Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 7:30pm
Chromatic Modernisms: Color Cinema of the Silent Era

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

A lecture by Joshua Yumibe

With the transformation of the colorant industry in the middle of the nineteenth century, from organic to synthetic dyes, color expanded rapidly across media. This shift in both the materiality of dyes and their costs renovated the practice of image making in painting as well as in popular design, altering the textures and hues of the everyday as new colors flooded the streets through building paints, chromolithographed posters, and aniline fashions. It is out of this chromatic culture that cinema emerged, in color from the very beginning through various applied coloring processes (hand coloring, tinting, toning, and stenciling), which were adapted from other media practices. Examining the technical as well as aesthetic methods that comprised this chromatic revolution in modern and modernist media, this discussion and screening of silent color films will pay particular attention to the various artistic strategies and occult utopias that informed color design during the period—for instance, from Theosophy and Wassily Kandinsky to Paul Scheerbart and the Bauhaus.

The first part of the discussion will focus on the roots of color cinema in the prismatic culture of the fin de siècle, whereas the second half will examine early cinema’s legacies on modernist design in the 1920s. Artistic experimentation surged in cinema and across the arts during the decade, as avant-garde experiments were accompanied by utopian theory about the potential of art forms to collaborate and, on occasion, collide. From the affective harmonies of tinting and toning techniques to the abstract, expanded-cinema experiments of German absolute film and Bauhaus light projections, color was integral to the transformation of artistic practice, as it reshaped the empathetic resonance of these cinematic works.

Annabelle Serpentine Dance [#2], W.K.L. Dickson and William Heise, Edison, 1895, digital projection, 1 min
Serpentine Dance in Lion’s Cage, Ambroise-François Parnaland, ca. 1900, digital projection, 2 mins
Santa Lucia, 1910, Ambrosio, digital projection, 5 mins
The Infernal Caldron, Georges Méliès, 1903, digital projection, 1 min
Les Tulipes, Segundo de Chomón, 1908, digital projection, 4 mins
Modern Sculptures, Segundo de Chomón, 1908, digital projection, 7 mins
Rêve d’art, Gaston Velle, 1910, digital projection, 7 mins

Paris Fashion, Pathé, 1926, digital projection, 5 mins
Ballet mécanique, Ferdinand Leger and Dudley Murphy, 1924, digital projection, 14 mins
Farbenlichtspiele (excerpt), Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Kurt Schwerdtfeger, 1923, digital projection
Opus 1, Walter Ruttman, 1921, digital projection, 12 mins
Der Sieger, Walther Ruttmann, 1922, digital projection, 3 mins

Joshua Yumibe is assistant professor and director of Film Studies at Michigan State University and also holds a joint appointment as lecturer of Film Studies at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Moving Color: Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism and the co-director of the Davide Turconi Project. With Sarah Street, he is working on the Leverhulme Trust funded project, Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and Its Intermedial Contexts, from which this screening and discussion derives.

Tickets - Pay-what-you-wish ($7 suggested donation), available at door.

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