Posted on: 07. Januar 2014
#Film #Video #Avantgarde #Experimental

Ein Überblick des absoluten, ungegenständlichen Films in Schwarz und Weiss von 1920 bis heute

Pioniere des abstrakten Films um 1920 (Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Walter Ruttmann), die Film-Avantgarde um 1950/1960 (Len Lye, Tony Conrad, Aldo Tambellini), elektronisch rhytmischen Kompositionen um 1970 (Nam June Paik, Gary Hill) und aktuelle digitale Experimente.

Hans Richter - Rhythmus 21 (1921)

«In Rhythmus ’21, generally considered to be the first completely abstract film, Richter used these principles to create a work of remarkable structural cohesion. Completed by using stop motion and forward and backward printing in addition to an animation table, the film consists of a continuous flow of rectangular and square shapes that “move” forward, backward, vertically, and horizontally across the screen. Syncopated by an uneven rhythm, forms grow, break apart and are fused together in a variety of configurations for just over three minutes (at silent speed). The constantly shifting forms render the spatial situation of the film ambivalent, an idea that is reinforced when Richter reverses the figure-background relationship by switching, on two occasions, from positive to negative film.

In so doing, Richter draws attention to the flat rectangular surface of the screen, destroying the perspectival spatial illusion assumed to be integral to film’s photographic base, and emphasizing instead the kinetic play of contrasts of position, proportion and light distribution. By restricting himself to the use of square shapes and thus simplifying his compositions, Richter was able to concentrate on the arrangement of the essential elements of cinema: movement, time and light. Disavowing the beauty of “form” for its own sake, Rhythmus ’21 instead expresses emotional content through the mutual interaction of forms moving in contrast and relation to one another. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final “crescendo” of the film, in which all of the disparate shapes of the film briefly coalesce into a Mondrian-like spatial grid before decomposing into a field of pure light.

According to Richter, the original version of Rhythmus ’21 was never shown publicly in Berlin. At the behest of Theo van Doesberg, however, it was shown in Paris in 1921, with Richter introduced as a Dane due to anti-German sentiment. In May 1922, Richter travelled with van Doesberg and El Lissitzky to the First International Congress of Progressive Artists, where they formed the International Faction of Constructivism. In a group manifesto, written by Richter, they define the progressive artist 'as one who denies and fights the predominance of subjectivity in art and does not create his work on the basis of random chance, but rather on the new principles of artistic creation by systematically organizing the media to a generally understandable expression'.» – Richard Suchenski, Hans Richter,

Alva Noto - PVX2 (2011)

«Alva Noto is the pseudonym of German audio-visual artist Carsten Nicolai. Born in the east German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1965, Nicolai first studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing an interest in the theoretical properties of sound and space. Resettling in Berlin in the early '90s, Nicolai founded the experimental music label Noton.Archiv Fuer Ton Und Nichtton as a platform for his conceptual and experimental musical concerns. Those concerns finally took shape as a 12-issue CD and magazine series called 20 to 2000, released in 1999 and 2000 on Raster-Noton Records (which had merged his own label with Olaf Bender's Rastermusic).

With that conceptual masterwork out of the way, Nicolai adopted the name Alva Noto (as simply Noto, he had done some small-scale recordings and performances dating as far back as 1996) and recorded 2000's Prototypes, a 50-minute album of untitled sound collages constructed from the actual sound of electrical hums and clicks, amplified and arranged into a series of discrete movements that move beyond mere ambient music into a new realm of environmental music. 2001's Transform delved into the glitch genre with ten new evanescent pieces, while 2005's Insen (featuring piano contributions from Ryuichi Sakamoto) continued that direction. Released one year later, both For and Rev EP were composed of unreleased tracks, and Alva Noto continued releasing music with Xerrox, UTP, and Unitxt, the latter of which mixed Noto's minimalist capabilities with German techno and dubstep.» – Stewart Mason,

Esther Hunziker - NY (1996)

The streets of New York, recorded in the winter of 1993 in the American video format NTSC. Three years later, the video was played back in the European PAL format and edited in the false format. The film only can be heard while the images remain in memory.

