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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathEditorial
Art and cinematography
Gregor Stemmrich

«Cinema and art are one of those double acts, which provoke endless bad seminars, dull conferences and boring exhibitions based on art and something similar. The desire to enter the world of mainstream cinema is extremely attractive to artists who have flirted with the meanings generated by the medium». [1]

Liam Gillick 2002

Reading the above quotation by the English artist Liam Gillick might almost make you think that a module called «Art and Cinematography» is doomed to failure from the outset. Gillick expresses a certain disappointment that many artists are looking for a kind of cultural importance in the cinema that art cannot offer in quite the same way, but that curators, art critics and theoreticians take the fact that the cinema is attractive to artists as a reason for relating art to «something similar». But they are thinking exclusively in terms of art. However, Gillick also expresses disappointment with reference to the cinema itself: «In some ways cinema is one of the grave disappointments of the 20th century in terms of the way it has become formalised. But the experience and potential of cinema is completely different.» [2] This last sentence does notquite cancel out the disappointment, but it identifies a viewpoint from which it can be treated in a different way: the cinema has established various codes, some of which we are not even aware of as such, but ultimately this does not impinge on our experience of cinema: this experience relates to one potential of the cinema that is not captured or exhausted by any kind of formalism.

In the course of the 20th century, both filmmakers and fine artists have repeatedly—in ways that are sometimes very different and sometimes very similar—have tried to release this potential. Here they were very well aware of art's and the cinema's heterogeneous cultural connections—a heterogeneous quality that cannot be removed by explaining that cinema is also an art. Each of the two contexts opens up special perspectives on this potential, so that one has no reason to separate the two contexts when the aim is actually to establish a historical perspective on the complex attempts that have been made to recognize such potential and to articulate it aesthetically. And so perhaps an Internet model, which as such has neither a special affinity with the art

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Cinema (Graham, Dan), 1981

context nor with the cultural context of the cinema, is precisely suitable as a form and mediation device to create such a historical perspective.

This also raises the question of where and how a historical perspective would have to start if it does not want to begin one-sidedly from the art context or the cinema context. Most of the great art movements in the first half of the 20th century—starting with Cubism and Futurism and moving on to pure abstraction and Surrealism—went hand in hand with cinematic experiments, but this usually involved just applying principles to film that had been developed previously in the field of painting. They therefore seem to be at home in the context of art, even if art was scarcely prepared in the first half of the century to allow film to make an impact as an expressive artistic medium in its own right. But the Situationismus [3] movement presented a situation of a different kind after the Second World War. Instead of withdrawing into the context of art or shifting on to the territory of commercial cinema, strategies were developed here for reflecting on cinema or the experience of cinema as a social reality and to open it up on its own terms.Practice of this kind is not rooted in the art context, even though it is undoubtedly reminiscent of avant-garde strategies, nor in the context of the cinema, even though it is reflecting on this very context (for this see Thomas Y. Levin's contribution «TITLE»). Hence situationist practice can serve as a key point that makes it possible to sharpen the outline of preceding and subsequent artistic developments relating to the experience and potential of cinema: this practice raises the question of the relationship between a potential and its social reality. And also, a lasting interest in architecture and the urban landscape is linked in it with an interest in cinematic experiences. The urban ambience is the location for diversion, for digression and dissipation, and the cinema is able to create the necessary focus for this experience. In his 1981 »Cinema-Modell«, Dan Graham took the central insight-guiding metaphor of meta-psychological cinema theory that developed in the 70s—the film screen as a «mirror»—literally and thus conceived a situation in which urban landscape and film experience enter into an osmotic relationship (for this see Gregor Stemmrich's essay «TITLE»). This

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situation cannot be entirely explained by metapsychological film theory, as this uses the mirror metaphor, but in order to describe the psychological situation in the normal cinema.

But artists like Doug Aitken or Stan Douglas and filmmakers like Chantal Akerman, Joyce Wieland and Laura Mulvey have cast light in their films or film installations on interferences between specifically cinematic experience and experience of the urban ambience (for this see contributions by Ursula Frohne, Frank Wagner, Ivone Margulies, Robin Curtis and Winfried Pauleit)[TITLES]. They make it possible to redeem the interplay of private and public, internal and external, interior and urban quality, present and acute recollection, of cinematic narration and mere conditionality. When artists create film installations that include the architectural space around them and allow spectators to become flâneurs, this can be beneficial to the cinema's genuine potential; but it does not mean that a presentation situation of this kind would be superior to a film produced for the normal cinema in every case.

