Back and Forth: Between Art and Film
Films by Philipp Fleischmann and other cinematic experiments from
Date: August 17, 2023
Location: Brain Dead Studios
Address: 611 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Los Angeles premieres! Philipp Fleischmann in person!
One of the world's most singular film artists, Philipp Fleischmann has, over the past decade, quietly forged one of the most unique projects in contemporary cinema. Since 2013, the Austrian filmmaker has taken as his primary subject institutional spaces of a certain cultural-historical significance. But rather than merely record or reflect on these spaces—which have ranged from Vienna’s Secession Building (Main Hall, 2013) to a hallowed theater at the Austrian Filmmuseum (The Invisible Cinema 3, 2018)—Fleischmann instead utilizes his films as ideological tools to mediate and comment on the finer points of each institution’s art-historical legacy. His highly unique process, in which the light and spatial coordinates of a given location are inscribed on strips of 35mm film through the direct exposure of hand-built, site-specific cameras, turns the cinematic apparatus itself into a kind of critical-conceptual conduit. At their best, Fleischmann's films act as a both a spatiotemporal intervention and an implicit statement about the value institutions place on cinema.
Tonight's three-part program will include the majority of Fleischmann's films made for the cinema to date, a trio of complementary works by three of the artist's contemporaries (Johann Lurf, Björn Kämmerer, and Viktoria Schmid) who take up a similar structural-materialist impulse, as well as a live 16mm performance in which Fleischmann will hand-project a selection of classic Austrian expanded cinema pieces by Valie Export, Hans Scheugl, and Peter Weibel.
Films by Philipp Fleischmann
Main Hall (Philipp Fleischmann, 2013, 35mm color film, no sound, 5 min 8 s)
While this bastion (the Viennese Secession) of modernity has been crucial to the development of Minimalism and Conceptual Art, film has eluded its mandate; Main Hall adds a purely cinematographic gesture (à la Gordon Matta-Clark) to the space’s history by having it look at its own architecture. —Andréa Picard
The Invisible Cinema 3 (Philipp Fleischmann, 2017, 16mm color film, no sound, 36 s)
Conceived by fimmaker Peter Kubelka as a "viewing machine" not supposed to distract, in which only the film being projected should “completely dictate the sensation of space,” the history of the Invisible Cinema went through several locations and appearances always according to the minimalistic maxim of being a completely black box, with no reflective surfaces except the screen. Half phantasmagory, half blueprint in motion, The Invisible Cinema 3 is a 36-second blitzkrieg immersion into the total blackness of the building whose only diversion is marked by a series of oscillating white dots (the room lights) that parade through the frame upwards and sidewards. The result is a cold and hypnotic miniature, a tiny slice of unmediated reality that throws upon its viewer a barrage of questions about the nature of the film medium too powerful to leave the theater unharmed. —Pablo Marín
Untitled (Generali Foundation Vienna) (Philipp Fleischmann, 2015, 16mm color film, no sound, 34 s)
A Fleischmann-style portrait of the now defunct Generali Foundation in Vienna when it had already closed down. As in most of Fleischmann’s artworks, this work was not commissioned by the institution, but rather operates within the interstices of officialdom. —Elena Duque
mumok kino (Philipp Fleischmann, 2017, 35mm color film, no sound, 1 min 20 s)
Vienna's mumok cinema brings together two basic forms of presentation of modernism in a two-part room. Half of it is a black box and "invisible cinema," and the other is a bright event room which echoes the architecture of a white cube. From black into white, from projection to presentation: in 80 seconds (roughly the time we invest "when leaving the cinema") Fleischmann‘s film shows the passage between these two culturally overdetermined dispositifs. —Volker Pantenburg
Austrian Pavilion (Philipp Fleischmann, 2019, 35mm color film, no sound, 4 min 8 s)
Filmed at the eponymous national pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale in Venice, this visually astonishing work records architect Josef Hoffman’s unique indoor-outdoor floor plan via three flat, doorway-straddling cameras and a 25-foot tall arch able to capture a near 360-degree view of the space through the manual exposure of an equivalent length strip of 35mm film placed parallel to the structure’s curvature. The result is a sort of vertically suspended survey of the pavilion and its surroundings that takes in a wide swathe of the space’s blank walls, windowed ceilings, outdoor foliage, and variegated light sources, accomplished through what appears to the naked eye to be a series of continuous, upwardly curving camera tilts. —Jordan Cronk
Untitled (34bsp) (Philipp Fleischmann, 2021, 35mm color film, no sound, 5 min 34 s)
Fleischmann uses hand-built cameras to generate direct, mostly lens-free inscriptions of exhibition spaces on the celluloid. Rather than simply photographing a museum structure, he abandons the 24fps system of representation, creating conditions in which the architecture's own organization becomes the organization of the film. The building under investigation is the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, designed by Brazil's greatest architect, Oscar Niemeyer. Untitled (34bsp)—which was commissioned by the São Paolo Biennial's 34th edition, hence the title—does not bring outside images into the Biennial. Rather, the film documents the physical conditions under which the Biennial can occur at all, the spatial arrangement that inflects every work of art ever shown in the Pavilion. As such, Fleischmann's film (literally) exposes the political enfranchisement of national culture, an arena defined by having both an inside and an outside. —Michael Sicinski
