Posted on: 04. April 2014
#Film #Video #Avantgarde #Experimental

Ein Überblick des absoluten, ungegenständlichen Films in Farbe von 1920 bis heute

Pioniere des abstrakten Films um 1920 (Walter Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger, Walter Ruttmann), die amerikanische Film-Avantgarde der 60er (Hollis Frampton, Stan Brakhage, Norman Mclaren), frühe Computer-Animationen der 80er (John Whitney, Phil Morton, Matsumoto Toshio) und aktuelle abstrakte, digitale Experimente (Rafael Rozendaal, Takeshi Murata, Esther Hunziker, u.a.).

Walter Ruttmann - Lichtspiel Opus II (1921)

«Walter Ruttmann (28 December 1887 – 15 July 1941) was a German film director and along with Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling and Oskar Fischinger was an early German practitioner of experimental film. uttmann was born in Frankfurt am Main; he studied architecture and painting and worked as a graphic designer. His film career began in the early 1920s. His first abstract short films, Lichtspiel: Opus I (1921) and Opus II (1923), were experiments with new forms of film expression, and the influence of these early abstract films can be seen in some of the early work of Oskar Fischinger. Ruttmann and his colleagues of the avant garde movement enriched the language of film as a medium with new form techniques.

Ruttmann was a prominent exponent of both avant-garde art and music. His early abstractions played at the 1929 Baden-Baden Festival to international acclaim despite their being almost eight years old. Ruttmann licensed a Wax Slicing machine from Oskar Fischinger to create special effects for Lotte Reiniger. Together with Erwin Piscator, he worked on the experimental film Melodie der Welt (1929), though he is best remembered for Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, 1927).

During the Nazi period he worked as an assistant to director Leni Riefenstahl on Triumph of the Will (1935). He died in Berlin.» –

Matsumoto Toshio – Connection (1981)

«Matsumoto Toshio, geboren 1932, ist als Theoretiker wie Regisseur eine Schlüsselfigur des japanischen Dokumentar-, Spiel- und Avantgardefilms. Seit seinem Debüt 1955 realisierte er über 50 Werke verschiedenster Längen wie Formate: Sein Schaffen reicht von politisch-poetischen Essays wie Ishi no uta (Song of Stones, 1963) über spektakuläre Beispiele für Expanded Cinema wie seine Multiscreen-Arbeit Tsuburekatta migime no tame ni (For My Crushed Right Eye, 1968) und strukturalistische Exerzitien wie Âtman (1975) bis hin zu Höhepunkten der Videokunst wie Trauma (1989).

Matsumotos Einfluss auf alle Strata der japanischen Filmkultur und darüber hinaus von den 50er Jahren bis in die 80er hinein ähnelt – wenn auch vage – dem von Jonas Mekas oder Jean-Luc Godard in den westlichen Kulturkreisen, mit einem fundamentalen Unterschied: Matsumotos Ideen waren für sämtliche Produktionskulturen des japanischen Kinos gleich wichtig, also für einen Genrefilm-Regisseur in einem der großen Studios potentiell genauso bedeutend wie für einen unabhängig von allen offiziellen Finanzierungs- und Distributionsstrukturen vor sich hin werkelnden Experimentalfilmemacher. Matsumotos Einfluss reicht weit über die Grenzen Japans hinaus: Sein berühmtester Film, der Langfilm Bara no Souretsu (A Funeral Parade of Roses, 1969), gilt als direkter Einfluss auf Stanley Kubricks Clockwork Orange.» –

Norman Mclaren - Synchromy (1971)

«Norman McLaren, (1914 - 1987) war ein kanadischer Trickfilmregisseur. Der gebürtige Schotte McLaren begann seine Karriere als experimenteller Filmemacher und arbeitete in den 1930er Jahren für John Griersons GPO Film Unit, bevor er zu Beginn des Zweiten Weltkriegs nach Amerika ging. Seit 1941 arbeitete McLaren in Kanada, wo er für das National Film Board of Canada (NFB) zahlreiche Animationsfilme mit unterschiedlichen Techniken schuf.

McLaren begründete das renommierte Animationsfilmstudio des NFB und blieb ihm bis zu seinem Ruhestand im Jahr 1983 eng verbunden.

