Archivo Expandido

5, 8, 9, 10/05 – 20:30
6/05 – 18:00
ES > NL / FR
55 min

Military parades, family parties, deserted streets, medical operations… all can be found in Archivo Expandido . Magdalena Arau says she was given these film and sound archives by the former manager of a film club in La Plata. But who made these recordings? And why? All we know is that they date from the 1970s, the years of the Argentine dictatorship: a time when a ban on filming in public spaces led to cinema going underground. Arau puts these fragments from the past together, showing them one after the other and alongside one another, looking for lost meaning, a new interpretation. Literal, suggestive and enigmatic at the same time, these images appear to reveal just one thing: the work of time on memories. All that remains of history are material traces, the surface of scratched film, the drone of tired 8mm projectors… An engaging exploration of perception.

Written & directed by
Magdalena Arau

Sound design
Manque La Banca, Magdalena Arau

General assistant
Guido Ronconi

Super 8 projectors operator
Leandro Listorti

Slides projectors operator
Luisina Anderson

Overhead transparency projector operator
Magdalena Arau

Sound devices operators
Manque La Banca – Guido Ronconi

Intertitle design
Leopoldo Dameno

Thanks to
María Cristina Ruggieri, Diego Trerotola, Alberto Antonini, Laureano Arau, Daniel Viccino, Gastón Zalba, Agustín Masaedo, Juan José Becerra, Lisandro Arau, Franco Palazzo, Rosa Teichmann, Marcelino López, Hernán Khourian, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Ernesto Lond, Paulo Pécora, Ernesto Baca, Claudio Caldini, Luis Migliavacca, Alejandro Jandri Magneres, Lionel Braverman, Carolina Arauz, Paula Félix Didier

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Les Brigittines

Supported by
Ambassade van Argentinië/Ambassade de la République Argentine

Back to top

The expanded archive (Archivo Expandido) or the struggles of the time

It all started as a very personal archaeological or semiotic research. Identifying a canister that was supposed to have been lost, from among indirectly inherited rolls of film, among the images that at the persistence of a filmmaker whose partially unpublished work spent years in the archives, had been affected by time and was still not destroyed. There was virtually nothing known about what was on the rolls, which were not even labelled. The detective work held the suspicion that something was going to be discovered, that there was a surprise to follow, but most of all, that a mystery or secret, now well hidden in a box, would be revealed. Had this canister left traces that were worth the trouble to retrieve? It was Magdalena Arau who got a hold of this legacy, a box with hundreds of film tapes, including recordings by Enrique Tato Rocca, president of Club Peña Foto Cine 8mm in La Plata, the capital of the province of Buenos Aires. Rocca’s work exuded prestige, which aroused expectation. La Peña was active between the 1970s and 80s. The Club housed a legion of amateur filmmakers who started at the height of the Super 8 format, which was utilised way before the hegemony of the video as cheap and ‘domestic’ recording equipment. During Rocca’s presidency, La Peña was a haven for students from the film faculty, who had shutdown the dictatorship. Once opened, the archive revealed a lot of different facets. This raised questions to which no easy answer could be given, because the images on each reel looked very raw and most had no table of contents, titles or intertitles, so any kind of identification was a difficult feat. Although it appeared that certain images were shot for generic purposes (films of surgical procedures in operating theatres were among those with scientific purposes, while films of social events belonged with the institutional material), there is certainly no clarity as to the actual objectives of each recording. Even the authorship that one hopes to see, the filmmaker’s footprint, was called into question because maybe not all films were even made by Rocca and belonged in the La Peña archives. Rocca remained a ghost. That’s why we were so disappointed with the first objective of the research. But there also arose a promise: that another, unexpected universe would come to be discovered.

Magdalena Arau was so wise not to provide a structure or cast a mould in which to enclose the contents or form of the material. Therefore additional material that also belonged there was added to the legacy, such as slides and tapes of audio recordings, and visual and sound recordings that conjured as many questions as there were rolls of film. Because it was impossible to find a centre where all the material was handled, we can say that the initial intent of the Archivo Expandido was the retrieval of the research experience and the multiplying thereof. On its flight to the mysterious and amazing edge of discovery, the project seemed to confirm that the power of image and sound could be recovered from such a diversity, that the initial questions related to the found recordings vary with every canister that was thrown in. Instead of enclosing everything in one story, Magdalena Arau created a praxis, a mechanism for reviving the material. Far from a structure that imposes a controlled interpretation, it was more about installing a multiplicity inspired by the same rawness, in a juxtaposition and a syntax that not only needed to alternate, but that guaranteed that the covert and untouchable aspect act as an interrogative force. How could we repair the density that disconnects each piece of material? The solution: to create an open seriality, to create an idea of a fragmenting where the reciprocal materials, in a game with each other, enter into dialogue - conspiring, coinciding, mocking, falling out of tune, being superfluous, contrasting... Each fraction of the find is not linked to a unique chain, like the victim of a series that suppresses it, but opens a continuous perspective that catalyses the possibility for a unique course. In other words, instead of creating a petrified linearity (in terms of meaning, perception or story), the Archivo Expandido branches out ever further, to disappear into the dilemmas where the superposition of the moving or still image, of words or sounds, are textures that desintegrate and create an opportunity for spectacle, that changes and expands the mechanical way in which we currently establish relationships with the proliferation of sound and image.

