OF THE WEST
By Klaus Wyborny
Introduced by Filmmaker and SAIC Professor Dan Eisenberg
Presented by WHITE LIGHT CINEMA
Co-Presented by Goethe Institut-Chicago
The Nightingale Cinema, 1084 N. Milwaukee
September 30th, 2012
White Light Cinema is pleased to present the Chicago premiere of the great German filmmaker Klaus Wyborny’s much-acclaimed 2010 film STUDIES FOR THE DECAY OF THE WEST. The program will be introduced by local filmmaker and SAIC Professor Dan Eisenberg, a long-time friend and former student of Wyborny’s.
Still woefully under-known in the U.S., Wyborny began making films in the late 1960’s, following several years of studying theoretical physics, and was part of the explosive generation of New German Cinema filmmakers that included Harun Farocki, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Werner Schroeter, Alexander Kluge, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Over the past 40-plus years, Wyborny has created a rich, varied body of work that blurs the boundaries between experimental, documentary, and essay filmmaking.
STUDIES FOR THE DECAY OF THE WEST
Klaus Wyborny, 1979/2010, 80 min, Super-8mm to Video (DVD exhibition format), Germany
A Music Film in five parts
1: Tiring; tumbling towards the end 7 parts, edited directly in the camera, shot in the Ruhr (spring 1980) (10m, 30 sec)
2: Serene; in the way of ants 13 parts (6 double-exposed) shot in the same way in the Ruhr (1980) (11m, 16 sec)
3: Classical; radiant with glory 8 parts (4 double-exposed) in the Ruhr (1980) and Athens (1991) (9m, 32 sec)
4: About the Light of the North 13 parts (8 double-exposures) in Hamburg (1983/84), La Gomera (1984) and East Africa (1981/82) (20m), with an intermezzo “Out of New York” (1987) (12m)
5: From the New World 16 parts shot in Hamburg (1984), Rimini (1990), Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio (1979)(13m, 48 sec)
Total number of shots: 6.299
“Wyborny’s latest flicker film concentrates on factories, industrial wastelands, waterways, cityscapes, and the bits in between, and has an uncanny emotional resonance. It is ‘serene, in the manner of ants’-to quote the title of the second section-but it is also elegiac and melancholy. Like two other old cranks (Godard and Straub), the director stays true to ideas about filmic composition gestated over many years and thereby provides a glimpse of a utopian cinema.” (Thom Andersen, Film Comment)
In Wyborny’s ‘musical film,’ every new sound triggers a new image: 6,299 shots, all directly edited within his Super-8 camera. An intoxicating, stroboscopic trip to industrial, natural and urban landscapes in East Africa, New York, the Ruhr region and Rimini. This experimental music film refers to Oswald Spengler’s world-famous 1918 philosophical work The Decay of the West. Culture pessimist Spengler argues that progress is an illusion and that the modern era brings little good. People are no longer able to understand the rationality of the world. Wyborny does not set out to make a film version of Spengler’s theories, but rather a visual reflection on the modern age; a stroboscopic journey in five parts to industrial, natural and urban landscapes. He uses 6,299 shots, edited directly in a Super-8 camera. Each piano note and violin vibrato evokes a new image: demolished buildings, rubble, destruction and nature. This film forms a counterpart to Wyborny’s previous films series Eine andere Welt. Lieder der Erde II (2004/2005).
“The most striking formal aspect of the work is that Wyborny has edited his images in nearly perfect synchrony with a musical score he composed for piano and strings. In the silent era, Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling composed films based on musical principles (e.g., rhythms of repetition and variation), and in the sound era, the Disney studios animated graphic shapes to classic musical pieces. But to my knowledge, I don’t think anyone has timed the editing of filmed images of the world-iron structures, concrete buildings, beaches, waterfronts, apartment buildings, waterways, people, and so forth-to the notations and phrases of a musical composition.” (Tony Pipolo, Artforum)
Daniel Eisenberg has been making films and videos since 1976. His films have been screened throughout Europe, Asia, and North America with solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York, the Musee du Cinema, Brussels; De Unie, Rotterdam; and Kino Arsenal, Berlin. His films have been shown in the Berlin Film Festival; the Sydney Film Festival; the London Film Festival; the Jerusalem Film Festival; FIDMarseilles, and the Whitney Biennial, New York. His work has also been featured in many conferences and symposia, including the first International Walter Benjamin Conference, Portbou-Barcelona, Spain. Eisenberg’s films have won numerous awards, fellowships, and honors. Among these are a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; the D.A.A.D. Berliner Kunstlerprogramm Fellowship, a Creative Capital grant, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Awards include the Prix Georges De Beauregard International at FIDMarseilles, arc+film Festival, Graz, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Black Maria Film and Video Festival, New England Film Festival. His films are included in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Arsenal-Experimentale, Berlin, the Nederlands Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, the Haus des Dokumentarfilm, Stuttgart, and numerous university, art, and film school collections. A book on his films entitled “POSTWAR: The Films of Daniel Eisenberg,” ed. Jeffrey Skoller, was published in 2010 by Black Dog Publishing, London. He has also researched and edited documentaries for National Public Television, including Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, and Vietnam: A Television History. Eisenberg lives and works in Chicago and is a Professor in the departments of Film/Video/New Media/Animation, and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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