In seiner langjährigen Karriere wurde Norman McLaren mit zahlreichen Filmpreisen ausgezeichnet. Er gilt als Begründer der ‹Pixilation›-Technik, die er unter anderem in seinem Oscar-prämierten Kurzfilm Neighbours angewandt hatte. 2009 wurden McLarens Arbeiten in das Register des UNESCO-Weltdokumentenerbes aufgenommen.» –

Oskar Fischinger – An Optical Poem (1938)

"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. – /

Hollis Frampton - Heterodyne (1967)

«I began to make it when I had no money for raw stock and only several rolls of colored leader but nevertheless (had) the need to make or work on a film. As I first conceived the film, I intended it to be a kind of revenge done with the bare hands against - first of all animation - or cell animation in particular and secondly, against abstract film with a capital A as they were practiced in the late 40's and 50's as a kind of engine cooler for the art houses where I first saw serious foreign movies.

As I thought about the film, I wanted it to have a very open, resilient kind of structure with the maximum possible amount of rhythmic variety, both in terms of count, beat and variety in the rhythmic changes of shapes and the rate of the rhythmic change. I used a debased form of matrix algebra to make up, in advance, the structure of the film, and tried out several arithmetic models for that structure... with very short film pieces, before I found one that seemed to suit me.

As I came to make the film, it consists entirely of 240 feet of black leader into which are welded about 1,000 separate events. Each consists of one frame, and there are 40 kinds of frame, ranging from a frame that consists entirely of red or green or blue to a frame which may consist of red leader with a triangle of blue leader welded into the middle of it. I say welded because the film was put together using three colors of leader and 3 ticket punches - a square, a circle and a triangle - which I felt to be constantly recognizable and also impersonal shapes - and where one color is let into another, or where a color shape is let into black leader, it is literally welded in with acetone.

I was doing all of this under a magnifying glass with tweezers and brushes and so forth... they're disposed along the continuous line of film by a scheme roughly the following: in order to avoid a scheme in which certain types of frames would, by rhythmic recurrence, fall at the same spot in the film, or in the same exact frame, I decided to use prime numbers, that is, numbers divisible only by themselves and as a starting-point since they begin to share harmonics extensively only in their very high multiples - I further decided I could use no prime numbers less than 40, because 40 is the number of frames in a foot and didn't want any single type of event to occur any more often than once every one and two/thirds seconds, and then I subjected my list series of tests that involved the sums of their digits-casting out those that didn't meet the tests so that as it turned out the, commonest event, a frame that is entirely red, occurs every 61 frames in absolutely regular repetition throughout the film; and the least common event, a red triangle on a black ground, occurs every 2,311 frames - all of this necessitated an amount of arithmetic which I did over a period of 6 weeks - reduced it to a large stock of 3X5 cards and collated them, and sat down with my rewinds and splicer and simply put the thing together - altogether on the level of personal logistics, it tied up my time and need to be making a film for about three months at the end of which I found myself with a little more money for raw stock and I could go on and make other kinds of films." –

Rafael Rozendaal - Salon 94 (2013)

Rafaël Rozendaal is a visual artist who uses the internet as his canvas. His artistic practice consists of websites, installations, lenticulars, writings and lectures. Spread out over a vast network of domain names, he attracts a large online audience of over 30 million visits per year.

His work researches the screen as a pictorial space, reverse engineering reality into condensed bits, in a space somewhere between animated cartoons and paintings. His installations involve moving light and reflections, taking online works and transforming them into spatial experiences.» –

Emilio Gomariz - Spectrum Cube (2012)

«Emilio Gomariz works in a large area into the digital field by exploring different behaviours of computer graphics and digital aesthetics through abstraction created using a variety of processes and concepts.

Spectrum Cube is a desktop performance created only using the Macintosh features from its operative system OS X which allows to minimize and maximize windows to and from the dock. As the operative system memorizes the position of every window on the desktop before being minimized, 75 windows from TextEdit were colored and placed diagonally by hand forming a three-dimensional "spectrum cube" in order to minimize them onto the dock to start the performance to finally give form to the cube.» –

Phil Morton - Colorful Colorado (1976)

«Phil Morton (1945 - 2003) was an influential video artist and activist who founded the Video Area in 1970 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he taught from 1969 - 1981/1982.

