Screening
Guests: Peter Tscherkassky & Eve Heller
Homage Kurt Kren
Mon 23 May 2022, 20:00
PART OF
  • In the presence of Peter Tscherkassky and Eve Heller
FILM
Train Again
,
,
20’

18 years after Kurt Kren produced his third film 3/60 Bäume im Herbst [3/60 Trees in Autumn], he shot his masterpiece 37/78 Tree Again.  18 years after I created my third darkroom film L’Arrivée (an homage to the Lumière brothers and their 1895 L'Arrivée d'un train), I embarked on Train Again. This third film in my “Rushes Series” is an homage to Kurt Kren that simultaneously taps into a classic motif in film history. My darkroom ride took a few years, but we finally arrived: All aboard! - Peter Tscherkassky 

 

The acceleration of the world and perception radically intensifies over the course of the 19th century. While the mobilization of the gaze generates unforeseen freedom, it also fuels anxiety. From the very start, cinema and the train are inextricably linked as factories of newfound upheaval and uprootedness. The audience exposes itself to the electric shadows at its own risk, guided by the Brothers Lumière who in 1895 also celebrate the arrival of animated photography on the train platform at La Ciotat – or by the young René Clair when he sends a hearse on wildly careening rails in Entr’Acte (1924). Likewise, Peter Tscherkassky's roller coaster ride through a methodically constellated frame-by-frame landscape of escalating cinema commences with frenetic action and the passing of a baton: Horse-drawn coaches and steeds compete one last time against the iron horse, the riders intercut with the train at dizzying, super-imposing velocity. Train Again is a phantom ride through the engine room of the seventh art, a ceremony of the (violent) mechanics of railway vehicles and image transporters.   Tscherkassky flits through the history of the filmic avant-garde, conceiving his work as a centrifuge of quotations from the pantheon of visionary cinema. He conjures heaven and hell, embarking on a collision course fearlessly bound for the apocalyptic. One could call this highly complex and simultaneously elemental film a darkroom action experiment, an underground blockbuster, or a kinetic painting in a thousand shades of grey. It is woven out of twitching film frames, flashing light, and spectacularly collapsing motifs – a concrete abstract cinema of meta-attractions and frenzy. Train Again is an ecstatic ode to the fragility and explosive force of the medium. Cinema in our day and age is under attack, but in this phase of its decline its fierce fighting power is – quod erat demonstrandum – utterly intact.

Stefan Grissemann1

FILM
37/78 Tree Again
,
,
3’

Shot on expired infrared film, Tree Again shows a succession of single frame shots from the same position of a tree between summer and autumn.

 

“There was little likelihood of anything turning out on the film.”

Kurt Kren1

 

“In Tree Again Kren makes distance a form of immersion however. Whilst taken from a fixed point-of-view, the landscape is not beheld from outside; distance does not objectify; the image is constantly fluctuating on the film surface. the surface becomes a question of the different registration of depth in the image, that is, of the complexities such investigations imply; that times and spaces are distance -  indeed never there as such - and are brought to reflection.”

Gareth Polmeer2

  • 1. Quoted by Hans Hurch, sixpackfilm.com
  • 2. Gareth Polmeer, "37/78 Tree Again," in Kren: Structural Films, Eds. Nicky Hamlyn, Simon Payne, and A. L. Rees. (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2016)./fn]
FILM
3/60 Bäume im Herbst
,
,
5’

Kurt Kren uses images of nature during autumn to reveal the expressive potential of film itself, beyond the narrative conventions of representational cinema.

 

“The first embodiment of (a) concept of structural activity in cinema comes in Kren’s Bäume im Herbst, where the camera as a subjective observer is constrained within a systematic or structural procedure, incidentally the precursors of the most structuralist aspect of Michael Snow’s later work. In this film, perception of material relationships in the world is seen to be no more than a product of the structural activity in the work. Art forms experience.”

