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© Center for Visual Music

Raumlichtkunst: Respond and Reflect

Introduce your students to one of the first multimedia projections ever made.

Exhibited in ACMI’s Gallery 2, this stunning experiential work represents an important moment in the history of modern art. Raumlichtkunst (space-light-art) is a reconstruction of Oskar Fischinger’s multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and restored by the Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles.

Download our Raumlichtkunst Respond and Reflect worksheet to support your students' visit.

About

Exhibited in ACMI’s Gallery 2, Raumlichtkunst (space-light-art) is a reconstruction of Oskar Fischinger’s multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and restored by the Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles.

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) was an artist who created abstract art that combined film and animation with sound and music to make a direct connection with viewers. He described the animations he created as visual music because he wanted what people saw to be another dimension of the music they could hear.

In 1926, he began performing multiple-projector cinema shows featuring his film and animation works. He used up to five 35mm film projectors, colour filters and slides and music to create an immersive cinematic environment. The films that make up the work were screened at the same time in the performance space with live experimental percussion responding to them. The purpose of this visual music is that viewers become immersed in the dynamic mix of sight and sound, and 'feel' rather than think about what they are seeing and hearing.

Working with Fischinger’s original 1920s nitrate film, CVM restored the 35mm film, transferred it to HD, digitally restored the colour, and reconstructed this three-screen version of his performances.  CVM chose two versions of ‘Double Music’ by John Cage and Lou Harrison, and ‘Ionisation’ by Edgard Varèse for the striking soundtrack. Fischinger performed several different versions of these multiple projector shows in the late 1920s and our re-creation does not strive to represent any one specific performance, rather the concept and effect of Fischinger's series of shows.

Materials

These films were made many years ago using rolls of nitrate film. To edit the films these rolls had to be manually cut and stuck together. To create the imagery for Raumlichtkunst, Fischinger used a range of techniques including hand-colouring black and white film and making patterns using wax and woodblock printing. These were all photographed frame by frame. It would have been a very slow process. He also scratched, marked and painted directly onto the film to create his animations.

Conservation

To make a version of the Raumlichtkunst the Centre for Visual Music had to make decisions about what pieces of film to restore, how to enhance or alter the colours and which music to pair it with. The restoration captures an aspect of Fischinger’s ideas and work for the Raumlichtkunst but there is no documentation of the original performances.

Legacy

Fischinger’s artwork has influenced a range of different artworks and artforms today. He has been dubbed the father of visual music, the grandfather of music videos and the great grandfather of motion graphics. Many artworks have been influenced by his work, including a movement called expanded cinema in which moving image artists used multi-screen projections to create more participatory roles for viewers.

During your visit

Respond

  1. Fischinger was inspired to create abstract visual imagery in response to music. Close your eyes and listen to the music. What do you hear? Think about how the sound makes you feel. Is it loud or soft? Fast or slow? High or low? Flowing or staccato? What rhythms can you hear? Listen for at least 30 seconds before you begin to draw. Keeping your eyes closed use paper and pencil to draw freely to the music. Don’t think about what the picture looks like -- just enjoy the process.
  2. Now flip your paper. Try drawing without looking at your paper. This time focus on looking. This is a technique many artists will use to warm up or practice. Drawing something just following what they see without having to think about the outcome. It allows the opportunity to look at something in a different way and creates an interesting abstract pattern. Because this is a moving image it is more about capturing a feeling of what you see rather than an accurate image.
  3. Watch the patterns and shapes in Raumlichtkunst. Put your pencil to paper and try to capture aspects of these patterns or their movement. Don’t look down at your paper! This can feel quite strange as you are drawing something that is constantly changing! Remember it is about process not outcome. Go with the flow of what you see. Be curious. It’s an experiment!
  4. Choose a few elements that interest you and create a pattern from them. You may look at the paper as you draw this time.

Reflect

  1. How does this work make you feel? Explain how these feelings are evoked/drawn out by the work. Use some of these words in your description: shape, colour, texture, music, movement, rhythm, contrast, framing, movement, lighting.
  2. Describe the experience of watching the three different films at the same time. What is the impact on you as a viewer of watching the three films being projected side by side in the dark space of the gallery?
  3. What does the music add to the experience?
  4. Imagine what a live performance might have been like in the 1920s - write a paragraph of what you imagine are differences and similarities from what you see in the restoration.
  5. Fischinger created his animations using film and a range of materials such as wax and paint. He even scratched onto the surface of the film. What sort of work do you think Fischinger might have done if he was able to use the technologies we have today?
  6. Can you think of an artwork or art form that might have been influenced by Fischinger’s work? Explain why you have chosen this work and the features or elements it shares with Raumlichtkunst.

Raumlichtkunst is generously supported by Naomi Milgrom AC and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.