‘You hear it everywhere: Cinema is tipping over – its epic and dramatic forms are spilling over into television, avant-garde and experimental films have fled to the galleries, and all the images that once belonged to it are now available everywhere, anytime. At the Austrian Film Museum, we tend to refrain from such sweeping and simple-minded swan songs. For this very reason, we are honoured to participate in Vertical Cinema – a project committed to taking one step at a time. Instead of trying to tip cinema in its entirety into the digital netherworld, this project is content with just tipping the screen – observing how an artform changes if you respectfully chafe at its edges.’ – Alexander Horwath, Director of the Austrian Film Museum
What we usually identify as the indisputable ‘temple of film’, the Cinema, is not really a given, especially not in the realm of experimental cinematic arts. Yet this is somehow sidelined in the process of re-thinking the possibilities of cinematic experience, mostly because the architectural frame is already there, if only as a convention established a long time ago within the theatrical arts.
Actually, the history of experimental cinema and the art of the moving image suggests that the space might very well be the crucial aspect of the total audiovisual experience – something one should always question and take into consideration when producing a work for audiovisual, sensory cinema.
For the Vertical Cinema project we ‘abandoned’ traditional cinema formats, opting instead for cinematic experiments that are designed for projection in a tall, narrow space. It is not an invitation to leave cinemas – which have been radically transformed over the past decade according to the diktat of the commercial film market – but a provocation to expand the image onto a new axis. This project re-thinks the actual projection space and returns it to the filmmakers. It proposes a future for filmmaking rather than a pessimistic debate over the alleged death of film.
Vertical Cinema is a series of ten newly commissioned large-scale, site-specific works by internationally renowned experimental filmmakers and audiovisual artists, which will be presented on 35 mm celluloid and projected vertically with a custom-built projector in vertical cinemascope.
It is a 90-minute programme made solely for projection on a monumental vertical screen that will be upended on Saturday, 12 October, at 9 pm, in Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche at the Kontraste Dark As Light Festival (http://www.kontraste.at/). Vertical Cinema features works by Joost Rekveld, Tina Frank, Björn Kämmerer, Gert-Jan Prins & Martijn van Boven, Manuel Knapp, Johann Lurf, Rosa Menkman, Billy Roisz & Dieter Kovačič, Makino Takashi & Telcosystems and Esther Urlus.
These ten experimental films screened live on a vertical monument, a monolith, are a unique blend of abstract cinema, structural experiments, found footage remixes, chemical film explorations and live laser action. The artists – from Austria, the Netherlands and Japan – offer their view of ‘vertical axis art’, and the results of this challenging commission are fascinating.
In his film #43, Joost Rekveld observes what happens to a system that is destabilised by ‘creative’ pixels, drawing inspiration from the set of ideas in biology and mathematics that arose during the development of cybernetics in the 1950s.
Colterrain by Tina Frank plays with the Synchronator device, which translates sound into RGB video frequencies to create a work of true visual music in which the image is literally the sound turned into colour and filmed live using analogue equipment.
Johann Lurf embarks on a structural research of a modern pyramid building in his Pyramid Flare, a 5-minute work filmed in Prague with a 35 mm camera turned on its side.
The ‘film as time made manifest’ is the centrepiece of Björn Kämmerer’s Louver, a film that acts as a huge shutter, a louver, playing with light-objects and setting them in motion.
The kinetic graphisms of Manuel Knapp’s V~ open a portal into the process of creation from forces of numerical matter.
Esther Urlus’ Chrome – hand-made on the film material itself – opens a view into the autochrome process, a colouring technique for black-and-white photographs invented by the Lumière brothers in 1903.
Bring Me The Head Of Henri Chrétien!
In their film Bring Me The Head Of Henri Chrétien! Billy Roisz and Dieter Kovačič explore the world of cinematic formats based on the genre that experimented with and exploited the width of the screen to display spectacular landscapes: Western movies.
The landscape of the Moon and its seas is the scape of Lunar Storm by Rosa Menkman, who is well known for her glitch aesthetics.
Deorbit, the first collaboration between Makino Takashi and Telcosystems, takes viewers on a voyage from the immeasurable depths of space, visible only as pixels, to micro-space, the celluloid grain itself.
Walzkörpersperre by Gert-Jan Prins and Martijn van Boven explores verticality as resistance, bombarding a World War 2 anti-tank wall with a barrage of light beams driven by electronic sound.
Vertical Cinema is a Sonic Acts production in association with Kontraste Festival, The Austrian Film Museum, Filmtechniek BV, Paradiso Amsterdam, European Space Agency, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and International Film Festival Rotterdam. Generously supported by Mondriaan Fund.