Location: Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin and Crystal Palace Park, London
Political Geographies, Historical Geographies
A collaboration between sociologist Karl Palmås and photographer Kalle Sanner’s exploring how architecture and the built environment relate to socio-political imaginaries. Based on historical research and on-site documentation from Berlin's Tempelhof airport and London's Crystal Palace, this essay film locates contemporary politics in space and time, investigating themes of political temporalities, globalization, and the ruin.
"The idea for the film emerged from an encounter with a designer who worked with refugee-welcoming at Tempelhof Airport. This was in 2016, during the European migrant crisis, when the defunct airport was used as a make-shift refugee shelter. Given the history of the airport – it was constructed during the late 1930s, designed to become a beautiful ruin that would showcase the Third Reich for posteriority – this creative repurposing of the building turned history on its head.
Thus, the film project set out to explore how buildings are tied to conceptions of time and space. The first part of the film interrogates how the Tempelhof airport of the Third Reich era was tied to the fascist conception of time, and how it was spatially conceived as the hub of a future capital of the world. The second part focuses on this imaginary of the globe as a totality to be conquered, tracing how it emerges in colonial Europe and given shape by London’s Crystal Palace during the 1851 Great Exhibition (of the Works of Industry of All Nations). The third and final part explores how the Tempelhof of today enacts a new conception of time – one of apocalyptic revelation."
Findings and Challenges
One key finding was the fact that hope can be found in places where you may not expect them – like in a defunct Third Reich airport. Therefore, it was important for us to provide a sense of this hope during the third and final part of the film.
What did film-making add to the project? As regards the choice of the filmic medium for exploring these themes, our ambition has been to convey the sense of space and time that the two landmark buildings produced. Indeed, the film posits that these sites and buildings can be tied to conceptions of time and space – we seek to capture some of that very experience of the built environment. Moreover, the experience of these buildings has historically been shaped by lens-based media. In fact, Crystal Palace was the first building to be documented through the photographic medium – this very fact is one explanation for its cultural influence. Similarly, the significance of Tempelhof airport can hardly be dissociated from political uses of lens-based media. Thus, exploring the above-mentioned themes using images and sound, rather than just text, adds other layers to the project.
In terms of challenges, there are of course several that can be stated – not least since none of us (a social researcher and a photographer) have made films before. One challenge was how to engage with the dark history of Tempelhof, another was whether and how to represent migrants. The paramount one, though, is how to say something when you are not trained to speak the filmic language. Technological advances may have democratized the access to the tools of film-making, but such tools are of little use if one does not know how to “speak film”.
Review The geometrical composition of the shots, the lines, the intersections, the theoretical essay speech, the sense of peace by the narrator’s tone added to the peaceful landscapes, the pace of the editing, the background music, the direct sound of nature, all together creates a poetic film on how buildings are tied to conceptions of time and space. Congratulations, you are on the right track to become a fluent “speak-film”.