Close Up

11 June 2016: The Exquisite Corpus

"Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau" (The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine)

Our second programme on Peter Tscherkassky focuses on his 35mm film works, including his early flirtation with the format Manufracture, through rigorous structural experiments and comical home movie imagery; culminating with the UK premiere of his most recent, widely celebrated film The Exquisite Corpus.

Tscherkassky’s later oeuvre reveals a distinct shift and refinement of aesthetic, owing much to his move to the larger gauge format and its capacity for more precise technical handling of complex source materials. Investigating deep into the ontological basis of cinema, Coming Attractions interrogates links between early-cinema, advertising and the avant-garde; an agenda that Tscherkassky takes further still in The Exquisite Corpus’ sculptural montaging of soft porn films, surreal comedy, and rayographs to explore human and filmic bodies.

Peter Tscherkassky will be in conversation with Juliet Jacques following the screening

Peter Tscherkassky
1985 | 3 min | B/W | 35mm

"A tangled network woven with tiny particles of movements broken out of found footage and compiled anew: the elements of the "to the left, to the right, back and forth" grammar of narrative space, discharged from all semantic burden. What remains is a self-sufficient swarm of splinters, fleeting vectors of lost direction, furrowed with the traces of the manual process of production." – Peter Tscherkassky

Parallel Space: Inter​-View
Peter Tscherkassky
1992 | 18 min | B/W | 35mm

"Parallel Space: Inter-View is made with a photo camera. A miniature photo 24 by 36mm is exactly the size of two film frames. Originally, I had a strict, formal concept. The visual space of the Renaissance locked in the optics of the film and still camera. In front of our eyes the landscapes of the film spread out and allow themselves be conquered; a constellation which is then subverted by letting the hardware and the software slip minimally. If I take a photograph with a strict central perspective (the vanishing point in the middle), it gets smashed when projected. The spatial lines plunge towards the lower edge of one frame, to be ripped apart at the top of the next. Optically it resembles a flickering double exposure; the former temporal and spatial unity disintegrates into pieces which have a correspondence with each other." – Peter Tscherkassky

Peter Tscherkassky
1996 | 11 min | Colour | 35mm

"Happy-End is a found footage film about oral ritual, about looking into a room in a bourgeois home, about seasonal celebrations, and about a married couple, who quite obviously knew how to enrich and enliven companionship" – Bert Rebhandl

Nocturne (Mozart Minute 09)
Peter Tscherkassky
2006 | 1 min | B/W | 35mm

"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, according to his biographers (and his letters confirm this fact), was an extremely sensuous person, and Nocturne was intended to refer to this aspect of his personality: We glide into "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" a bit, then abandon standardized paths of conventional representational film and encounter a few seconds of passionate sensory filmic example of something I would like to call "physical cinema." The thesis: Herr Mozart would have enjoyed it." – Peter Tscherkassky

Coming Attractions
Peter Tscherkassky
2010 | 25 min | B/W & Tinted | 35mm

"Using screen tests for commercials that were not meant to be preserved, Tscherkassky, the master of found footage, composed Coming Attractions in minute darkroom work. He adopted a variety of approaches in the individual chapters and, understandably, revelled in the absurd character of his raw material. Associations and cross connections are created, some of them mischievous and others with a deeper meaning: from the "Ballet monotonique" of the daily grind at work, inspired by Léger, and actresses in advertising films who are doomed to mechanically repeat the same actions again and again, to the downright surreal scene of a model with an inflatable hood drier and a saxophone, not to forget a farewell scene in which two seemingly bewildered Pasolini actors encounter a sheepishly grinning tractor driver from a dumpling-mix commercial. This amusing cinematic cross-section presented as a cryptic visual poem, or poem of visuals, showing (un)conscious missteps is amusing, light-hearted and playful." – Christoph Huber

The Exquisite Corpus
Peter Tscherkassky
2015 | 19 min | B/W | 35mm

"It takes nearly four minutes to arrive at this juncture, before Tscherkassky blows his fuses in characteristic style. Images begin to flicker and tremble, intermingling and superimposing, nervously shimmering between positive and negative, diving headlong into over, under, and multiple exposures, split screens and distortion effects. The title of The Exquisite Corpus not only refers to the Surrealist method of art making called Cadavre Exquis, but also tips its hat to the colloquial German term for a fine funeral or "schöne Leiche" – photochemical cinema is almost an anachronism in this day and age.

Tscherkassky's is a rigorously analogue film, manually composed one frame at a time out of moments from disembodied feature films, amateur and porn flicks, as well as fragments of discarded advertising rushes – magic from the garbage can of commercial film. Dirk Schaefer interweaves an original hypnotic melody with ambient sounds, dislocated motifs from legendary exotica composer Les Baxter, Musique concrète, manipulated voices and quotes from Teiji Ito's famous score for Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon. A subversive humour seeps into Tscherkassky’s multifaceted use of visual styles and formal play, only heightening the gentle ecstasy of voyeuristic curiosity, desire and seduction fantasy the film invokes. The Exquisite Corpus is a trance film that cunningly magnetizes animal sensuousness, a wet daydream composed of faces, bodies, weavings – tactile and textile: it is an erotic simulation game." – Stefan Grissemann

running time ca. 120 min

Part of our Peter Tscherkassky and Eve Heller season