The Metamorphoses of Eros

Allow me to begin with a short historical summary. In Austria, the avant-garde film movement began in the late 1950s. Contemporary film history separates the period from then until the 1990s into three generations of avant-garde in Austria. A first generation, with Peter Kubelka as central figure, preferred the 35mm format. A second generation was established from the mid-1960s, filming with 16mm. Lastly, a third generation came through in the mid-1970s, distinguished by their hand-held Super 8 cameras. My films are part of this generation. (Works from the three generations can be found in the programme Circling Tscherkassky).

When I was producing my first film, between late 1979 and early 1980, video came out on the market as an amateur format and the demise of Super 8 was immediately predicted. I didn’t share such radical pessimism, but as a consequence of sometimes quite vehement arguments I carried with me from the start a great sensitivity to the specific qualities of the analogue film image compared to the electronically generated moving image. Even back then my choice of Super 8 was one made explicitly against video.

The two programmes presented at the BIM include works from this early Super 8 period. In all of them one can appreciate how my attention is focused on the filmic corpus, and I portray it artistically, that is, I focus on the specific physical and haptic qualities of the film strip and its images, in contrast with the electronically recorded moving image. In the works of Programme 1, the human body is taken as central theme, so as to successively carry the observer’s perspective from those bodies to the body of the film: my intention was to make this filmic corpus visible, since it normally remains “invisible” behind its images.

After working in Super 8 for ten years, I made the leap to 35mm format. Manufaktur is my first film made wholly within the dark room, with my manual copying technique. It is also the first film of mine to be produced entirely with found footage.

After a prolonged absence from the dark room, I returned to it in 1997, and continue to use it to this day. The first works that came out at that time make up the CinemaScope Trilogy, which is part of this programme.

All these films show the fascination I feel for the possibility of densifying the image content, for the multiple and simultaneous overlapping of different angles as a way of annulling the habitual classic perspective. This is also valid for my more recent work. Exquisite Corpus, which to some extent can be considered a return to the Super 8 films of this programme: a perspective on the erotic potential of the film strip, transmitted through the perspective on eroticism of the naked human body.

*Translated from the Spanish translation of the original German text written by Peter Tscherkassky.

1’ 40’’ | Digi-Beta | Color - B&W | Mono


Screening format: High-definition digital video



One can determine a line in Tscherkassky’s oeuvre which turns around a game with filmic presentation, with degrees of recognizability—with the only-just and the not-any-more. Just to see desire. An example of this is Erotique. One sees swirling pictures, parts of a woman’s face, red lips, eyes in cyclical fragments of movement. Often it is difficult to tell which part of the body one actually sees (whoever wants to can see/imagine/think sexual organs and sexual acts). The gaze gets hung up on partial objects, no integral, whole body to think about. No body, whose representation was always one of the problems in cinema. (Michael Palm)

9’ 15’’ | 16 mm | Color - B&W | Mono


Screening format: 16 mm



Urlaubsfilm juggles with closeness, distance and the successive removal of the object on show. A woman on a meadow, strolling around, narcissistically involved, wandering. Now and again one can see her breasts through her half-opened shirt. The camera films with a powerful telephoto lens. This idyll is radically destroyed when the woman suddenly looks directly into the camera. There is an immediate cut (the voyeur has been discovered) and the whole sequence of events begins from the beginning again, but each time re-filmed from the last till, finally, only a completely abstract, flickering picture remains. The erotic view becomes increasingly memory.
(Michael Palm)

17’ 02’’ | 16 mm | Color - B&W | Mono

1987 - 1989

Screening format: 16 mm


Tabula Rasa

The target of tabula rasa is the heart of cinema. Voyeuristic desire as the pre-condition for all cinema pleasure is at stake here. What Christian Metz and Jacques Lacan have established in theory is rendered as film in Tabula Rasa. At the beginning we can recognize only shadows from which the picture of a woman undressing herself hesitantly emerges. But exactly at the point when one believes one can make out what it is, the camera is located in front of the object. Tabula Rasa takes distance, the fundamental principle of voyeurism, in so far literally, as it shows us the object of desire but continually removes it from our gaze. (Gabrielle Jutz)

3’ | 35 mm | B&W | Mono


Screening format: 35 mm



A tangled network woven with tiny particles of movements broken out of found footage and compiled anew: the elements of the “to the left, to the right, back and forth” grammar of narrative space, discharged from all semantic burden. What remains is a self-sufficient swarm of splinters, fleeting vectors of lost direction, furrowed with the traces of the manual process of production.

2’ | 35 mm | B&W | Stereo

1997 - 1998

Screening format: 35 mm


The arrival

L’Arrivée is Tscherkassky’s second homage to the Lumière brothers. First you see the arrival of the film itself, which shows the arrival of a train at a station. But that train collides with a second train, causing a violent crash, which leads us to an unexpected third arrival, the arrival of a beautiful woman—the happy end. Reduced to two minutes L’Arrivée gives a brief, but exact summary of what cinematography (after its arrival with the Lumières’ train) has made into an enduring presence of our visual environment: violence, emotions. Or, as an anonymous American housewife (cited by T.W. Adorno) used to describe Hollywood’s version of life: “Getting into trouble and out of it again.”
(Peter Tscherkassky)

10’ | 35 mm | B&W | Stereo


Screening format: 35 mm


Outer Space

A woman, terrorized by an invisible and aggressive force, is also exposed to the audience’s gaze, a prisoner in two senses. Outer Space agitates this construction, which is prototypical for gender hierarchies and classic cinema’s viewing regime, and allows the protagonist to turn them upside down. … Flickering images, everything crashes, explodes; perforations and the soundtrack are engaged in a violent struggle. … The story ends in the woman’s resistant gaze.
(Isabella Reichert)

11’ | 35 mm | B&W | Stereo


Screening format: 35 mm


Dream Work

A woman goes to bed, falls asleep, and begins to dream. This dream takes her to a landscape of light and shadow, evoked in a form only possible through classic cinematography. Dream Work is—after L’Arrivée and Outer Space—the third section of my CinemaScope Trilogy. The formal element binding the trilogy is the specific technique of contact printing, by which found film footage is copied by hand and frame by frame onto unexposed film stock. Through this, I am able, in a literal sense, to realize the central mechanism by which dreams produce meaning, the “dream work,” as Sigmund Freud described it: displacement and condensation. The new interpretation of the text of the original source material takes place through its “displacement” from its original context and its concurrent “condensation” by means of multiple exposure.
(Peter Tscherkassky)

19’ | 35 mm | B&W | Stereo


Screening format: 35 mm


The Exquisite Corpus

The Exquisite Corpus commences with a search along a seashore. Eventually, the object of the search is discovered: a sleeping beauty lies on the beach, before our very eyes. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, we are drawn into her dream. It’s a highly ambiguous dream—sensuous, humorous, gruesome, erotic, and ecstatic—a broadly defined seduction lusting for a tangible, perceptible, exquisite physicality—including the body of the film.
(Peter Tscherkassky)

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