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Masterclass with Peter Tscherkassky | Hand-made cinema

Peter Tscherkassky

Teatro Principal

5th October from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Free, by order of registration | Registration form at the end of this page

Hand-made cinema

For over two decades, I have been making all my films in the dark room – without using a camera. Found footage is placed directly upon raw stock and exposed one frame at a time by hand using various light sources, such as flashlights and laser pointers. Naturally, this manual process leaves its mark upon the film material and is inscribed upon the images themselves: One can tell that the resulting films are handmade. The specific charm of these films appears to result from the combination of extremely precise composition (with regard to the footage chosen and its rearrangement) and the obviously aleatory aspect of the manual production method. Working with a laser pointer or flashlights permits neither precise exposure times nor exact sizing of the image’s shape. The result is a constant fluctuation of the image during projection, an ever-present reminder of the manual nature of the production process. These visual fluctuations are joined by the unavoidable presence of dirt, hair, scratches, etc., which become part of the film’s overall texture. To make a long story short: The production process is inscribed in the very images of my darkroom films; this process presents itself in a form that is indebted to a manual labor employing analog material that could never be exchanged with any other medium. 

This is my personal reaction to the gradual disappearance of classical cinema, the imminent loss of film which is being replaced by digitally generated moving images created by the computer. 

The lecture will be based on a close examination and analysis of my film Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine.

Peter Tscherkassky

  • Peter Tscherkassky

    Peter Tscherkassky (Vienna, 1958) is an Austrian experimental filmmaker. He also has extensive essay work on the history and theory of avant-garde cinema.

    Between 1979 and 1986, he studied philosophy at the Universities of Berlin and Vienna, where he obtained his doctorate with a thesis on aesthetics and avant-garde cinema. Tscherkassky's interest in avant-garde cinema stems from a series of lectures in Vienna by historian P. Adams Sitney, which he attended in 1978. This encounter generated in Tscherkassky a definitive artistic, agitating, curatorial and theoretical will.

    His film work explores the photochemical nature of the image through intense work with found footage. In 1979, he started making Super 8 films. In 1991, he founded Sixpackfilm (one of the main collaborating distributors of Curtocircuíto) together with Brigitta Burger-Utzer. Tscherkassky made thirty films, including Trilogy of CinemaScope (1997-2001) – made up of the films The Arrival, Outer Space and Dream Work–, Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (2005), Coming Attractions (2010) and The Exquisite Corpus (2015).

    Working between the reuse of film footage, the claim of artisanal work and the recovery of certain structuralist perspectives, his cinematographic pursuit involves meticulous work of manual copying in the dark room. The analog technique developed to manipulate each of the frames gives the image a particular texture that emphasizes the analog materiality of the media, visually affecting its surface area (scratches, overlays and inscriptions) and the accompanying elements (perforations, soundtracks, projection directions, etc.). The sound treatment, always surprising, ranges from arrhythmic noises to progressive buzzing through abysmal silences. 

    Over the years, owing to his work, he has received nearly fifty awards, including the Golden Gate Award (San Francisco), the Grand Prize of the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen and the Award for Best Short Film at the Venice International Film Festival.