Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 7:30pm
Scheerbartian Cinema from the Collection of Mr. Glass
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Presented by Guy Maddin
Tonight at Light Industry, the filmmaker Guy Maddin considers the legacy of visionary polymath Paul Scheerbart and its affinities with cinema. Coinciding with the publication of Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!!, a Scheerbart anthology edited by Josiah McElheny and Christine Burgin, this program brings together early European avant-garde cinema, Biograph and Pathé one-reelers, industrial filmmaking, and the cleverly self-reflexive animation of the Fleischer Brothers—a lineup as wide-ranging as Scheerbart's interests and influence. All the works will also feature new scores by Maddin, and have been selected from the expansive, idiosyncratic collection of the fortuitously named Murray Glass, whose legendary Em Gee Film Library helped keep otherwise forgotten treasures of silent cinema in circulation for decades.
So, what is Scheerbartian Cinema?
Scheerbartian Cinema: A definition.
by Josiah McElheny
For those of you not familiar with “Scheerbartian Cinema," we can only refer you to various forms of mystical language, such as Scheerbart’s own "Kikakoku! Ekorolaps!", from his essential book I Love You! A Railroad Novel with 66 Intermezzos, of 1897. Or Kurt Schwitter’s famous sound poem, expanding on Scheerbart’s earlier example, "Ursonate." Listening to those sounds that do not “mean,” but only “are,” one glimpses the possibilities in Scheerbart’s viewpoint. On an historical note, Scheerbart inspired a number of the most important early purpose-built cinemas (in collaboration with his comrade Bruno Taut), but strange ones at that: cinemas with Kaleidoscope projectors or cinemas inserted into the uppermost part of the domes of “temples.” Finally, as Guy Maddin has famously discussed in Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!!, Scheerbart’s drawings for perpetual motion engines, of 1910, point towards various film projector threading diagrams, even current 70 mm examples, suggesting the potential for cinema itself as a solution to the world’s energy dilemmas.
See below for Scheerbart’s poem; no pronunciation advice is possible, though this is a subjective interpretation.
Wîso kollipánda opolôsa.
Ipasatta îh fûo.
Kikakokú proklínthe petêh.
Nikifilí mopa Léxio intipáschi benakáffro - própsa pî! própsa pî!
Jasóllu nosaréssa flípsei.
Aukarótto passakrússar Kikakokú.
Futupúkke - própsa pî!
On Soundtracks for Old and New Silent Films
by Guy Maddin
I have always been a bit of a magpie, a collector of glittery readymades, a repurposing creature quick to drag anything found anywhere into a fevered and shimmery construction. The magpie is also one of the few animal species known to be able to recognize itself in a mirror test. I've always suspected my greatest efforts have been expended in trying to fashion a flashier facsimile of myself in the mirror, to prove to my inner self it exists, glitteringly, to improve to coruscating extremes upon my own impoverished and miserable state before the looking glass. To this end I have dragged to my laptop little threads and shreds of music found on the great rubbish heaps of recording history, in order to loop, layer and weave up some fancier sonorities, score-like raiments, for my thieving artist self, that I might more honestly, if a little more prettily than I deserve, represent myself to the world garbed in scintillant stolen song. These are the melodic duds I like to don for movie-making. I'd love to try garbing some of tonight's work in my favourite musical whatnots, collected and assembled out of scraps just for this programme. Maybe I can even live inside what I make! I behold myself in the image of the glass and say that I shall!
Descriptions by Murray Glass
The Princess in the Vase, Biograph Films, 1908, 16mm, 13 mins (Emgee 9955)
An Egyptian princess, when her lover (D.W. Griffith) is killed, is cremated, and the smoke from the fire enters a vase, where it is stored for thousands of years, until released by an archaeologist. After the princess materializes, several comic incidents follow.
Glass, Bert Haanstra, 1958, 16mm, 11 mins
Koko's Earth Control, Dave & Max Fleischer, 1928, 16mm, 6 mins (Emgee 5498)
When Koko’s dog flips the wrong switch, the earth goes….BLOOEY!
Lichtspiel: Opus 1, Walter Ruttmann, 1921, 16mm, 12 mins (Emgee 5899-C)
The film consists of a dynamic display of spots of various sizes and shapes, waxing and waning. In addition, the frames were hand-colored to enhance the effect. This print is made from a nitrate 35mm original, and is extremely rare.
Anemic Cinema, Marcel Duchamp, 1926, 16mm, 7 mins
This film is a sort of visual pun, with revolving discs and cylinders producing optical illusions
and word games.
Transformation, Pathé Frères, 1908, 16mm, 3.5 mins (Emgee 893)
A girl becomes a butterfly, then a bouquet of flowers, which give birth to babies.
Special thanks to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, who maintain Murray Glass's Em Gee Library as part of their permanent collection.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.