Therefore the cinema screen could not be a real context, and was transformed into a game board with different boxes in which the material comes to life. The research of the material occurs live, with different eyes and ears composed in blocks, as phases of the mystery that the archive encloses. Besides a vaguely autobiographical essay presenting Magdalena Arau’s text, some general ideas alternately emerge, along with the flashing movement that Super 8 sometimes exhibits. The first idea that appears from the material is the eloquence with which an era expresses itself through smaller manifestations, films, slides and innocent sounds, granted in an era when the performances were controlled, as was the case during the Argentine civil and military dictatorship of 1976-1983. It was during that period that the majority of the material was produced. Part of controlling the culture at that time made it impossible for film images and stories to reflect the reality of the extermination being applied by State Terrorism, even if only by means of allegories. The television channels were controlled and film censorship spotted any deviation. Therefore we see almost no urban images, no simple images portraying the daily customs in the Argentine cities from this period in which the country had wronged. Part of the merit of Magdalena Arau’s material is in the unique testimonies on certain conditions that until recently were unpublished in films of that time. Therefore, the instant images of the Magdalena Arau archive explore the end of the 1970s and early 80s as a conflict zone that finds expression in institutional demonstrations: the bloodshed, the secret meetings of an erotic nature where women were abused, the military parades, the trips to see churches in the abandoned Argentine interior... bundled together on the same level to reveal how a part of this imaginary idea functioned - an idea that today can threaten each part of these fragments with scarlet bloodshed. As one can also see in many of the slides, the progress of a particular form of capitalism, with the arrival of multinational companies and brands in Argentina, resembles the basic ideology of the civil and military dictatorship that mainly made its nasty home in La Plata. Without the intention of lapsing into an all too easy sociology, or too-obvious pamphlet, but with the primal scream as the footprint of an era that attacks and eats each fragment, the mosaic created by the Archivo Expandido is a structure that makes links but would not impose such a forced trajectory. On the contrary, Magdalena Arau suggests listening to the pristine noise of the time, that which the interplay of visual and sound aspects initially cannot perceive, or that which is not observed outside a freethinking relational logic or an open syntax such as that created by the Archivo Expandido.

The value of this work lies not only in what it can say about the past, but also in what it says about the present in regard to the audiovisual arts. Although digital culture has positive democratic values, thanks to communication networks, it has also brought with it a kind of hegemony that the Archivo Expandido opposes, a resistance that has the same multiplicity as the formal, aesthetic and conceptual network associated with it. While the digital culture absorbs everything, and spreads it with a numerical, hard, anonymous and impersonal logic, and given that the facilities for image and sound spectacles have become increasingly individualised or mass resources, almost without a middle ground, Magdalena Arau’s project again finds a collective connection at a human scale.

It proposes not only not to digitalise any of the initially found materials, but also to show them without any kind of restoration work. However, it’s not about a retro show, because the ‘homely’ circumstances in which the traditional Super 8 was shown are lacking; the experience has another scope and the old, limited place that showed the format is multiplied. Additionally, it guarantees the presence of each team member who joins Magdalena Arau’s performance (Luisina Andersón, Manque La Banca, Leandro Listorti and Guido Ronconi), who operates the devices live (Super 8 projectors and projectors for slides, recorders with open tapes, retro projectors), that the entire process is the retrieval of the theatre space as a communal space, and this as a multiple creation, keeping in mind the contemporary flight of the cinema-goer as space for a collective gathering. But there is also a back-up plan at the core of the project, which is also critical, as if one has manipulated the performance of the Archive, through which the process obtains a more solid shape and by which a series of old machines and a group of people participate in the struggle for meaning, memory; for the perception of the world. One outcome of this struggle is a plenary community that contains the potential occurrences of fate or the mystery of future coincidence, because distributing the archive is about keeping a series of recordings alive in order to experience how the past and present are distorted, which establishes the mystery and secret of all time, as the disclosure of a future form.

By Diego Trerotola
(translated by Jodie Hruby)

Back to top

Magdalena Arau (La Plata, Argentina, 1981) studied drama and acting. She graduated from UNLP’s film school, where she now teaches. She has been involved in theatre and film projects as an assistant director, screenwriter and actress. In recent years she has acted in Finales (Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2008, Spielart 2009) and Insomnio (Theater der Welt 2010). She has written and directed short films, focusing on the inquiry of archive material. Her work has received recognition from various festivals. She is currently working on projects that involve the theatrical experience within the cinematographic device. Her work explores the materiality of the image, sound and media as living matter, and their organisation in the context of a stage experience. In 2011 she premiered Archivo Expandido during BAFICI (Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente).

Back to top