Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 7:30pm
Ernie Gehr's Signal—Germany on the Air and Side/Walk/Shuttle

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Signal—Germany on the Air, Ernie Gehr, 16mm, 1982-85, 37 mins
Side/Walk/Shuttle, Ernie Gehr, 16mm, 1991, 41 mins

Minimal in its design yet profound in its effects, Ernie Gehr’s Side/Walk/Shuttle was filmed entirely from inside the glass elevator of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, near the peak of one of the city’s hills. Through a succession of twenty-five moving shots, Gehr slowly twists and turns his camera, making the already vertiginous cityscape seem to float unmoored in space. "The initial inspiration for the film was an outdoor glass elevator and the visual, spatial, and gravitational possibilities it presented me with,” Gehr has said. “The work was also informed by an interest in panoramas, the urban landscape, as well as the topography of San Francisco. Finally, the shape and character of the work was tempered by reflections upon a lifetime of displacement, moving from place to place and haunted by recurring memories of other places I once passed through."

This displacement is likewise at the heart of Signal—Germany on the Air, made on the streets of West Berlin a few years before the end of Germany’s division. At first, Signal appears to be a stripped-down, structural answer to Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis, offering repetitive glances around an unremarkable intersection. Yet it soon becomes clear that these quotidian images are laden with a deeper, unspoken significance. Writing in the Collective for Living Cinema’s journal Motion Picture, Paul Arthur noted that Signal was not so much a city symphony but a city dirge. “Gehr's visit was not a casual tourist excursion. But for an 'accident' of history it would have been his childhood home,” Arthur writes, “On the surface, Gehr's film looks like another exercise in choreographic human, vehicular, and architectural arrangements into formal patterns of conjunction and difference. His means are astonishingly simple: straight camera recording of a central and several ancillary sites, sharp cutting, and indigenous sound recording. But within these parameters Gehr unfolds an elaborate interplay of presence and absence that far exceeds his documentary approach."

In his review of Signal, J. Hoberman remarked that “Gehr films the streets as if they were the scene of a crime.” Soon after, at a post-screening discussion, Gehr corrected him: there was, Gehr insisted, no “as if” about it.

Followed by a conversation with Gehr.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.