Amber Harper: Experimental film exhibitions in 1920s Germany
I received the GRIP Fellowship in 2020 and completed a Praktikum at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen in Berlin in Fall 2021 and Summer 2022. The internship was planned for 2021 and postponed due to COVID travel restrictions.*
I am currently completing my PhD at Stanford University in the Department of Art & Art History, where my research focuses on art history in Germany, including the historic avant-garde movements (Expressionism, Dadaism, and the Neue Sachlichkeit) and early media art. I am particularly interested in the shared histories of art and technology. The fourth chapter of my dissertation focuses on the cinema debates [Kinodebatten], which took place in Germany between the 1910s and 1930s, and the Absolute Film movement, spearheaded by the artists Viking Eggeling and Hans Richter. The GRIP Praktikum at the Deutsche Kinemathek allowed me to conduct substantial research in the museum archives on experimental film exhibitions in Germany during the 1920s and lost artworks created by Eggeling. As a result of my research at the Deutsche Kinemathek, I was able to write and submit a successful dissertation prospectus, which was approved by the faculty of the Art and Art History Department at Stanford in December 2022.
A few of the additional museums and archives where I conducted research during my time in Germany include the Neue Nationalgalerie; Märkisches Museum; Akademie der Künste; Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung; and the Berlinische Galerie, all in Berlin, as well as the Deutsches Buch und Schriftmuseum in Leipzig; the Pinakothek er Moderne in Münich; the Deutsches Kunstarchiv des Germanischen Nationalmuseums in Nürnberg; and the Deutsches Literatur Archiv, Marbach am Neckar.
Through the internship at the Deutsche Kinemathek, I also learned much about German museum and archival practices. In Fall 2021, I worked at in the museum’s Personenarchiv under the supervision of Matthias Struch (Sammlungsleiter) and Peter Mänz (Austellungs- und Sammlungsleiter). Working full-time for ten weeks, I catalogued the partial estate of the American comedian and director Jerry Lewis. The estate consists of materials (including photographs and film negatives) pertaining to the Lewis’s unfinished Holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried. This project was particularly interesting to me because the archive pertains to two of my research interests: the political responsibilities of the film industry and the representation of the Holocaust in the immediate postwar period. As a result of my work, I was commissioned to write an article about the Jerry Lewis archive, which will appear in the December 2024 issue of Das Filmblatt.†
I continued my work in the Personenarchiv in Summer 2022, when I returned to the Deutsche Kinemathek. For ten weeks, from June to September, I assisted the museum archivists to catalogue the estate of the German director Helmut Dietl, which includes 400 linear feet of archival material on Dietl’s award-winning films, such as Schtonk (1992) and Rossini (1997). In Summer 2022, I also worked in the Austellungsbüro and assisted the museum’s head curator Kristina Jaspers with the current Werner Herzog exhibition. The exhibition includes excerpts from the director Werner Herzog’s films and artifacts from his filmsets (such as original scripts and props). As part of the exhibition team, I was responsible for researching Herzog’s status as a cult figure, an important theme in the exhibition. In addition to editing the English translation of the exhibition catalog, I also created a short film about Herzog’s pedagogical practice, which is on view in the galleries.
Outcomes of the GRIP Fellowship include the submission of a successful dissertation prospectus; a published article in Das Filmblatt; and the acquisition of the professional and language skills necessary for a future career in Germany. As a result of the research undertaken as a GRIP Fellow, I have also been granted further opportunities to pursue education and work in Germany, including the competitive Stanford University / Freie Universität Berlin Graduate Exchange Fellowship and a permanent position at the Deutsche Kinemathek, which will begin in January 2023.