Architecture on Film: The Airstrip

Decampment of Modernism, Part III + Two Museums + Q&A

von The Architecture Foundation

Q&A between Director Heinz Emigholz and writer, theorist and co-founder of artist group the Otolith Group, Kodwo Eshun, following the UK premiere of Emigholz' films The Airstrip: Decampment of Modernism, Part III and Two Museums, for Architecture on Film at the Barbican, 8 October 2014.

HEINZ EMIGHOLZ (b.1948 near Bremen, Germany) trained first as a draftsman before studying philosophy and literature in Hamburg. He began filmmaking in 1968 and has worked since 1973 as a filmmaker, artist, writer and producer in Germany and the USA. In 1974 he started his encyclopedic drawing series The Basis of Make-Up. His career includes numerous exhibitions, retrospectives, lectures and publications. In 1984 he started his film series Photography and Beyond. As part of this ongoing series, in 2009, he completed the film and exhibition project Sense of Architecture. Emigholz held a professorship in Experimental Filmmaking at the Universität der Künste Berlin from 1993 to 2013, where he also co-founded the Institute for Time-based Media and the program Art and Media. Since 2012 Emigholz has been a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin.

KODWO ESHUN is Lecturer in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and co-founder of Turner Prize nominated artists The Otolith Group. Recent solo exhibitions include Kunsthall Bergen (2014) and REDCAT, Los Angeles (2013). Recent group exhibitions include Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2014), Raven Row, London (2013) and dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel (2012). He is author of Dan Graham, Rock My Religion, Afterall Books (2012) and co-editor of The Militant Image: A Cine-Geography: Third Text 108 (2011), Harun Farocki: Against What? Against Whom? (Koenig Books and Raven Row, 2009) and The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of The Black Audio Film Collective (Liverpool University Press and FACT (2007).


“[Constructed spaces and film spaces] are products of two practically opposing processes of configuration. Architecture projects a spatial concept into reality and sets it up there as a three-dimensional situation. The film then takes this space and translates it with the camera into a two-dimensional image, which is projected before us in a temporal arrangement. This is a design process inscribed with the real. This repetition – from the idea to the real space and over the image’s surface and back again to the space of thinking – is remarkable. But, as everyone knows and as Kierkegaard found out, there are no "repetitions". Something else arises instead: a plane on which to think. Cinema produces a second physical presence in which an active spectator can newly reconfigure the story for himself.”
– Heinz Emigholz

Through projects such as Sense of Architecture, Architecture as Autobiography and Decampment of Modernism, the celebrated experimental filmmaker, artist, writer and producer Heinz Emigholz has created a significant and ongoing body of work exploring and contrasting cinematic and architectural space. His work includes feature length visual investigations of the work of designer Adolf Loos, the banks of architect Louis Sullivan, and the concrete of engineer Pier Luigi Nervi.

Emigholz’s latest investigation of modernity via architectural form – and the third chapter in his Decampment of Modernism series – presents a global panorama of structures including stadia, shopping centers, airports and prisons, through which to quietly meditate upon war, capitalism, ideology and national identity.

Emigholz’s signature use of formally composed static shots – resembling moving photographs – unfolds as an abstract narrative observing architectures of power and ideologies made concrete, using the space between the dropping and explosion of a bomb as his guiding metaphor for the limbo between projection and reception, design and impact.

Sites and sounds from locations including Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Wroclaw, Berlin, Saipan and the D-Day beaches of Normandy become subject to the visual interrogation of Emigholz and the audience, whilst actress Natja Brunkhorst (who played Christine F in the 1981 film of the same name) provides an occasional voiceover, guiding the reception of the images that unfold on screen.

With music from Kreidler.

Germany 2014, Dir Heinz Emigholz, 108 min. In German with English subtitles.


Two Museums sees Emigholz turn his lens to architect Samuel Bickel’s Museum of Art in Ein Harod, Israel (1948) and Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection in Houston (1987). Kibbutz member Bickel's museum was the first purpose built museum in Israel, and its influential use of natural lighting was Piano's direct model for the Menil. This contextual comparison of the two structures offers an anatomical portrait of an architectural typology, as well as a journey through geography, history and light.

Germany/USA/Israel 2013, Dir Heinz Emigholz, 18 min