To preserve film is to project it

A conversation about networked archiving and the preservation of Japanese experimental film


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Memory

Organizing Institutions

Collaborative Cataloging Japan (CCJ), Slought


Ann Adachi-Tasch


Penn Cinema Studies

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "To preserve film is to project it," a conversation about networked archiving and the preservation of Japanese experimental film, on Friday, February 3, 2017 from 6:30-8:30pm. Organized with Collaborative Cataloging Japan (CCJ), the event will feature presentations by Alexander Zahlten and Go Hirasawa, and will begin with a series of screenings from 6:30-7pm of rare 8mm works, including Motoharu Jonouchi's Gewaltpia Trailer (1969) and Adachi Masao's Galaxy (1967).

In contemporary archiving practices, the method of the network and the use of the digital technology have established familiarity as a significant strategy for gathering records while assuring wide access to the content. A wide range of organizational principles predominate, such as formal and large-scale regional or national initiatives, "dispatch" style process with designated researchers collaborating with one another, or publicly-created collections using crowdsourcing or submission of cultural heritage images, sounds, and videos. Moreover, the act of archiving has often been decentralized and distributed to anyone with the inclination to gather traces of the past for historical study, preservation, and future development.

In the case of Japanese experimental film and video, archivization has been limited by the capacity of established institutions. Networked methods have the potential to balance insufficient resources, infrastructure, and planning on the part of professional archivists and institutions. The task of documenting and creating access has been taken up by independent scholars, curators, archivists, and small organizations. The event at Slought will build upon the work of two such scholars and archivists, Go Hirasawa (Meiji Gakuin University) and Alexander Zahlten (Harvard University), who have both worked to restore and distribute under-represented works.

The event will build upon the question of how Japanese experimental film can inform non-centralized methods of archiving. Hirasawa, a specialist of Japanese underground films, has worked with many filmmakers whose works were produced in the context of anti-establishment movements of the late 1960s and 1970s, and have not received attention from major film archives in Japan. He will speak about works by Motoharu Jonouchi, and a small screening program in Japan that led to international presentations and proceeds supporting restoration and preservation projects. Zahlten will introduce his project of digitally preserving and circulating 8mm films from Japan, including those stored with the PIA Film Festival in Japan, which began in 1977.

While these outcomes are visible to the archival communities involved, the legacy of Japanese experimental film and video remains largely inaccessible to the larger public. Please join us for this conversation on research, preservation, and visibility and Japanese experimental film.

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Alexander Zahlten is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Go Hirasawa is a researcher at Meiji-Gakuin University working on experimental films and avant-garde art movements in 1960s and '70s Japan.

Collaborative Cataloging Japan (CCJ) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that provides archival and media preservation support to institutional and private collections of Japanese experimental moving image works produced from 1950s through 1980s, with the goals of documentation, preservation, and opening access internationally to these materials.

"We tend to think of archiving as the inward movement of collecting things: finding bits and pieces, bringing them together, guarding them in a safe and stable place. The model of this type of archiving is the fortress, or the burning library. This model already provides a clear sense of the limits, or ends, of the archive: fire, flooding, data loss.

Can we think of the archive differently? When Henri Langlois, founder of the Cinémathèque Française, stated that "the best way to preserve film is to project it", he hinted at the very opposite philosophy of archiving: to actually use and consume things, to keep them in, or bring them into, circulation, and to literally throw them forth (Latin: proicere), into a shared and distributed process that operates based on diffusion, not consolidation, through imagination, not memory, and towards creation, not conservation."

-- Public Access Digital Media Archive, "10 Theses on the Archive," April 2010, Beirut, Lebanon.