass, smal­ler but also hea­vier, then you also reco­gni­se the histo­ry of an archi­tect who stay­ed true to his for­mal con­cept, even if it no lon­ger real­ly worked.


DIESTE [URUGUAY] von Heinz Emigholz