Morton's playful, critical, self-reflexive and conversational Video art works, projects and performances often involved ongoing collaborations. In particular, Morton collaborated extensively with artists Jane Veeder, Dan Sandin, Tom DeFanti and Jamie Fenton. In 1973, Morton asked Dan Sandin if he could build the first copy of Sandin's original Sandin Image Processor. Sandin and Morton then began to work together to create the schematic plans for the Sandin Image Processor, a document they called the Distribution Religion. Through The Distribution Religion, Sandin open sourced his Sandin Image Processor, giving the plans away for only the cost of making Xerox copies and mailing them while incorporating any additions or modifications made by those who built their own Sandin Image Processor into any further releases of the Distribution Religion.

Morton developed an approach he called COPY-IT-RIGHT, an anti-copyright approach to making and freely sharing Media art. The Distribution Religion and Morton's individual and collaborative Media art works were released under his COPY-IT-RIGHT license. COPY-IT-RIGHT encouraged people to make faithful copies, caring for and distributing the work as widely as possible.

During his life, Morton's Video art works were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Iverson Museum of Art (New York) and the 1975 São Paulo Art Biennial (Brazil). His Video art works were also shown on television stations such as WNET (New York), WGBH (Boston) and WTTW (Chicago) and reviewed in magazines such as Artforum and New Art Examiner. In 2007 the "Distribution Religion" exhibition at The Art Gallery of Knoxville was inspired by and featured the work of Phil Morton.» –

Jonathan McCabe - into the colorflow (2010)

«Jonathan McCabe is an Australian generative artist living in the Canberra suburb of Ainslie. He is interested in theories of biological pattern formation and evolution and their application to computer art, especially the work of Alan Turing. He has a Masters of Art from the Australian National University.

The Multi-scale Radially Symmetric Turing Patterns are inspired by the famous work of Alan Turing in the early 1950s on a theory of biological pattern formation, now often referred to as Turing patterns or reaction-diffusion patterns. An example is the formation of spots or stripes on an animal's coat. According to the theory, pigment cells randomly decide to be colored or not colored. The colored cells produce two diffusible substances which spread in the coat, an "activator" and an "inhibitor". The activator encourages cells to become colored, and the inhibitor discourages them. The activator is short range, because it diffuses slowly and/or is destroyed quickly, while the inhibitor is longer range because it diffuses more quickly or is more stable. A colored spot is stable as the colored cells encourage their neighbors to be colored whilst telling the surrounding area to stay colorless.
McCabe implemented such a system as a computer program and sure enough, it developed simple spots and stripes.» –

«Three processes interact to make the into the colorflow. A spontaneous differentiation due to a multi-scale Turing instability causes the development of dots and lines of various colors. Each color is also a movement, leading to a compressible flow which smears and obliterates the dots and lines. The third process is an overall exponential growth or inflation. Small structures expand, and the Turing instability causes sub-structures to form.» –

Esther Hunziker - Frequency (2008)

«Frequency is a digital movie which has been reduced to its minimal file size and compressed in low resolution until the sharp edges started to blur and the original movie signal disappeared, vanished into color abstractions.

The absence of concrete images and the electrospheric soundtrack from overlapping radio frequences, causes an abstract hypnotic void, a space without beginning or end where everything melts away.»

Stan Brakhage - Stellar (1993)

«Those who consider cinema a narrative art form, and believe that films should have a beginning, a middle and an end - in that order - will have problems with the work of Stan Brakhage, who has died aged 70. His films were difficult also for those not willing to shed the conventionalised illusion, imposed by rules of perspective, compositional logic and ‹lenses grounded to achieve 19th-century compositional perspective›.

For Brakhage, the goal of cinema was the liberation of the eye itself, the creation of an act of seeing, previously unimagined and undefined by conventions of representation, an eye as natural and unprejudiced as that of a cat, a bee or an infant. There were few filmmakers - film director is too limiting a description - who went so far to train audiences to see differently.