Malcolm Le Grice1

FILM
31/75 Asyl
,
,
8’

The camera with a sun shade is mounted on a heavy tripod in front of a window. Over 21 consecutive days the view outside is filmed from this perspective. The same three rolls of film (totalling 90 m) are used one after the other each day while the mask in front of the camera lens is changed every day.

 

“A meadow, a lake, the silhouette of a hill, trees. 21 days of the same view in Saarland. 21 days with five different cut-outs in a mask before the camera, which finally reveals a complete panorama. A landscape changes with the advancing seasons and becomes slowly delirious in its technical alienation.”

Claus Philipp1

FILM
Outer Space
,
,
9’

Outer Space is – together with L’Arrivée (1998) and Dreamwork (2001) – part of Tscherkassky’s “CinemaScope Trilogy,” which draws on fragments of Hollywood films. It utilizes footage from The Entity (S. J. Furie, 1981), a psychological horror film, in which the female protagonist is pursued by an invisible ghost. In Outer Space it is no longer an unknown entity against which the woman must struggle, but that portion of the filmstrip that is normally unseen when film is projected – the “outer space” of the film’s image, consisting of the optical soundtrack and its perforations.

 

“In half-light and fractured, staggering visuals, a young woman enters into a suburban house at night. As the door closes behind her, both the physical space and the surface of the projection begin to splinter, collapse and rupture. Spaces enclose and enfold, the female subject multiples and shatters across the screen, and the film itself screeches and tears as the sprockets and optical soundtrack violently invade the fictional world. Any semblance of a cinematic narrative is overwhelmed and assaulted, leaving it scattered in a thousand shards amid an entirely unique cinematic language. This is Peter Tscherkassky’s Outerspace. It is the most recent work of a filmmaker at the forefront of avant-garde film practice. And in its sheer filmic materiality it may seem to be an anachronism in a time of hype about new technological modes. Yet, Tscherkassky, strictly working in film as he has done for over two decades, continues to employ celluloid as a singular material with which to investigate theories of subjectivity, memory and perception, as well as the aesthetic limits of the cinematographic image. Tscherkassky sculpts with time and space, rhythms and arrhythmia in a way that feels like an entirely new film space, a new language altogether.”

Rhys Graham1

 

“A young woman, night, an American feature film. She enters a house, a dark corridor, a thriller. While she forces her way into an unknown space together with the viewer, the cinematographic image-producing processes go off the rails all around her. The rooms through which she goes telescope into each other, become blurred, while at the same time the crackling of the cuts and the background noise of the sound track – the sound of the film material itself – becomes louder and more penetrating. The pace becomes frenetic, the woman is being pursued by invisible opponents, she is pushed against a mirror, walls of glass burst, furniture tilts and the cinematographic apparatus which the heroine begins to attack in blind fury also suffers. The images jump and stutter, the perforation holes tilt into the picture, the sound track collapse inwards in a will o’ the wisp destruction scenario – something which only film can do so beautifully. In ten minutes Outer Space races through the unsuspected possibilities of cinematographic errors – a masterpiece.”  

Stefan Grissemann2

 

“A woman, terrorized by an invisible and aggressive force, is also exposed to the audience’s gaze, a prisoner in two senses. Outer Space agitates this construction, which is prototypical for gender hierarchies and classic cinema’s viewing regime, and allows the protagonist to turn them upside down. […] Flickering images, everything crashes, explodes; perforations and the soundtrack are engaged in a violent struggle. […] The story ends in the woman’s resistant gaze.”

Isabella Reichert3

 

“Suggesting a convulsive hall of mirrors, Peter Tscherkassky's widescreen tour de force Outer Space reinvents a 1981 Barbara Hershey horror vehicle, leaving the original's crystalline surface intact only to violently shatter its narrative illusion. After Hershey enters a house at nighttime, sounds of crickets, static, and distorted music give way to explosions, screams, and garbled voices. In an eruption of panicked subjectivity, the actress's face multiplies across the screen as the frame is invaded by sprocket holes, an optical soundtrack, and flashes of solarized imagery.”

