For over a decade, Peter Tscherkassky has been making films without the use of a camera or any other optical apparatus. Instead, every single frame is painstakingly fashioned by hand, using a laborious technique of exposing the film to light. Found footage serves as the source material, usually stemming from Hollywood productions. Tscherkassky copies details from the original movies one frame at a time, such as isolated views, individual performers, body parts, background objects. These fragments are reconstellated within a dramatic structure that gives rise to an entirely new story.
Tscherkassky ‚paints’ with light, using tiny flashlights and laser pointers to copy the original film. This painterly and labor intensive handiwork leaves visible traces that foreground the materiality of the medium itself. Singular qualities unique to classic, analog cinema are exposed, including scratches, dirt, loss of resolution, and instabilities in the image. In an historic age that finds the audio-visual culture of mankind globally transitioning to digital media, Tscherkassky attempts to reveal film as an autonomous, artistic medium, illuminating its unique materiality before it disappears entirely.
When Tscherkassy’s films are seen on screen, the speed and framing of the projector hide more than a few of his creative interventions. Only the motionless strip of film reveals the multi-faceted nature of his manipulation of the original material, the physical malleability of celluloid and the unique beauty of analog film – a medium which can in no way be replaced as an art form by digital motion pictures. Peter Tscherkassky’s lightboxes are dedicated to this revelatory gesture. They uncover the physical foundations of the cinematic realm of illusion. At the same time, they mark a transition of time-based film art as it steps into the world of fine art, from the temporality of the Black Box to that of the White Cube.
Each of the light boxes measures 1 x 1.5 meters, displaying app. 40 meter of film that represent 90 seconds of one continuous sequence. A monitor in conjunction with the lightbox presents that sequence as a DVD loop, to convey a sense of how it reads when projected on screen. The analog, corporeal basis of a digital film quote is made visible to the naked eye.
Peter Tscherkassky’s work has received international attention and acclaim. Each of his dark room films „Outer Space“ (1999, 10’), „Dream Work“ (2001, 12’) and „Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine“ (2005, 17’) has been presented at over 90 festivals worldwide, including premieres at Cannes and the New York Film Festival. He has been honored with 45 prizes and awards to date, including the San Francisco Golden Gate Award and the Grand Prize at Oberhausen: Tscherkassky’s number among the most award winning films in the history of avant-garde cinema. In 2007, his film „Outer Space“ was presented at the Documenta (Kassel). In 2006/2007, Tscherkassky had retrospectives at the Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis), Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), Pacific Film Archive (San Francisco), Cal Arts and the Film Forum (Los Angeles), and at 9 international film festivals. In May of 2008 Peter Tscherkassky will be presenting his work at the Louvre in Paris. Renowned institutions including the Pompidou Center (Paris), Cinémathèque Française and Harvard University have purchased his work.
Top Kino and sixpackfilm will be presenting a selection of works in conjunction with our exhibition on February 13, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. Peter Tscherkassky will be present.
Peter Tscherkassky, born 1958 in Vienna. Ph.D. in Philosophy. Filmmaker since 1979. Teacher for many years at the Universities of Applied Arts at Vienna and Linz.