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Films by Peter Tscherkassky

"Tscherkassky sculpts with time and space, rhythms and arrhythmia in a way that feels like an entirely new film space, a new language altogether," wrote Rhys Graham in Senses of Cinema back in 2001 and the declaration stands ten years on, well into our current era of digital filmmaking. With Films by Peter Tscherkassky, we're proud to team up with INDEX to present a selection of early and later work by one of the most important figures in the Austrian avant-garde (see, for example, Alexander Horwath's essay from SoC 28), both as a practitioner and theorist. Even as he was writing his doctoral thesis in the mid-80s ("Film as Art. Towards a Critical Aesthetics of Cinematography"), Tscherkassky created Miniatures (1983), Motion Picture (1984) and Manufraktur (1985) and would eventually co-found the distribution collective Sixpack Film, lecture and program for a variety of festivals. That's just scratching the surface; be sure to explore his site.

Acquarello on L'Arrivee (1998; image above), Outer Space (1999) and Dream Work (2002): "Peter Tscherkassky's elegantly conceived, idiosyncratically transfixing, and neuron-saturating CinemaScope Trilogy is made without a camera — a series of films entirely realized in the dark room using techniques of contact printing and variable exposure to transfer found film into unexposed film stock, then manipulated and processed to create the final works. Serving as both an homage to film as cinema, as well as an experimental study on the physical materiality of the medium…, the films reflect an intrinsic ability to distill the essence of human observation, sensation, and even psychology into the assimilation — and fragmentation — of interplayed images, rhythms, impulses, associative cognition, and instinctual responses."

Guy Maddin in the Voice on Outer Space and Dream Work: "Tscherkassky has made two films cannibalizing Sidney J Furie's 1982 Barbara Hershey horror film The Entity, the story of a woman who is continually assaulted and raped either by real ghosts or by awfully adept repressed traumas… The screen literally explodes with a tumult of Hershey faces, shattering Steve Burum's original cinematography into shards of frightened eyes, trembling hands, and violent outbursts of self-defense, presented in multiple exposures too layered to count, too arresting to ignore. Each frame is further entangled with details revealed by a jittery effect (a primitive traveling matte?) which spills fluttering ectoplasmic lightpools from one cubist aspect of the woman to another. The filmmaker mimics the action of nightmares by condensing the original imagery of the feature and displacing it into a new narrative — as in dreams, a narrative not explicitly linked to actual events, but emotionally more true than any rational explanation. Tscherkassky's shorts are actually considerably more terrifying than the original material."

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This years film festival Diagonale also presents Peter Tscherkassky’s current success Coming Attractions in the context of his complete works, as well as a Carte Blanche prepared by the filmmaker himself on the big screen. A special highlight will be Peter Tscherkassky’s lecture, in which he will analyze one of his own films and introduce the audience to its complex production process. Be sure to check out his films on the BIG screen if you are able to.

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