Kristin M. Jones4

FILM
42/83 No film
,
,
0’

One of the shortests films ever made, no film shows the words "no film" for less then three seconds.

 

"It was a time when I was desperately unhappy that I wasn’t really doing anything, no more films. Wilhelm and Birgit Hein once took a photograph from a newspaper, saying that, although the image doesn’t move on the screen, it’s still film. I shot a few words – “No Film” – which don’t move either but are a film just the same. And so: no film. Question mark."

Kurt Kren

FILM
Shot - Countershot
,
,
0’

The Great Syntagmatics of Film by Christian Metz interprets the feature film as reducible to autonomous segments, that are separated into autonomous shots and syntagmas, whereby the latter can be separated into non-chronological syntagmas (sequence of parallel montage) and chronological syntagmas. Within these is again differentiation between descriptive and narrative syntagmas, whereby the narrative syntagmas are divided into alternating syntagmas and linear narrative syntagmas (the linear narrative syntagmas are thereby divorced in scene and sequence). The shot-countershot-technique is a typical linear narrative syntagma (Peter Tscherkassky).  

 

Shot - Countershot – the idea of the century.”

Hans Fraeulin1

 

“Not a stage direction, but rather something very concrete is hidden behind the technical term. Something which betrays a little of the yearning for intelligent and playful dealings with the medium of short film.”

Marli Feldvoss2

FILM
Singing in Oblivion
,
,
13’

Vienna’s Jewish Währinger cemetery opened to the public in 1784, during an era of tolerance and prosperity that eventually coincided with the dawn of photography. With the rise of Nazism, this historical jewel of a Biedermeier cemetery was variously desecrated and became an overgrown wilderness, though passersby noted it sounded as if a paradise of birds was locked behind its high stone walls. The graveyard today bears further scars of political and inertial neglect. Without the care of generations displaced or killed during the Nazi era, graves have been decimated by the falling branches and uncontrolled growth of ancient trees while the words and symbols on tombstones disappear into dust. Singing in Oblivion interweaves footage shot on location with images painstakingly lifted from antique glass negatives and printed one frame at a time in a darkroom onto 35mm film strips. In honor of refugees past, present and future, facing the loss of life, loved ones, language, and homeland, in kindred empathy with their children, and in thanks to all those who offer compassionate sanctuary (Eve Heller).

 

“I don’t believe in voice-over. I am an echo chamber of forgotten lives and disappeared worlds, a free-floating song, heaven walks the earth.”

Eve Heller

 

“A magnificent visual and musical poem, simultaneously timeless and in delicate synchronicity with our devastated present.”

Nicole Brenez1

 

“Films that uncompromisingly deal in (and with) death necessarily seem to have fallen out of time, like the dead themselves. Singing in Oblivion takes this idea as its point of departure and goes missing in the hereafter, in a shadow realm of forgotten places, forms of existence and world views. The film opens with ten tranquil shots, devoid of human beings – silvery images meticulously detailed akin to copper etchings – with an eye to the interaction of plant-life, light and stone. High grasses dappled by sunbeams overgrow the Jewish section of the Währinger cemetery, a solemn place hidden behind a high stone wall topped with barbed wire, it is locked behind a gate adorned with a sign prohibiting entry: only the gentle motion of leaves and branches indicate that these are not still photos. A complex nature chorale is performed off-screen: The dubbed singing of birds in the land of oblivion resonates like the vestiges of a dream from which one has just awoken, no longer to be grasped. The birdsong remains present, the pulse of the film now accelerates. Abstract patterns start to dance from focus to blur, crystal clear images grown under the light of an enlarger fly by, grasses, flowers and ears of wheat flit past – reminiscent of Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight as well as Man Ray’s photograms. Nervously flickering, cut-up photographs of anonymous faces and rooms unfold: details from glass negatives acquired at a flea market present family scenes and portraits that evoke a lost world, remnants perhaps of a disappeared Jewish bourgeoisie. Eve Heller works with textures, mirrored images and over-exposure to fragment and breathe life into her photographic finds. The spidery lines on the face of a woman evidence old age – of the photographic material itself. In the end, the penetrating gaze of a baby looks at and through us, from the depths of an everyday historical past to future generations.”

