Towards an Aesthetic of Ephemerality: Curating Documentation Footage at the EYE Filmmuseum 2021 Exhibition All about Theatre about Film | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This paper presents a curatorial aesthetic of documentation footage in exhibition settings that accentuates the condition of ephemerality. The development of this curatorial aesthetic is based on the 2021 All About Theatre about Film exhibition at the EYE Filmmuseum. The exhibition reconstructs theatrical adaptations by Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove and scenographer Jan Versweyveld of canonical European films in the 60s and 70s. To translate the form of theatre into the museum space, the curatorial team resorted to presenting the documentation footage of the selected plays. While their unfolding in the exhibition indexes the memory of past performances, the documentation footage cannot but announce the loss of the theatrical events in the here and now. Instead of framing it as an analytical closure, I investigate how such loss allows the footage to evoke a different sense of liveness that is always in the making, and that activates the counter-archival potential of the documentation footage to witness the memory of theatre differently. Rather than viable records of past performances, the footage becomes an ephemeral document for what cannot be registered in the camera frame. To illustrate, this paper offers a close reading of the exhibition room India Song, where the blurry registration of the footage interacts with an immersive physical environment to re-stage the thematic of colonial decadence and estrangement of the original artworks. Going beyond the canonical theatrical works by van Hove and Versweyveld, I further suggest how this curatorial aesthetics of ephemerality can be employed to activate the counter-archival impulse of various other types of archival footage—such as ones with fraught representations of colonialism.


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