To a large extent, Brakhage realised this innocent world in his films, restrictively labelled avant-garde or experimental, existing in a parallel universe to the multiplex ethos. His signature was as figurative as it was literal - he would scratch his initials directly on the film's emulsion at the end credits. Like a painter or sculptor, he worked manually on his material, often scratching, dyeing and altering the celluloid itself, making today's push-button digital technology anathema to him.

He would hand-paint blank frames of 16mm film, and glue objects to them in a collage. In Mothlight (1963), for example, he pasted moth wings on to strips of film and, when projected, the bright light seemed to bring the insects back to life.

Brakhage's most famous film, Dog Star Man (1964), one of the key works of the 1960s American avant-garde, experimented with the use of colour, painting on film and distorting lenses, while depicting the creation of the universe. It ends with superimpositions of solar flares and chains of mountains over his wife, as she gives birth to their child.

During five decades, Brakhage made nearly 380 films, most of them shot in 8mm or 16mm, and ranging in length from nine seconds to four hours. With a few exceptions, they were made without sound, which he felt might spoil the intensity of the visual experience. He preferred to think of his films as metaphorical, abstract and highly subjective - a kind of poetry written with light.

Brakhage taught film history at the University of Colorado from 1981 until last year, when he retired to Canada with his second wife and two sons, who survive him along with the five children of his first mariage. It is a tragic irony that he seems to have been killed by the art he loved. According to his widow, doctors believed that the coal-tar dyes he used in his filmmaking may have contributed to his bladder cancer, which was diagnosed in 1996.» –

Nicolas Maigret - Pure Data read as pure data (2010)

«Nicolas Maigret has been developing an experimental practice of sound and electronic images (performances, installations, programming, radio) since 2001. After studies at the Fine arts school of Besançon - France, where he followed a theoretical education about the avant-gardes, he joins the laboratory Locus-Sonus dedicated to audio art researches. In his creations he experiments the possibilities of contemporary technologies to auto-generate aesthetic forms, sound or visual languages and specific behaviors. His work is as well a micro-laboratory as a point of view on the technological tools and there influences on our way of thinking and of acting. He works in duo with Nicolas Montgermont under the name of Art Of Failure.

Nicolas Montgermont studies the relations between art and sciences using the computer as a workshop. After a formation in signal processing, he studies sciences applied to music at the IRCAM center, being specially focused on real time control of synthesis. His creating work is the search of a numerical aesthetics, using and developing personal tools to explore the specific possibilities of a computer.

Pure Data read as pure data is a 12.30 min long video which shows interesting trideminsional glitchy textures. It's a trip through the back of the binary code, and its hidden qualities: structure, logic, rhythm, redundancy, composition... The content of the Pure Data application is read as pure data into sound and pixels (rgb + extrude). Based on Pd version 0.42.5 extended (Mac OS X Intel release)» –

John Whitney - Arabesque (1975)

«John Whitney, (1917 – 1995) was an American animator, composer and inventor, widely considered to be one of the fathers of computer animation. Whitney was born in Pasadena, California and attended Pomona College. His first works in film were 8 mm movies of a lunar eclipse which he made using a home-made telescope. In 1937-38 he spent a year in Paris, studying twelve-tone composition under Rene Leibowitz. In 1939 he returned to America and began to collaborate with his brother James on a series of abstract films. Their work, Five Film Exercises (1940–45) was awarded a prize for sound at the First International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium in 1949. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

During the 1950s Whitney used his mechanical animation techniques to create sequences for television programs and commercials. In 1952 he directed engineering films on guided missile projects. One of his most famous works from this period was the animated title sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo, which he collaborated on with the graphic designer Saul Bass.

In 1960, he founded Motion Graphics Incorporated, which used a mechanical analogue computer of his own invention to create motion picture and television title sequences and commercials. The following year, he assembled a record of the visual effects he had perfected using his device, titled simply Catalog. In 1966, IBM awarded John Whitney, Sr. its first artist-in-residence position.