Aldo Tambellini - Blackout (1965)

Black Trip - Through the uses of kinescope, video, multimedia, and direct painting on film, an impression is gained of the frantic action of protoplasm under a microscope where an imaginative viewer may see the genesis of it all.” – Grove Press Film Catalog

“Pioneering multimedia artist and poet Aldo Tambellini presents his Black Film Series that have been recently restored by Harvard Film Archive. Chaotically, hypnotically beautiful, these films are steeped in the culture of the 1960s, speaking at once to abstraction in painting, the materiality of Arte Povera, American racial politics, and image-saturated visual culture in the age of Marshall McLuhan. In the mid-1960s, Tambellini was living on New York’s Lower East Side, making paintings and light-based installations and, together with the artist Otto Piene, operating the Black Gate Theatre, where they presented some of the most radical films and performances of the time.

In 1966, Tambellini began making films that explored the possibility of black as a dominant color and an idea. His Black Film Series comprised largely camera-less experiments that transformed celluloid into a painterly medium, a heady collision of clear film leader on which he applied black ink, paint, and stencils; black leader that he scraped, punctured, acidified, or manipulated in other ways to yield abstract forms; and found footage from industrial films, newsreels, and broadcast television. This program was curated by Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi, independent curators. Special thanks to Haden Guest, Director, and Elizabeth Coffey, Film Conservator, Harvard Film Archive. All Tambellini films preserved through the Avant-Garde Masters program funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Additional funding provided by Harvard University.” –

Oskar Fischinger - Wax Experiments, excerpt (1921-1926)

“Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger (22 June 1900 – 31 January 1967) was a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for inventing abstract musical animations many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos. He created special effects for Fritz Lang's 1929 Woman In The Moon, one of the first sci-fi rocket movies. He also made over 50 short animated films, and painted around 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide. In Frankfurt, Fischinger met the theatre critic Bernhard Diebold, who in 1921 introduced Fischinger to the work and personage of Walter Ruttmann, a pioneer in abstract film. Inspired by Ruttmann's work, Fischinger began experimenting with colored liquids and three-dimensional modelling materials such as wax and clay. He conceptualized a "Wax Slicing Machine", which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera's shutter, enabling the efficient imaging of progressive cross-sections through a length of molded wax and clay. Fischinger wrote to Ruttmann about his machine, who expressed interest. Moving to Munich, Fischinger licensed the wax slicing machine to Ruttmann and began working on the first production model. Upon delivery, Ruttmann found that hot film lights often melted the wax to a serious degree. Ruttmann gave up, though during this time Fischinger shot many abstract tests of his own using the machine. Some of these are distributed today under the assigned title Wax Experiments.” –

Thorsten Fleisch - Gestalt (2003/2008)

“Four-dimensional quaternions (fractals) are visualized by projecting them into three-dimensional space. Instead of modeling objects of human imagination the realm of mathematics is explored. Only the variables of one formula (x[n+1]=x[n]^p-c) were changed. It took me about a year to get an idea of the transformations and shapes which could be expressed by this formula. Almost another year was needed to render the sequences which I decided to use.

A re-rendering of Gestalt in HD and 16:9 (2008). Since this film is basically a visualization of a mathematical body it is theoretically possible to render it in as high a resolution as technically feasible. One would always get more detail. The visual structures and transformations that one can see in the film are only inferior representations of much more complex visual ideas that exist in four-dimensional space and are not bound to a certain resolution or 3D representation. In theory it would be possible and more true to the original formula to show the visual transformations as a 3D hologram where one could then perceive different perspectives that are of course not available in the conventional film format.” –

Marcel Duchamp - Anemic Cinema (1926)

Anemic Cinema or Anémic Cinéma (1926) is a Dadaist, surrealist, or experimental film made by Marcel Duchamp. The film depicts whirling animated drawings—which Duchamp called Rotoreliefs—alternated with puns in French. Duchamp signed the film with his alter ego name of Rrose Sélavy.

Rotoreliefs were a phase of Duchamp's spinning works. To make the optical 'play toys' he painted designs on flat cardboard circles and spun them on a phonograph turntable that when spinning the flat disks appeared 3-dimensional. He had a printer run off 500 sets of six of the designs and set up a booth at a 1935 Paris inventors' show to sell them. The venture was a financial disaster, but some optical scientists thought they might be of use in restoring 3-dimensional sight to people with one eye.

