Film Program Shaping the Past: Past as Process

Shaping the Past: Past as Process © Goethe-Institut

Mon, 06/21/2021 -
Sun, 07/04/2021

A Film Program Curated by Karina Griffith




Shaping the Past: Past as Process - Long Banner

This virtual film program is part of the Goethe-Institut North America's (Institutes and Pop Ups) project Shaping the Past / Gestaltung der Vergangenheit.

Shaping the Past / Gestaltung der Vergangenheit is a project of the Goethe-Instituts and Pop Ups in North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico) that connects with and builds on the work of emerging leaders of local, national, and transnational movements to remember through reflection and with urgency. It is a partnership between the Goethe-Institut, the Monument Lab, and the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / bpb).

This program is geoblocked to the USA, Canada, and Mexico.


Statement of Curator:

“... concepts of history are always contested, always changeable, determined by the now as much as they shape our understanding of this now.”*

- Fatima El-Tayeb, Undeutsch (31)
Past as Process - Eventive
Past as Process is a program of nine films that trouble the notion of fixed histories. The Gestalt of history is not a figure, it is a process of configuration. This process of shaping the past is sculptural, artistic, and creative, which is why film lends itself so well to our understanding of time and memory.

As a structure of knowing, the past is built on a foundation of the present and the future; all of our past-oriented epistemologies are framed on shifting ground. This program sits where the telling and the knowing of histories are connected to time and place. As soon as we write history – when we hold it in one book or language or perspective, the present-tense calls for a rupture. Like an ornate clay pot that explodes into a hundred pieces in the kiln, it is the tiny bubbles in the clay, the incongruities in the construction, that destroy the form.

These films are the shards in the kiln. Each is part of a larger telling and simultaneously whole. The films in this program break the mold of not only representations of content, but of textual form, aesthetics, and style. Animation in Memory Boxes (2019) and Home? (2018) illustrates effective archiving and tags the dominant visual narrative to literally inscribe another account. Roots Germania (2007) and Roan (2019) explore the idea of “person as monument” in the family. The documentaries Duvarlar - Mauern - Walls (2000) and Past, Present, Tense (2015), made in Berlin, reflect the active listening of oral histories. The musical form of Zurück auf LOS! (2000) takes the telling into the fantastical, to share affective aspects one can only reach tonally. Each film visualizes memory, past, and history in forms that are shifting, moving, and in transformation: a grandmother, an apothecary cabinet, East German Schlager covers. Separated into four categories, the films demonstrate the artistry of shaping the past in their form (i.e. Animation), approaches (speculative and collective), and untraditional archives (focus on family).

These nine films activate diverse epistemologies and demonstrate that history takes shape in the present, but we also carve away from the past to form our ideas of the future. They show that the past is not something to look back on or to place safely on a shelf. The past is the time at the pottery wheel, always spinning and always shaping our presents and our futures.

These nine films activate diverse epistemologies and demonstrate that history takes shape in the present, but we also carve away from the past to form our ideas of the future. They show that the past is not something to look back on or to place safely on a shelf. The past is the time at the pottery wheel, always spinning and always shaping our presents and our futures.

*[Original German: „Das bedeutet, dass Geschichtskonzepte immer umstritten, immer wandelbar sind, bestimmt vom Jetzt ebenso wie sie unser Verständnis dieses Jetzt formen.“ Pg. 31.]

Karina Griffith
Berlin, Germany
​May 2021

Past as Process -  Part I Cover

June 21 - 24, 2021
Pt. I - Redrawing the Past
In their animations and colorful subtitles, these films toast the tellings of history with subjective points of view.

Redrawing the Past Past as Process: Pt. II Cover

June 24 - 27, 2021
Pt. II - Speculative History-Making
These films do not just tell history, they pose questions and place new characters in classic stories to interrupt what we think we know about German legends and who gets to be legendary.


Speculative History-Making
Past as Process: Pt. III Cover
June 27 - 30, 2021
Pt. III - Home Is Where the History Is
Films that depict intimate encounters with family – both those we are born into and those we create out of close relationships along the way – and how they can rewrite empowering versions of our past, present, and future selves.

Home Is Where the History Is
Past as Process, Pt. IV: Reshaping the “Single Story” July 1 - 4, 2021
Pt. IV - Reshaping the “Single Story”

Documentaries that understand histories and pasts are plural.
Reshaping the "Single History"

About the Curator
Karina Griffith © Mikael Owunna

Karina Griffith’s artistic and curatorial practice explore the themes of fear and fantasy, often focusing on how they relate to belonging. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute where her research on Black authorship in German cinema interacts with theories of affect theory, intersectionality and creolization. Griffith holds a lecturer position at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).

Griffith has recently done curatorial work for the Latitude Festival 2020 and for the Berlinale Forum in 2021.

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