Secret film / work in progress (Philipp Fleischmann, 2023, 16mm color film, no sound, 2 min)
Expanded Cinema performance
Abstract Film No. 1 (Valie Export, 1967-1968, 16mm, any length)
The concept of “expanded” cinema developed by Export and Peter Weibel involved radical experiments with the filmic apparatus and materialist investigations of the production of illusion. Abstract Film No. 1 is an example of this critical investigation of the technology of image production. A film projector casts light on a mirror with tinted liquids running across it. The actual image appears as a reflection on a screen—or an abstract film. —Christian Kravagna
zzz: hamburg special (Hans Scheugl, 1968, 16mm, any length)
Hans Scheugl’s hamburg special consists of a spool of thread that runs through the projector instead of a film. On the bright empty screen appears a vertical line that is moved to both sides by the projectionist. —Sheugl.org
Nivea (Peter Weibel, 1967, 16mm, 1 min)
In Nivea, an actor, holding a rubber ball, stands motionless for one minute (like a standing frame) in front of the screen onto which empty frames are projected, accompanied by a camera noise on tape. An inflatable, direct advertising film. An image object problem. —Peter-weibel.at
Contemporary cinematic experiments from Austria
A Proposal to project in 4:3 (Viktoria Schmid, 2016, 16mm, 2 min)
Schmid builds her own projection screens ranging from aspect ratios currently in use (in this case 4:3, the format she uses the most often, 16mm being her primary medium) to entirely fictitious ones (the 4:1 Viktoriascope) and if possible she then films them in the exact same aspect ratio. While at the Djerassi Artist in Residency Program in California, the artist constructed a screen with wood and canvas and installed it in the program’s sculpture park. Still standing there, it is an unexpected object on the way to a scenic view of the rolling hills on the Djerassi property. In A Proposal to project in 4:3, Schmid shot this site-specific installation over the course of a single day when the screen became a projection surface for the subtle interplay of shadow and light from the surrounding trees and shrubs. Cinema without film. —Claudia Slanar
Cavalcade (Johann Lurf, 2019, 35mm, 5 min)
The short films of Johann Lurf often explore the enigmatic territory between the real and the perceived, challenging our senses to comprehend visions and sounds taken from the environment around us by means of subtle, beautiful trompe l'oeil effects. Cavalcade sees him make a direct intervention into physical space for the first time. The artist designed and constructed a 150cm-diameter water wheel, with one face divided into various patterned circles of varying shapes and colour. It was then fixed in place in a stream; we observe the wheel in rest, motion and rest again from a single vantage point, as it is illuminated by strobe lights synchronised with 35mm cameras. Clockwise and anticlockwise movement disorientingly, magically interweave. —Neil Young
Navigator (Björn Kämmerer, 2015, 35mm, 7 min)
Normally a navigational device or navigator serves to provide orientation in unfamiliar territory, to establish paths in the middle of nowhere by means of geometric aids. But what happens when space and its record, region and map, merge and begin to intertwine? In Navigator, Björn Kämmerer creates a kind of seeing machine that executes exactly such a convolution. —Christian Höller
TRT: 60 min (approx.)
Fleischmann subversively and playfully intervenes in the production processes of cinema, constructs singular, often space-consuming analogue film cameras in order to measure the black boxes and white cubes in institutions in new ways and means, and finally finds ways to open up new conceptual as well as concrete places for film.
Alejandro Bachmann, Austrian Film Museum
Unlike so many experimental filmmakers, Fleischmann is not primarily concerned with cinematic perception or problems of signification. [He's] in league with a small group of individuals who have used celluloid as a material marker for the tangible recording of light events, a kind of scientific registration of certain occurrences that, while 'photo-graphic' in the strictest sense, do not yield conventional images.
Michael Sicinski, MUBI Notebook
In Johann Lurf's Cavalcade, which was shot on 35mm and lit with a projector beam and strobe light, a hypnotic spinning wheel atop a verdant summer stream becomes a site of double trickery. Through a dizzying trompe l'oeil, the film reveals the incongruities between what is heard, seen, and actually present.
Vancouver International Film Festival
Viktoria Schmid’s A Proposal to project in 4:3 asks us to reconsider the rectangle upon which our cinematic delights are projected. Filmed on 35-mm over the course of one day, surrounded by dunes, sea and forests on the Lithuanian coast, Schmid reconfigures the screen as a blank canvas upon which sunlight, wind, and shadow create an alluring new form of cinematic art.
Neil Young, Vienna Shorts
Björn Kämmerer's Navigator picks up where loose ends of Modernism dangle, and it projects into yet untrodden territory: Steel and dazzling chrome frame reflective glass, a combination that does not yield cold functionality but rather an unforeseen abundance of form; a form of self-reflexivity that disables recognition of what is inside and what is out – although both categories are relentlessly in play; a measurement of space that interlocks object and subject, matter and access to such a degree that a new kind of space emerges.
Christian Höller, sixpackfilm