After being used for decades to the idea thatmodern and contemporary art were to be presented in bright, light-flooded rooms—the «white cube» as standard -, in recent decades the «black box» increasingly frequently put in an appearance as a equally valid device. [4] The museum—according to a bon mot by Jeff Wall—does not just have a «sun wing» but a «moon section» that makes it possible to convey cinematic experiences.

The museum as an institution was not infrequently taken to be the ultima ratio of modern art; it seemed to be the place for which art is ultimately destined. But art that is guided by a desire to include other fields of cultural experience like the cinema, for example, in its aesthetic reflections hence seems to be faced with the choice of either assimilating these fields of experience radically, so that the museum itself seems to become a kind of cinema, or it dissimilates them radically, giving prominence to the museum as an institution by pronouncing its lack of similarity with these fields of experience. Considered superficially, it seems to make sense to count a large part of recent film/video installation art as fitting in with the former option, while an artist like Marcel Broodthaers, who

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presents completely antiquate utensils that no longer have a function in the manner of a museum in his «Musée d'art moderne, section cinéma» would fall into the latter category. But this calculation does not work out. On the contrary, it becomes clear in each case that there is a complex link and mutual integration of assimilation and dissimilation strategies, and it is in precisely this that we see art's ability to place itself or the museum in a critical relationship with other fields of cultural experience that challenges viewers to reflect (for this see Eric de Bruyn's contribution «TITLE»). But against this we have to set an awareness that other spheres of «visual culture»-like cinema, fashion, advertising, design—function autonomously as discourses and do not have to rely on art, the concept of art or the museum as an institution. For this reason it is scarcely surprising that may artist would like to have the kind of intelligent, visually experienced and aesthetically reflective audience that feels at home within these dimensions of cultural experience and production and is also in a position to think about social and political content. Here it is not so much the museum as an institution that is the central reference point,but Hollywood as an industry, and in fact precisely on those occasions when works run counter to Hollywood myths, satirize them, or subject them to other, sub-cultural experiences as for example in the films of Kenneth Anger and of Andy Warhol or in a different way the films of John Baldessari and of Robert Smithson (for this see contributions by Diedrich Diederichsen, «TITLE,» John Miller «TITLE» and Tom Holert, «TITLE»). Given the power of Hollywood, the art context can very easily seem almost like a kind of subculture in its own right, but subcultures are always able to keep an awareness of aesthetic potential awake and to hold a mirror up to culture. The boundaries between the art context and the context of the cinema were not designed on a drawing board, but are much more like a meandering river that is constantly looking for and renewing its bed. This can be demonstrated not least through a branch of film that was often derided as marginal: animated film. But this did not just appear at the beginning of the cinema's development, but has finally acquired a new dimension in computer animation; it does not just stand for infantile entertainment, but— in the abstract

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film—at the same time for the highest avant-garde ambitions, indeed it made it possible to build a bridge between these opposites (for this see the source text by Marc Gloede). This raises the question of the relationship between cinematic and cinematographic pictorial worlds, between moving pictorial quality and the recording of reality. This question is both inclined to encourage scepticism about the reality of cinematographic images that do not reveal their own strategies to the mise en scène and also to reinforcing faith in the documentary quality of film. There is room for reflection in this ambivalence, for essayistic links and work on film memory that is clear about the fact that the memory is constantly overwritten and rewritten, something that Chris Marker has repeatedly addressed in his films (for this see Michael Wetzel's contribution «TITLE»).

All the contributions to this module agree that they are focusing on possibilities for using the film medium not in the sense of a linear narrative, which the commercial cinema has always had a very good command of. So it would also seem wrong to place the films themselves in a linear historical context. In fact the modulestructure is much more suitable for making us aware of a structure of significance and overarching connections that could not be captured in a linear sequence. So film-historical data and their historical and cultural contexts are not withheld in the individual contributions, but no attempt is made to mount these date as a ‹string of historical pearls›. Instead, it should be pointed out that this module has a series of high-calibre source texts [5] at its disposal (that all had the potential to be worked up as main texts), that are in a position to expand the horizon of film history and deepen understanding of the main texts.

Translation by Michael Robinson

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