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Jacqueline HoltClick here to Print this Page
David Lamelas
In 1998, almost a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, David Lamelas completed a 29min silent film, Time As Activity: Berlin.

The film comprises of footage shot from a helicopter as it makes three sweeps across the city from West to East. The view point is poised directly over the city, the viewer does not see the horizon but a map of buildings forming streets, intersecting with rail and road infrastructure. The evolution of the roads, trains, canal and river are deeply embedded in the scene and all conducive to a sense of homeostasis. As the camera traverses the city the viewer sees beneath them the length of Strasse 17 June with the Tiergarten Park either side. As the camera continues the viewer sees the traffic moving along the road towards a roundabout, the centrepiece of which is the Berlin Victory Column: a monument to the Prussian victories over Denmark, Austria and France. Then further along the Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, and the dome of the Reichstag. These historic landmarks stand out, their iconic profiles still recognisable from the unusual perspective and their individual locations creating a space by which they are framed. As the camera continues its journey the viewer is witness to the large scale rebuilding. The previous sense of harmony is unsettled as the canopy of roofs and treetops fall away. Escarpements appear where the land has been cleared for development, cranes, scaffolding and building materials infilling the gaps. The colour palette shifts to the earth tones of the building site.

As the viewer follows the camera's survey, the film prompts a meditative reverie on the passage of time and how history is formed evoking Berlin's own history at the heart of historical and idealogical change in Europe. Interwoven within that, the personal, individual histories of betrayal, loss and families torn apart to the more recent formation of a new Germany bringing its own set of problems. History, the lessons of history and the actual physical act of demolition and rebuilding leading us to question who decides what remains.

On screen, each section of the film is prefaced and punctuated by a title page that gives the start time and end time of the following sequence. The date is not noted and we only know which year the film is made in the credits at the end. The effect of this is to imbue the following sequence with the import of pin-point accuracy. The time is given in hours, minutes, seconds within the 12hr clock, making it quite hard to calculate the duration unless you are familiar with reading video time code. From these title pages, one would be led to believe that it is the very second of inception and truncation, and the duration of the sequence of the film that is of prime importance, portraying a document of the passage of a specific quantity of time. Yet in one of these title sequences, there is a mistake. The duration is notated to be 2mins and in fact turns out to be 10-15 seconds. This rift in the time notation has been left in, it acts as a disruption within the film and consequently leading the viewer to question the significance of the notated time.

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