35mm: Arnulf Rainer (1960, L.: 177 m. D.: 7′) e Antiphon (2012, L.: 177 m. D.: 7′). Total duration: ca. 90′, including introductions by the filmmaker. Bn.
“I love my medium, and I use it as a ship to go on a journey to places that I haven’t been to, or nobody has ever seen before, and whatever will be found there is fine. I made my film Arnulf Rainer without having a precise idea of what it would look like on the screen, because I couldn’t project it or look at it on an editing ta- ble, because I had no means. I was very poor back then. And as with almost everything, when you are poor, you are more courageous because you have nothing to lose” (Peter Kubelka).
The most famous of Peter Kubelka’s ‘metric films’, Arnulf Rainer saw the medium of film magnificently stripped down to its four essential components: light, darkness, silence and sound. His decision to finally produce a follow-up film 52 years later was not an arbitrary one: with the existence of analogue film severely threatened by what Kubelka observes as the “hostile takeover” of digital technology within film production and exhibition, the original co-founder of the Österreichisches Filmmuseum felt the need to return to those same four basic elements, reversing them in the process. Music-aficionado Kubelka named the resulting film Antiphon after the call-and-response musical form, itself deriving from the ancient Greek words for “opposite voice”. What was black in Arnulf Rainer is white in Antiphon, where there was once sound now there is silence (and vice versa).
Antiphon serves not only as a counterpoint but also as a companion piece to the earlier film. Together they form the basis of a ‘projector performance’ – Monument Film – which begins with a solo projection of Arnulf Rainer, followed by Antiphon. In the second movement of this event, the two films are screened side-by-side. And as a finale, they are screened on top of each other, melting into one another in a shared space, leaving the flicker of the projector lamps as the dominant visual element.
The monumental character of the work is also emphasised by the incorporation of the projection apparatus within the performance. Work and ‘working system’ become one and the same. The 35mm film projectors are freed from the booth and placed amongst the rows of spectators. The speakers, meanwhile, are situated in front of the screen, rather than being hidden away behind it.
Described by its creator as a “call to dogged resistance” in a world where economically and ideologically forced obsolescence (in this case, of analogue film) is much too easily viewed as a ‘natural’ phenomenon, Monument Film brings the materiality of the celluloid medium to the fore. The alternating black and white stretches recall the negative-positive process that forms the basis of analogue photographic duplication. The physicality of film is laid bare on the screen, and in the viewing space itself. With each successive projection, new instances of scratches, dirt, dust and other marks accumulate on the film strip, thereby reminding the viewer that as well as being a plastic art, film is still very much a performance art, with the cinema’s ‘black box’ as its stage.