Alan Berliner’s Archive

April 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

[My midterm paper was a short profile of the filmmaker, Alan Berliner, focusing mainly on his use of archival materials and the meticulousness with which he maintains his own personal archive, comprised of both personal materials as well as things he has collected over the past thirty-five years or so. Embedded below is part of the scene that I mention in the first paragraph – apologies to Alan if posting this causes some copyright issues.]

(For some reason, the video won’t embed properly, but you can follow the link below.  -Steve)

Alan Berliner – Wide Awakeby wouspike



Now let me tell you a few things I love about home movies.
They are anthropological sites.
Shards from archaeological digs.
They are mirrors.
They are windows.
Time capsules.
They are questions waiting to be answered.
They are answers waiting to be questioned.

-Alan Berliner

There is a scene in his 2007 film, Wide Awake, in which Alan Berliner, having imbibed coffee for what he reckons to be the third time ever in his life, steps in front of the camera and gives a hyperactive, madcap tour of his editing studio and amazing personal archival collection. Berliner’s films are nothing short of miraculous in their use of archival materials: both the volume and diversity of materials is bewildering, but what is truly striking is how effectively he uses these materials to create emotional resonances with his themes, counterpoints with the audio track, a visual playfulness through careful juxtaposition, and a rhythm of montage that pulls the viewer almost helplessly into Berliner’s world. This world is not quite somewhere between fact and fiction though; I would say its somewhere between fact and fantasy. This is an important distinction because I don’t think he is creating a fictional world, but he is definitely pushing both himself and his viewers into some kind of dreamland, where historical images take on new layers of hidden meaning.

The idea of a dreamland is appropriate, especially in the context of Wide Awake, which is about Berliner’s attempts to break the destructive pattern of insomnia that he has suffered with for much of his adult life. The film even begins by evoking one of his own recurring dreams that he has visually reconstructed from archival footage. The scene in his studio however, is not a dream at all: this is Berliner at his most awake and alert – his voiceover until now had been thoughtful and meditative, but now he has a manic giddiness as he takes us on his tour. His studio and, more precisely, his archive, is where he feels most comfortable, and once the tour commences, you come to understand that his meticulously crafted films are the direct result of both a meticulously organized mind as well as a meticulously organized, albeit eclectic, archive. » Read the rest of this entry «

Institutional Critique: The Mamma Haïdara Library in Timbuktu, Mali

April 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Institutional Critique: The Mamma Haïdara Library, Timbuktu, Mali

by Christopher Bentley

This essay critiques the post-colonial library through a case study of the Mamma Haïdara Library in Timbuktu. The library, in north-central Mali, is an internationally funded storage and research facility for Islamic manuscripts of north and west African origin.

Archiving the Interwebs: A Look at 4chanarchive

April 7th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Archiving the Interwebs: A Look at 4chanarchive
A tumblr by Darrell McIndoe

Excerpt: <<Because of the impermanent nature of 4chan’s content the users took it upon themselves to archive those threads which they believe will be worth returning to at some point in the future. The culture of 4chan is permeated with talk of “epic posts” and “gets” (“4chan”), the former is any post which is seen to be extraordinarily funny or relevant, the latter is when a thread or post in a thread receives a certain ordered number, as all posts in all boards have their number clearly displayed in the upper-right corner. It’s not difficult to see how devotees of the board would be disappointed in missing an important post, possibly the genesis of the next lolcats or rickroll. The 4chanarchive is an attempt to capture these conversations in a snapshot that can be experienced in less than real-time.>>