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In Futurist film> as well, artists experimented in part with non-objective modes of expression and subjected the film material to manipulations like scratching or painting of the material surface. But the technique of animation, which to a large part has to be done by hand, makes the production of purely abstract films quite arduous. Only a few years later, film compositions like Walter Ruttman's «Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Großstadt» (1926–1927) emerge; these do not have abstract film material as their foundation, but rather use documentary film images and are supported by the strong rhythmification of the images. But, due to the rise of Fascism and the poor economic situation, as well as the «lack in cooperation and solidarity» within the avant-garde movement and the «impatience with the difficulties of a new technology,» abstract film in Germany soon came to an end.
At the start of the 1970s, the tendency of engaging with film's material foundation is again picked up with structural film, which expressly makes its form its content. Here, the emphasis on the material character of film and the study of the physiology and psychology of film perception play a central role. Most structural
films work with simple basic forms like static shots, zoom, or light effects to make the spectator conscious of the preconditions of film technology. From the point of view of the physiology of perception, film is based on the laziness of the human perceptive apparatus. Images projected one after the other in a rapid sequence fuse into one continuous movement. Inspired by the occupation with specific qualities of film projection, like pulsating light, is Tony Conrad's «The Flicker» (1966); Conrad was already known as a musician. The film exclusively consists of a structured series of black and white individual images, which in projection only appear as the rhythmic change of light and dark and correspond to no optical image. This formalism of light-rhythms causes in the spectator a consciously provocative irritation of perception that can produce after-images, seeing spots, and similar phenomena; in a certain sense, this is the transmission of the early cinema's flicker to a nervous stimulation of the brain.