Long sent pictures

Thanks to Kirch bankruptcy: The exhibition "Television makes you happy" recalls the golden years of television

Like water lilies, the monitors lie beneath the dark surface of the water and show slow-moving images: bizarre aquatic animals, nocturnal street crossings, passing cloud formations, a fireplace, an aquarium Pause images from television, from a time when it could still take a few minutes to switch from one channel to another. Even the canaries, which hooted around on stylized power cables for Sudwestfunk until the 80s, are not missing. The long-dispatched pictures can be seen in the exhibition Fernsehen macht glucklich (Television makes you happy), which has been on display at the Berlin Film Museum since the weekend.

Logo of the exhibition. (c) blotto, Berlin

The exhibition aims to document the golden years of German television. In five rooms, the exhibition shows clips from successful programs on dozens of monitors, as well as complete programs in front of which you can slump down as a couch potato on cushion-supported sofas.

Curators Peter Paul Kubitz and Gerlinde Walz have put together 20 hours of television: Zlatko once again leaves the "Big Brother"-container once again and is cheered by thousands of fans, in the Schwarzklinik the disputes between the head doctor and his assistants escalate, Mother Beimer brings orange juice to her son’s bedside, Harald Schmitt with a full-grown fringe haircut jokes in "Schmidteinander" with Herbert Feuerstein, the HB-Mannchen goes up in the air and in a gala of the GDR television Hanns Eisler accompanies on the piano Gisela May, who sings his song uber die "Sister cities" Berlin and Moscow sings. "Television makes you happy" shuns neither the highs nor the lows of television, and shows "The Manns" next to Tele-Shopping blocks, profound "television essays" from the 50s next to "Spaceship Orion".

Some of the clips are chosen with a cineaste-like sense of camp: In one scene from "With Umbrella, Charm and Bowler Hat" John Steed circumstantially searches through a closet until he finds a pair of rubber scissors in a small box. And then, with a swift gesture, smashes the scissors into the face of a rushing bad guy, who collapses unconscious: an action sequence of choreographic elegance. In a "Inspector" from the early 1970s, the camera switches back and forth between the various protagonists in a scene with a shifting depth of field, as if we were in an Orson Welles film. And under which drug were actually the translators, who translated the dialogues from "The Two" into German were?

Starship Orion. Image: WDR

Much about the exhibition seems provisional: the exhibition architecture is effective but sparse, here and there cables or lamps still lie in the corner, and one or the other pipe has not yet disappeared behind a wall panel or at least has not been painted. This is due to the fact that the exhibition was created in a very short time. Actually, since the opening of the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz, the rooms in which the presentation can now be seen have been kept free for the German Media Library. This should be a permanent exhibition about television in Germany with access to the highlights from its archives.

In 1987, the documentary film director Eberhard Fechner presented the idea of a media library for the first time in public at the Berlin Academy of the Arts, after he had discovered that the NDR had simply deleted some of his early films. For 15 years, the project wandered through the feuilletons, television conferences and broadcasting committees of the republic. This year it seemed that the time had finally come: both public and private broadcasters had not only given their approval, but also promised access to their archives and financial support. Then came the Kirch bankruptcy, and Sat.1 and Pro7 withdrew from the project until further notice. The Mediathek seemed to be finished before it had even opened.

Instead of simply capitulating, the curators decided in September to organize at least a temporary exhibition using the remaining funds from a sponsor, "so that people could get a taste for it", as curator Kubitz says. And indeed: if the German Media Library was allowed to wait for some time in view of the general economic slump, the Film Museum gives an impression of what an important and gratifying institution it could become. In a country where politicians in their Sunday speeches like to "more media competence" for children and young people in Sunday speeches, it is missing for the time being.

Even though the exhibition was put together in a very short time and it was not even enough to produce a catalog, one can already imagine that with the Mediathek Berlin got an interesting and popular museum. Kubitz, who in 1996 presented the exhibition "The Dream of Seeing" in the Oberhausen Gasometer in 1996, also wants to address current developments in television in addition to the permanent exhibition. For example, the television career of Gunther Netzer from kicker to TV manager could be documented with archive material, or the development of reality TV could be shown. "This goes beyond what an Arte theme night can do", he says.

"Television makes you happy" until the age of 30. March 2003 at the Filmmuseum Berlin in the Filmhaus (Sony Center), Potsdamer Strabe 2, Tue-Sun 10 a.M. To 6 p.M., Thu 10 a.M. To 8 p.M.

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