By the 1970s, Whitney had abandoned his analogue computer in favour of faster, digital processes. He taught the first computer graphics class at UCLA in 1972. The pinnacle of his digital films is his 1975 work Arabesque, characterized by psychedelic, blooming colour-forms. In 1969-70 he experimented with motion graphics computer programming at California Institute of Technology. His work during the 1980s and 1990s, benefited from faster computers and his invention of an audio-visual composition program called the Whitney-Reed RDTD (Radius-Differential Theta Differential). Works from this period such as Moondrum (1989–1995) used self-composed music and often explored mystical or Native-American themes.

All of John Whitney's sons (Michael, Mark and John Jr.) are also film-makers. The Whitney film collection is housed at the Academy Film Archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where its preservation and restoration are ongoing. Several of the films (plus some of James Whitney's), were preserved by Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles; HD transfers from their preservation have been seen in major museum exhibitions including Visual Music at MOCA and The Hirshhorn Museum (2005), Sons et Lumieres at Centre Pompidou (2004–05), The Third Mind at The Guggenheim Museum, and other shows.

The analogue computer Whitney used to create his most famous animations was built in the late 1950s by converting the mechanism of a World War II M-5 antiaircraft gun director.[1] Later, Whitney would augment the mechanism with an M-7 mechanism, creating a twelve-foot-high machine.[2] Design templates were placed on three different layers of rotating tables and photographed by multiple-axis rotating cameras.» –

Sabrina Ratté - AURAE (2012)

AURAE, is a video based on a photograph manipulated digitally and processed through electronic signals. The architectural forms constantly falling apart and their changing textures evoke the ephemeral nature of perception, and suggest the idea of time and its influence on this perception.

«AURAE was part of The First Digital Art Auction at Phillips, curated by Lindsay Howard. ( Phillips + Tumblr present Paddles ON!)

Sabrina Ratté's video practice investigates virtual environments generated by analog technologies. Electricity, as raw material, is sculpted, transformed and altered digitally to be reborn as luminous and vibrating architectures. Her videos exist between abstraction and figuration, utopia and dystopia, architecture and landscape.» –

Takeshi Murata - Untitled (Pink Dot), 2007

«Takeshi Murata produces extraordinary digital works that refigure the experience of animation. His innovative practice and constantly evolving processes range from intricate computer-aided, hand-drawn animations to exacting manipulations of the flaws, defects and broken code in digital video technology. Whether altering appropriated footage from cinema (B movies, vintage horror films), or creating Rorschach-like fields of seething color, form and motion, Murata produces astonishing visions that redefine the boundaries between abstraction and recognition.

Murata has developed painterly techniques for processing video using glitches and errors. Conjuring digital turbulence from broken DVD encoding, he carefully tends bad video compression to generate sometimes sinuous, sometimes violent flows of digital distortion. With a powerfully sensual force that is expressed in videos, loops, installations and electronic music, Murata's synaesthetic experiments in hypnotic perception appear at once seductively organic and totally digital.

Takeshi Murata was born in 1974 in Chicago, IL. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997 with a B.F.A. in Film/Video/Animation. Murata’s work has been shown at venerable institutions worldwide including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the New Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and Norway’s Bergen Kunsthall, among others. Murata lives in Saugerties, New York.» –

Jacques Perconte - Alpi, dicembre (2014)

«As nothing in the machine is alien to Jacques Perconte, he knows how to push it beyond its limits, how to think and create with its flaws. After him, the digital machinery is not faithful to the world because it can record its apparence, but because it can perceive its vibrations (in particular its chromatic ones), which are not mimetic, but analogous to the vibrations of reality. After more than twenty films and many monographic exhibitions, he still declares: 'I don't search, I venture!'»

– Nicole Brenez, historian of cinema, Cinémathèque Française, «Born in 1974 in Grenoble (France), Jacques Perconte lives and works in Paris. He is well known as one of the pioneers of French internet art. He is among the first artists to have worked on compression codecs. Jacques made his debuts with internet and video art. His first films date back from 1995 and his first internet artworks from 1996.

Even though his works become less and less theoretical, the relation between form and substance remains crucial. Jacques Perconte works on the forms of fiction on various medias as well as a formal research, focused on the body and the landscape.

Jacques Perconte apparently has a good knowledge of his technology, which serves him when dealing with frame and color. He tries to transform digital technology into a new media, which can be esthetically as rich as any other classical art.» –
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