Mareike Bernien

On the Material, Historical, and Political Dimensions of Color in Film

Filmstill RAINBOW`S GRAVITY (2014) Mareike Bernien, Kerstin Schroedinger

Chromapolitics focuses on the production and use of color in film and its political, historical, and material dimensions. Until recently, the issue of color has rarely been addressed in the fields of film theory or cultural studies, leaving its ideological and material implications often unseen. On the basis of extensive research on the histories of two color film production companies, Technicolor and Agfa, my work moves the focus of color in film decisively away from its symbolic or narrative function and towards its inherent ideologies and invisibilized means of production and normative effects. Following this turn, the project pursues the following questions: What unreflected color codes structure our vision? Which social codes and categories are produced by color? How does the color material of a particular period shape our perception of history? How might color then allow for interventions into constructions of temporality and historicity? The project asks how film colors produce and stabilize temporalities, social codes, and categories, and at the same time, it tries to find out how these can be rewritten via color. As a visual element emancipated from narration and naturalism, color has the potential to cross existing temporal, spatial, and social orders, and create unfamiliar, new connections. Within this media-archeological investigation, I combine theoretical reflection with cinematic visual practice in order to establish a vocabulary of vision capable of putting hegemonic patterns of perception and structures of interpretation into question. By re-staging and re-reading found footage in performative set-ups, I intervene in the politics of archiving to open access to hidden readings of the color image itself. This mode of re-reading transforms the colors of film history from within, by using the material of film color to work with and against film history.
Mareike Bernien (Berlin) works as an artist, filmmaker, and teacher in the mediums of experimental film, sound art, and text. Her works take a media-archaeological approach to scrutinize the ideological certainties of representation, their material-technological requirements and historical continuities. She often works collectively and in dialogue with others, including long-term collaborator Kerstin Schroedinger. Her work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Berlinale Forum Expanded, Short Film Festival Oberhausen, MIT List Visual Arts Center Boston, les complices* Zurich, 2nd Kyiv Biennale amongst other places.