The installation

Streets named after filmmakers can be found in many cities around the world. It isn't surprising that in the city of Potsdam, with its more than 100 years of film history, not only monarchs, politicians, garden architects or poets, but also filmmakers are honoured with street names.

From September 8 to October 4, 2020, the installation "Das filmische Gesicht der Stadt Potsdam" (The Cinematic Face of the City of Potsdam) can be experienced. It is an artificial street landscape which was erected in front of the Film Museum Potsdam. It consists of street lamps and the cinematic street signs of Potsdam. The street signs are sorted according to the districts where the street names can be found. Panels convey information about the biographies of the filmmakers who were honoured with street names. In addition, short theoretical texts suggest that street landscapes can be understood as palimpsests, cultural arenas and performative spaces. Here, the installation mainly refers to Reuben Rose-Redwood, Derek Alderman and Maoz Azaryahu's research and their publication "The Political Life of Urban Streetscapes. Naming, Politics, and Place." The installation does not present research results but raises questions. For example:

The installation in front of Filmmuseum Potsdam © Anna Luise Kiss.

The installation in front of Filmmuseum Potsdam © Dieter Chill.

Which filmmakers have been honoured with a street sign so far and for what artistic achievement? What does the work of each filmmaker stand for, from an individual perspective and beyond? Which artist honoured with a street sign could be problematised, and why?

Which film professions are represented? In what cinematic genres did the filmmaker work (feature, documentary, animal film, etc.)? What about race, ethnicity and gender balance?

What kind of film history do the street signs document? Who is part of this story? Who is excluded from it?

The installation in front of Filmmuseum Potsdam © Anna Luise Kiss.

The installation in front of Filmmuseum Potsdam © Dieter Chill.

Due to the current controversies over (re)naming of streets, these questions are particularly relevant.

Furthermore, the installation informs about filmic street signs that no longer exist or have yet to come into existence. For example, under the National Socialists there was a film academy street in Potsdam, which was given the name August-Bebel-Straße in 1945. For contextualisation purposes, the installation also provides a few clues as to when street names were designated in Potsdam by means of an administrative act.

The installation aims to encourage people to literally walk through the streets and to make an independent evaluation of the narrative. A narrative that is shaped by specific ideas about film making and film culture as well as gender imbalance; a narrative that has a complex relationship to the urban history of Potsdam; a narrative that also documents cultural-political conflicts within the urban society. The installation can also be understood as a general stimulus to critically examine urban space and street naming politics.

The installation is part of the larger research project "Das filmische Gesicht der Städte" (The Cinematic Face of Cities), which investigates the identity of film cities. A project that is based at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF and Aarhus University and is funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) until the end of 2022. 

The installation in front of Filmmuseum Potsdam
© Anna Luise Kiss.

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