In collaboration with Man Ray and Marc Allégret, Duchamp filmed early versions of the Rotoreliefs and they named the first film version Anémic Cinéma.” –

“Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968) was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player, and writer whose work is associated with Dadaism and conceptual art, although not directly associated with Dada groups. Duchamp is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the twentieth century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Duchamp has had an immense impact on twentieth-century and twenty first-century art. By World War I, he had rejected the work of many of his fellow artists (like Henri Matisse) as "retinal" art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted to put art back in the service of the mind.

Duchamp is considered by many to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and his output influenced the development of post–World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period. He challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and rejected the emerging art market, through subversive anti-art. He famously dubbed a urinal art and named it Fountain. Duchamp produced relatively few artworks, while remaining mostly aloof of the avant-garde circles of his time. He went on to pretend to abandon art and devote the rest of his life to chess, while secretly continuing to make art.[...]” –

Gary Hill – Electronic Linguistic (1977)

“In retrospect this 1977 work was a turning point in Gary Hill’s orientation toward language, although that fact would hardly have been obvious to even a viewer familiar with his work. In contrast to the title, there is no apparent sense of language in the work. What one finds is something that might be more readily associated with music, especially electronic music; indeed, abstract (non-figurative) visual events—alternatively, image matter—appear as manifestations of electronically generated sounds. The basic visual occurrence could be described this way: small pulsating pixel structures grow into ever more intense full-screen monadic pulsations. The accompanying high-frequency sounds descend in tone when a bright still image fills the screen, only to return to the high tones heard at the onset once the small pixel structures become semicircular. Such a particular performative event bears the quality of a specific instrumentation, much as a given music performance is married to a certain instrument, even a very specific instrument played by one individual at a given time and place.

The special tools in the case of Electronic Linguistic were some Dave Jones prototype modules combined with Serge audio modules.[4] This array of digital/analog hybrid instruments produces a very particular visual and auditory vocabulary, reflected in the final piece and its own variety of image-sound events. These events have a certain “between the cracks” feel as opposed to a “visual music,” or perhaps each use has an idiolect with its own accent. An artist working in this electronic milieu over time becomes sensitive to subtle variations in these abstract yet highly configurative events.

A difficulty here is that unless one has experience with a specific electronic instrument, it is difficult to imagine the exact terms of generating art events, especially those we are thinking of as language. It may be hard to sense the linguistic pressure, somewhat as if one hears certain vocal events in an unfamiliar (say, a tribal) context and cannot be sure whether one is hearing “language” or “music.” The practitioner of the art becomes an initiate into specific technological “mysteries,” which is to say that one feels the frictive engagement thresholds between meaningful and not.

There are a number of sound/image events––audio frequencies corresponding to electronically generated images––that suggested to Gary Hill a kind of language, yet in Electronic Linguistic they do not reach beyond a preverbal level. [...]” – Electronic Linguistics, George Quasha in dialogue with Gary Hill,

idrioema - alia (2011)

“The composition alia was made by converting graphically and sonically different file formats. Including them in one context, they find themselves forced to interact, to collide and to adapt in search of their space for the preservation of their essence; therefore an adaptation that affects and is affected by the whole.” –

Idrioema is a multimedia project by Luigi Scotti & Teresa Águas based in Portugal.

Viking Eggeling - Symphonie Diagonale (1924)

“Born in Sweden to a family of German origin, Viking Eggeling emigrated to Germany at the age of 17, where he became a bookkeeper, and studied art history as well as painting. From 1911 to 1915 he lived in Paris, then moved to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I. In Zurich he became a associated with the Dada movement, became a friend of Hans Richter, Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, and Marcel Janco. With the end of the Great War he moved to Germany with Richter where both explored the depiction of movement, first in scroll drawings and then on film. In 1922 Eggeling bought a motion picture camera, and working without Richter, sought to create a new kind of cinema. Axel Olson, a young Swedish painter, wrote to his parents in 1922 that Eggeling was working to "evolve a musical-cubistic style of film—completely divorced from the naturalistic style." In 1923 he showed a now lost, 10 minute film based on an earlier scroll titled Horizontal-vertical Orchestra. In the summer of 1923 he began work on Symphonie Diagonale. Paper cut-outs and then tin foil figures were photographed a frame at a time. Completed in 1924, the film was shown for the first time (privately) on November 5. On May 3, 1925 it was presented to the public in Germany; sixteen days later Eggeling died in Berlin.” – Louise O'Konor, Viking Eggeling 1880–1925

