What goes into the staging of an exhibition–especially one like Through the Eyes of Rachel Marker?
By Lisa Wurtele
Let’s peek behind the scenes into the search for images to enhance the visitor’s understanding of Rachel Marker’s world. “Moira and Alla knew they wanted a textural and contextual backdrop – a progression of stills and moving images that would represent the events of the 20th Century that Rachel Marker had experienced,” explains Gary Handman, the Public Services Coordinator at The Magnes. To put that together, Moira Roth, Rachel Marker’s creator, and the exhibition’s curator, The Magnes Director Alla Efimova, approached Handman, a founding member of the American Library Association Video Round Table, and a consultant and advisor for several national film and video festivals and organizations.
Handman used the Rachel Marker journals, together with her daily letters to Franz Kafka after his death in 1924, as a chronology, and attached historical footage and still images to the events as they unfolded in the journals and letters. Here are a few:
Hitler at the Eiffel Tower, Paris
Constructing the Berlin Wall
Image of the Prague Astronomical Clock from the film on the gallery wall as reflected in a mirror in the exhibition
As sources Handman used The Media Resources Center at UC Berkeley’s Moffitt Library, one of the largest and most respected video collections in a U.S. academic library. As immediate past Director there (a position he held for close to 35 years, until his retirement in 2012), he is especially well equipped to ferret out appropriate historical media. Handman also looked at YouTube sources and combed the Internet Moving Image Archive (a collection of public domain footage). There he found rare and obscure footage, such as the fall of the Winter Palace in Petrograd during the Russian Revolution, and Sigmund Freud toward the end of his life.
The process of editing involved weaving the selected scenes chronologically. In sessions with Moira Roth and Alla Efimova, Handman looked at the organization of the images, as well as the pacing and rhythm. In order to bypass the narrative documentary genre, no soundtrack or voice-over was added. Instead, only a few titles to identify time and place (e.g., “Prague in the 1920s”) were included. A printed time line accompanies the film to ensure that the viewer may clearly identify the historical events and figures. Thus, the film allows one to visit Rachel Marker’s world by experiencing a dream-like interlude, the state where events unfold with greater immediacy.
Here’s a clip from the film (click on picture):
Please join us at The Magnes to enjoy the film in its entirety!