“Cinema is projection of stills — — I feel that every frame that is projected too much makes the
whole thing less articulate. I have twenty-four communication possibilities per second, and I don't want to waste
Peter Kubelka (1934–) is one of the most important pioneers of experimental filmmaking. Inspired by the montage theories of Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein, he started his career as a filmmaker already in the early 1950s — although he ended up questioning the teachings of the old masters fairly soon. Kubelka has become famous as the ultimate craftsman of film, who regards the single film frame (not the shot!) as the basic unit of filmmaking, full of explosive potential when edited together with another frame. All of his films are fast-paced, highly refined architectural constructions. Their editing process is long and meticulous. In order to ease their reception, Kubelka often screens his films two times in a row at the same screening.
His debut film Mosaik im Vertrauen (1954/55) was a melancholy mystery about the city of Vienna — and already in its name a step away from narrative filmmaking. With his next three films, Kubelka achieved results never seen before. He could arrange the film footage into sequences of four, six, eight and sixteen frames, and their careful combinations created a unique form reminiscent of music, bearing a rhythm completely unlike what the viewer has been accustomed to. Adebar (1956/57), based on the movements of dancing, was to be an advertisement film for a bar with the same name — but the customer never approved it. Schwechater (1957/58) was intended to be a sophisticated beer commercial, where photographic models drink beer out of champagne flutes, but became a flowing graphical representation of positive and negative images instead. A hysterical portrait commissioned by an artist friend of Kubelka’s, Arnulf Rainer (1958/60) is the culmination of absolute cinema — a film that can be viewed with one’s eyes closed. The film consists of an orchestrated flicker of black and white frames accompanied by organic noise, which Kubelka himself has compared to Niagara Falls.
Unsere Afrikareise (1961–1966) is a tragicomic portrayal of a hunting trip. While working on it for five years, Kubelka learnt by heart the three hours of 16 mm film footage he had shot, as well as 18 hours of sound tape. This resulted in one of the most stunning achievements in the history of cinema: a seamless synthesis of image and sound that resembles nothing we have seen before. “Kubelka’s cinema is like a piece of crystal, or some other object of nature,” Jonas Mekas commented after viewing the film. “It doesn’t look like it was produced by man. One could easily conceive that is was picked up from amongst the organic treasures of nature.”
In Pause! (1977) Kubelka continued his collaboration with Arnulf Rainer. This time they centred on the “face art” of the artist. The ghostly Dichtung und Wahrheit (2003) is Kubelka’s latest film. Kubelka has described a change in his thinking. He no longer regards himself as the perfectionist craftsman, but more a hunter-gatherer. Created out of footage taken from three different advertisement films, the film opens a new and surprising chapter in Kubelka’s filmmaking.
In 1964, Kubelka founded the Austrian Film Museum together with Peter Konlechner, and worked as its programmer until 2001. In 1970, he founded the legendary Anthology Film Archive with Stan Brakhage, P. Adams Sitney and Jonas Mekas. At Kubelka’s initiative, Anthology gave birth to the collection of “the most important films in the world”, Essential Cinema, which is still considered the most significant international collection of experimental film in the world.
An interesting part of Kubelka’s art is his focus on cooking — on both theoretical and practical levels. “Cooking is the oldest and the most important form of art,” Kubelka has commented. He has lectured about the art of cooking on various occasions, and has organised practical workshops for art students on the theme of “Non-Industrial Film — Non-Industrial Cuisine”. Avanto climaxes on Sunday with Kubelka’s lecture/performance entitled The Edible Metaphor: Cooking, the Mother of Religion, Art and Science, combining the art of filmmaking with culinarism.
Avanto is proud to screen the entire filmography of Peter Kubelka. Although it is only 63 minutes in duration, it is an extraordinarily intense cinematic experience.
Mosaik im Vertrauen (1954/55, 16’30’’)
Adebar (1956/57, 1’30’’)
Schwechater (1957/58, 1’)
Arnulf Rainer (1958/60, 6’30’’)
Unsere Afrikareise (1961–1966, 12’30’’)
Pause! (1977, 11’45’’)
Dichtung und Wahrheit (2003, 13’)
Total duration: 63 minutes.
Orion on Friday, 16 November at 8:30 pm,
with a lecture by Peter Kubelka the total duration of the screening will be approximately 150 minutes. The second screening on Saturday, 17 November at 9 pm will also be presented by Peter Kubelka, but without the lecture.
Peter Kubelka’s lecture/performance The Edible Metaphor: Cooking, the Mother of Religion, Art and Science
Kiasma Theatre on Sunday, 18 November from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Peter Kubelka : Unsere Afrikareise (1961-1966)