Stefan Grissemann2

FILM
L’Arrivée
,
,
3’

L’Arrivée is Tscherkassky's second hommage to the Lumiére-brothers. First you see the arrival of the film itself, which shows the arrival of a train at a station. But that train collides with a second train, causing a violent crash, which leads us to an unexpected third arrival, the arrival of a beautiful woman – the happy-end. Reduced to two minutes L’Arrivée gives a brief, but exact summary of what cinematography (after its arrival with Lumiéres train) has made into an enduring presence of our visual enviroment: violence, emotions. Or, as an anonymous american housewife (cited by T. W. Adorno) used to describe Hollywood's version of life: Getting into trouble and out of it again.

 

L’Arrivée from Peter Tscherkassky is difficult to grasp and describe but exciting. It appears as if the film with the depicted train has to work its way across the screen with a great deal of effort. It literally shivers its way into the picture as if it had been incorrectly fed into the projector and was forced to do a dance in order to be seen properly. Even viewers well-versed in avant-garde film are subjected to a few minutes of distraction and breathless expectation. And not because narrative cinema has been subverted for the umpteenth time, but because a sensual experience of delayed perception really is on offer here. A storm of material follows and then Catherine Deneuve descends from the train and falls in to the embrace of an approaching man. L’Arrivée is an apparently simple experience, and perhaps more exciting, sensual and intellectual because of that simplicity.”

Christian Cargnelli1

 

“A white screen. Tabula rasa. Panavision. L’Arrivée shines on you like pure projected light, like the white surface still waiting for the marks of the film maker. In L’Arrivée, Peter Tscherkassky goes back to the beginning, back to lumière and the Lumières who, once upon a time, made a film of a train arriving. And then the dirt begins to invade, the "story", if you like. A frenzy in the soundtrack – it bangs, creaks, crackles and roars. From the right a grey veil approaches: the perforation of a strip of film. L’Arrivée makes cinema from mistakes, from derailments. Half pictures – the misty pictures of a grey delegation in station somewhere – penetrate the white surface. From right and left they run together, crash into each other and strive to separate themselves again. The material comes from Mayerling (1968), a Habsburger melodrama from the British director Terence Young. The Eastman colour which was originally present has been exorcised by the film maker. What Tscherkassky does here is drastically re-configure in CinemaScope. A train arrives and collides with its mirror image. Events begin to turn head over heels. Tscherkassky hystericalises the images. He allows them to lose their certainty, crosses soundtrack with perforation strip, changes positive to negative, slits the material open. Inside out and upside down. Phantom images – behind the veil of a film still running amok as if in the grip of a panicking collaborative cinematographic machine. A film star staggers into the final kiss – Catherine Deneuve alights, a man (Omar Sharif – which sounds like j'arrive) hurries towards her. A kiss. Bliss. An end. L’Arrivée is a film in the process of approaching. An orchestrated melodrama of dislocated viewing values made whith sheer pleasure in disaster.”

Stefan Grissemann2

 

“Just as the record player needle has to find the right groove, L’Arrivée has to settle into the perforation tracks before the narrative line can develop. A train arrives in a station where a hand-instigated collision with another train takes place. The event is not just a depiction, but a battle of the material itself. This is not the end, but the transition to a kiss, to the Happy End. L’Arrivée demonstrates where cinema begins – with the spectacular, and where it ends – with intimacy.”

Bert Rebhandl3