The Memory Reel as an installation, as an object to be shown in galleries or museums is a huge film reel composed from the celluloid remains of the movie deposit in Cluj, an institution which became outdated both in technological and economical terms. After ‘89 smaller private film distribution companies could much easily organize a cheaper distribution of reels to cinemas, so the deposit was less and less needed. Beside that the arrival of digital technologies completely surpassed the whole system, so as it usually happens in Eastern Europe, where past is so fast forgotten, after the collapse of the company, everything was left as it was.

So one scope of this reel is conservation, preservation: Adela collected the damaged film strips that were still in the deposit a few years ago, and by creating this installation saved them from complete disappearance. However we have to point out, that this is not a museological action, as we don’t know what films in which order have been integrated into the work – so there is no real archive here. Of course this is not a fault, as these strips are not of huge value, several copies of these movies exist in several archives in the world.

This installation is a sort of monument to cinema, to classical cinema, but without the nostalgic aura that surrounds similar works. And this was a real danger, as one could easily fall into the trap of hipster fashion and nostalgia for technologies that have passed away. Instead what we get here is a mixed feeling of sadness and of realization of the fact that without light, projector and spectators film itself is just a dead thing with no value and magic. The Memory Reel is not the memory of the media of film, nor of cinema in general, but it is the memory of a small community and of a physical place built around this media. It is not the movies that have been lost here, but decades from the life of those people, who now have to acknowledge, that what they were doing for so many years, is meaningless today.

The fact that the film strips were glued together in an accidental order is important also because it brings us to the second part of the project. This associative logic of these film fragments does not belong to cinema any more, but to the logic of the internet, where most people don’t read or watch full articles or videos, but just jump from one fragment to another. And this is one of the main reasons why classical, linear cinema struggles to survive in the digital age – in my view the installation points out this feature in a very subtle way.

Review by Zsolt Gyenge


The installation is completed by a short, 12 minutes long documentary“ which is more a mood film presenting testimonials on cinema memories of younger and older people from Cluj.

Artistic statement: Memory reel

“…the archive not only preserves the past or takes action against contemporary forms of amnesia, but it is a place where the suture between past and present is located in an indeterminate zone between the document and the monument” 1

Archival Art

MEMORY REEL is inscribed within the category of archival art 2 and uses material from an abandoned archive which contains almost the entire range of films traded in Romania’s cinemas between 1964 and 2005. The abandoned celluloid is part of the work and also makes the work: wrapped around as a “memory-reel” and illuminated from below the circularly patterned memory layers become visible. The looped videos featuring interviews accompanies the memory-sculpture to re-create and rethink the meaning and loss of identity, history, memory, of the abandoned Archive and Cinema; and also investigates the impact of this process and the role of the artist who becomes more and more a filter, a collector, an archivist, a post-producer of already existent cultural material.3 As archival art pays homage to a historical figure in the form of a monument, or by using the figure’s life and or work as an organizing theme,4 I will be using film stills, photographs, and other recollections, to re-create a rich history culled from the real life and stories of the women who worked there5 from the early days6 of the Archive: Szende Bulbuca was a film restorer at the Film Warehouse for 37 years, from the early days when the place opened. Through her character, I’ll begin a conversation about the issues that risk being forgotten. Her interview is also trying to give a synthetic overview concerning the story of the vintage Film Warehouse located in Cluj Napoca (Romania).

Archival art7 uses public or private collections or found materials to create new public archives, placing the information within a new context to be interpreted by the viewer: The rapid emergence of digital media makes possible and necessary a new form of public cultural memory: the proposed long-term intermedia project is devoted to forge establish a creative framework that reanimates the past and creates access to cinematic memories. This importantly includes the bridging of the personal and the collective. My interest lies in constructing/developing a creative attitude toward the past that challenges/invites the audience to think of cinema in ways never tried before, to adopt a critical approach, to reflect upon the medium itself and the cultural formation of cinema; and also to seek further knowledge and understanding.

The (An)Archival Impulse

The art historian Hal Foster’s 2004 essay “The Archival Impulse”8 defined archival art as a genre that “makes” historical information, often lost or displaced, physically present. To this end archival artists elaborate on the found image, object, and favor the installation format.” Foster also suggested that “this impulse”9 could perhaps be more accurately described as anarchival, speculating on the complicated and dynamic relationships between remembering and forgetting, keeping and discarding, preserving and destroying.10

Anarchival is just another face of the archival: forgetting is a function integral to memory as it is remembering. Anna Maria Guasch11 established two large “machines” of the archive: one that emphasizes the principle of nomos (or law) and the topographical order, and second, that accentuates the contradictory actions of storing and saving and, simultaneously, forgetting and destroying traces of the past, a drive that informs an anomic principle. MEMORY REEL is inscribed in the second. The Machines could also be studied in relation to the archive physical nature. The archive based on the object culture and the logic of material memory systems and the archive-based in virtual information that reflects a rationality which is flexible and non-stable, not ordered linearly and independently of any hierarchy.12

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    1. Archive Fever. Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, New York, International Center of Photography, 2008., pp. 46-47.
    2. Archival Art, Artspace Editors,
    3. As defined by Domenico Quaranta, The artist as archivist in the Internet Age,
    4. Artspace Editors,
    5. She worked in the abandoned Archive all her life, more than 30 years
    6. The woman who worked there her entire life,
    7. An Archival Impulse,
    8. Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse” October 110, (Fall 2004): 3-22.
    9. Mnemoscope Magazine, founded in April 2013, dedicated to contemporary art practices and visual culture exploring issues of memory, history and the archival impulse.
    10. Mnemoscope Magazine, Elisa Adami, Alessandra Ferrini,
    11. Anna Maria Guasch, Art and Archive, 1920-2010.; Genealogies, typologies and discontinuities,
    12. Ibid.