“While he was working on Symphonie Diagonale, Eggeling was evolving a theory based on his film experiments and his studies of form and colour. He called his theory Eidodynamik [visual dynamics]. Little is kown about it, but the fundamental principle was the projection of coloured lights against the sky to bear the elements of form.” – Jennifer Valcke, Static Films and Moving Pictures: Montage in Avant-Garde Photography and Film, p172

Kotaro Tanaka - Varfix (2011)

“Filmmaker Kotaro Tanaka’s bombastic visual interpretation of composer Kensuke Fujii’s experimental track “Varfix” is a minimalistic moving manga with a barely discernible storyline, but intricately developed aesthetic. In fact, the combination of Tanaka’s animated chaos with the sonic nuances of Fujii proves to be a smart and dynamic combination.

What starts as a monochromatic encounter of electronic blasts and anonymous bursts of lightning and distortion builds into a climax of polychromatic patterns and resolutions. The galvanizing voyage culminates as it disassembles the mayhem deployed during the majority of the 8-minute film. Tanaka expands the rather monophonic structure of Fujii’s music by making the animation seem as polyphonic as possible in contrast. With his keen Japanese eye for the beauty of simplicity and audiovisual sync-precision, Tanaka illustrates “Varfix” to look new, feel mysterious and remain intriguing.” –

Patrick K.-H. - Oleg Makarov (2011)

“Sound- / video- / visual artist, Patrick K.-H. works with sound installations, live and written acousmatic, graphical collage and animation. He researches interactive / cross-disciplinary forms, permutating the media, aiming on achieving unexpected derivatives.
Member of Theremin Centre for Electroacoustic Music at Moscow Conservatory, Moscow Cyber Orchestra, i!i, drawn sound research project and a number of other international collaborations. Author of music / video to drama /contemporary dance / post-dramatic theatre plays and performances as well as his own works in Russia, Austria and Germany.” –

Len Lye - Free Radicals (1958)

“In Free Radicals, Lye scratched frame-by-frame onto black leader. Synchronised to drum music from the Bagirmi Tribe of Africa, Lye describes his imagery: ‘Vibrating dots and dashes which swirled, pulsed, squiggled and darted about the screen – particles of energy in space.’

Len Lye, born in 1901, New Zealand-born filmmaker, painter, kinetic sculptor, writer and theorist Len Lye became a leading avant-garde artist in London and New York. Lye was involved with many art groups, from London's modernist Seven and Five Society in the 1920s, to the International Surrealist Movement in the 1930s, and the Kinetic Art Movement in the 1960s. Lye’s abstract films pioneered cameraless processes such as direct painting, printing and scratching onto the surface of the emulsion.

Len Lye is one of New Zealand's most widely known modernist artists. His Free Radicals, originally made in 1958 and re-worked in 1979 is described by leading avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage as “an almost unbelievably immense masterpiece.” –

Norimichi Hirakawa - quaternary (2012)

“Born in 1982. His works, centralising in real-time processed, computer programmed audio visual installations, have been shown at national and international art exhibitions as well as the Media Art Festivals. He is a recipient of many awards including the Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Art Festival in 2004, and the Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica in 2008. Having been involved in a wide range of activities, he has worked on a concert piece production for Ryoji Ikeda, collaborated with Yoshihide Otomo, Yuki Kimura and Benedict Drew, participated in the Lexus Art Exhibition at Milan Design week. and has started live performance as Typingmonkeys.” –

Nam June Paik with Jud Yalkut - Electronic Moon #2 (1969)

“Nam June Paik was the first video artist who experimented with electronic media and made a profound impact on the art of video and television. He coined the phrase Information Superhighway in 1974, and has been called the "father of video art.

