8 Apr — 20 Aug 2017
Oskar Fischinger's Raumlichtkunst (c. 1926/2012)A masterpiece of experimental filmmaking coupled with avant-garde modern music
Three-projector HD reconstruction by the Center for Visual Music 2012
This exhibition presents one of the first multimedia projections ever made, Oskar Fischinger’s Raumlichtkunst, a re-creation of his multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and restored by the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles.
Raumlichtkunst has come to the Govett-Brewster from its most recent installation at the Whitney Museum, New York, where it was both critically acclaimed and a popular hit. It was described by the New York Times as "dazzling... an exhilarating phantasmagoria of abstraction and metaphor". The artwork was also exhibited at Tate Modern London, Palais de Toyko Paris and other venues worldwide.
In 1926, abstract filmmaker Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) began performing multiple projector cinema shows in Germany with up to five 35mm film projectors, colour filters and slides.
Fischinger wrote of his concept of Raumlichtmusik (space-light-music), believing all the arts would merge in this new art. The critics called his performances ‘Raumlichtkunst’ (space-light-art) and praised Fischinger's ‘original art vision which can only be expressed through film’. These shows represent some of the earliest attempts at cinematic immersive environments, and are a precursor to expanded cinema and 1960's light shows.
Under the concept name of ‘Raumlichtkunst’, Fischinger performed several different versions of these multiple projector shows in the late 1920s, some of which were called Fieber and Macht (Power). Biographer William Moritz speculated that another name used may have been R-1 ein Formspiel, though no reviews or documentation exist of this name. This re-creation does not strive to represent any one specific performance, rather the concept and effect of Fischinger's series of shows.
Working with Fischinger's original 1920s nitrate film, the Center for Visual Music restored the 35mm film via traditional photochemical processes, transferred to HD, digitally restored the colour, and reconstructed this 3 screen recreation of his c. 1926 - 27 performances. The 3 screen installation is projected in High Definition video. No documentation exists of the original music used, other than reports of ‘various percussive’ accompaniment. For this re-creation, the Center for Visual Music chose to use Varese's Ionisation and two versions of Double Music by John Cage and Lou Harrison.
Long before he became an American, Fischinger was part of the international avant-garde of modernism's most radical phase. His early abstract experiments push aside narrative and reduce cinema to pure plane, scale, motion and colour. Because of his highly accessible later work, especially from Radio Dynamics onward, and because of the musical dimension, he is generally regarded as a colourist/lyrical film-maker. But the early experiments including Raumlichtkunst are much more formalist and invested in the specificity of the medium. They are closer to Malevich, the suprematists and the futurists in intent - all in search of the absolute in painting and in cinema.
(Text courtesy the Center for Visual Music.)
CVM’s Film Restoration was supported by an Avant-Garde Masters grant funded by The Film Foundation, administered by The National Film Preservation Foundation
Reconstruction by Center for Visual Music, 2012
Curator/Archivist: Cindy Keefer
Music Supervisor: Richard Brown, Ph.D.
Thanks to: Barbara Fischinger, The Fischinger Trust, Cinemaculture, Film Technology, Co., Hollywood, and William Moritz