He was born Nam June Paik on July 20, 1932 in Seoul, South Korea. He was the fifth son of a textile manufacturer. Young Paik was fond of music and art, he studied piano in Seoul. In 1950 the Paik family fled from the Korean War, first to Hong Kong, and later to Japan. There he graduated from the University of Tokyo (1956), where he studied art, music history, and philosophy, and wrote a thesis on Arnold Schönberg.

Paik continued his music studies in Germany. He collaborated with Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, who inspired his transition into electronic arts. In 1959 he performed his Hommage a John Cage with pre-recorded music and motorcycle, with participation of people and live chicken. Paik also carried out experimental work with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the Electronic Music Studio of the West Deutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in Cologne, Germany. Paik was a friend of Yoko Ono from 1963, when they first met at her home in Tokyo. At that time, he took part in the Post Neo-Dada art movement Fluxus with George Maciunas, Yoko Ono and other avant-garde artists.

Paik's modified TV monitors were first presented in 1963, in his solo show titled Exposition of Music-Electronic Television in Germany. In 1964 he moved to New York and continued experiments with music and video performance. His ground-braking interactive video-works began in 1965, when he started experiments with his video camera, with electromagnets, and with color TV. At that time Paik also collaborated with engineer Shuya Abe in Japan. He continued as artist-in-residence at WGBH public broadcaster in Boston, USA. There he constructed the first video synthesizer together with Shuya Abe in 1969. A large magnet outside the TV monitor was used to alter the image and create an abstract picture. He produced random patterns of light by causing distortions to the electron emission spot on a phosphorous screen. Paik later used multiple TV monitors and robots, made of TV sets, metal and electronic components. In his TV project TV Buddha a statue of a sitting Buddha is facing it's own image on a closed-circuit TV.

Paik was the founding father of Video Art. He advanced our perceptions of the temporal image and it's role in contemporary art. His largest project was Wrap around the World designed for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. There he mounted a giant media-tower shaped like a birthday cake, called The More the Better and used 1003 TV monitors for a non-stop presentation of Video-Art images and performances by Korean drummers and international artists: Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Merce Cunningham, Sergei Kuryokhin among others.

In 1996 Paik became disabled after having a stroke, and was in a wheelchair for ten years in his later life, but his energy and intellect were as productive as ever. He was a highly creative member of society, a provocative experimental artist and thinker whose ideas and performances made a profound effect on the art of video and television. His works are now preserved in museum collections across the world. Nam June Paik died on January 29, 2006 in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.” –

Tony Conrad - The Flicker (Excerpts) (USA 1965)

The Flicker is an experimental film created in 1965 by Tony Conrad. The film consists of only 5 different frames, a warning frame, two title frames, a black frame, and a white frame. It is currently being re-made digitally into a compact computer program by Tony Conrad's son. The film is accompanied with a soundtrack by Conrad on a synthesizer that he built solely for the film.

The film starts with a warning message, which reads:
'WARNING. The producer, distributor, and exhibitors waive all liability for physical or mental injury possibly caused by the motion picture The Flicker. Since this film may induce epileptic seizures or produce mild symptoms of shock treatment in certain persons, you are cautioned to remain in the theatre only at your own risk. A physician should be in attendance.'

The film then goes on to a frame that says 'Tony Conrad Presents', and then to a frame that says 'The Flicker', at which point it starts. The screen goes white, then after a short while, the screen flickers with a single black frame. This is repeated, at varying rate, again and again until it creates a strobe effect, for which the film is titled. This continues until the film stops abruptly." –

"Tony Conrad (b 1940) is known in various circles as an avant-guarde video artist, experimental filmmaker, musician/composer, sound artist, teacher and writer. Along with John Cale, Angus MacLise, La Monte Young, and Marian Zazeela Conrad was a co-founder of the Theater of Eternal Music, which utilized non-Western musical forms and sustained sound to produce what they called dream music. Their collective work Day of Niagara (1965) is one of the earliest examples of the work of the new minimal composers/performers. Graduate of Harvard University in 1962, teaches at the Department of Media Study at S.U.N.Y. Buffalo." –