This exhibition presents one of the first multimedia projections ever made, Oskar Fischinger’s Raumlichtkunst, a reconstruction of his multiple-screen film events, first shown in Germany in 1926, and restored by the Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles. Working with Fischinger’s original 1920s nitrate film, CVM restored the 35mm film via traditional photochemical processes, transferred it to HD, digitally restored the colour, and reconstructed this three-screen version of his performances. Originally accompanied by live avant-garde percussion, CVM chose two version of ‘Double Music’ by John Cage and Lou Harrison, and ‘Ionisation’ by Edgard Varèse.
CVM’s Film Restoration was supported by an Avant-Garde Masters Grant funded by The Film Foundation, administered by The National Film Preservation Foundation
Curator/archivist Cindy Keefer
Music supervisor Richard Brown, Ph.D.
Thanks to Barbara Fischinger, Cinemaculture, Film Technology, Co., Hollywood, and William Moritz
Raumlichtkunst is generously supported by Naomi Milgrom AC and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Through this important partnership, we will commission and present major works across an international moving image art series, building on ACMI and Naomi Milgrom AC’s experience of supporting, commissioning and presenting leading artists working with the moving image globally.
In 1926, abstract filmmaker Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) began performing multiple projector cinema shows in Germany with up to five 35mm film projectors, color filters and slides. Fischinger wrote of his concept of Raumlichtmusik (space-light-music), believing all the arts would merge in this new art. The critics called his performances "Raumlichtkunst" and praised Fischinger's “original art vision which can only be expressed through film.” These shows represent some of the earliest attempts at cinematic immersive environments, and are a precursor to expanded cinema and 1960s light shows.
Under the concept name of "Raumlichtkunst," Fischinger performed several different versions of these multiple projector shows in the late 1920s, some of which were called Fieber and Macht (Power). Biographer William Moritz speculated that another name used may have been R-1 ein Formspiel, though no reviews or documentation exist of this name. Our re-creation does not strive to represent any one specific performance, rather the concept and effect of Fischinger's series of shows.
Working with Fischinger's original 1920s nitrate film, Center for Visual Music restored the 35mm film via traditional photochemical processes, transferred to HD, digitally restored the color, and reconstructed this three-screen recreation of his c. 1926–27 performances. The three-screen installation is projected in HD video. No documentation exists of the original music used, other than reports of "various percussive" accompaniment. For this re-creation we have chosen to use Varèse's 'Ionisation' and two versions of 'Double Music' by John Cage and Lou Harrison. – Center for Visual Music
The Raumlichtkunst reconstruction has been exhibited at The Whitney Museum of Art, New York (2012 and 2016–17), Tate Modern, London (2012–13), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013), Govett Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre (2017), Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco (2017–18) and Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2014–15).
Further detailed information on Oskar Fischinger can be found at Center for Visual Music
Press and articles
2019. Sarah Street and Joshua Yumibe, Chromatic Modernity: Color, Cinema and Media of the 1920s. Columbia University Press.
2017–18. Cindy Keefer. "Raumlichtkunst - Fischinger and Abstract Cinema Immersive Environments." [PDF] in Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco exhibition brochure for Raumlichtkunst exhibition. PDF includes selected pages and a shorter piece by Keefer, "Oskar Fischinger: Raumlichtkunst.".
2018. Glossary Magazine, Feb 6. Review as Dialogue: Cindy Keefer of CVM on Oskar Fischinger at Weinstein Gallery.
2016. Nick Pinkerton, Frieze.com. Dreamlands.
2016. Roberta Smith, New York Times. Diving into Movie Palaces of the Mind at the Whitney. December 1.
2016. Andrew Uroskie, 4Columns. Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art. December 2.
2014. The Sublime and Cultural Difference by Kathryn Weir on QAG/Goma blog (Brisbane), 30 September.
2013. Vertical Cinema, Kontraste Cahier #3. Edited by Mirna Belina and Sonic Acts. Amsterdam: Sonic Acts Press.
December 2012: Artforum, Best of 2012, Top 10 List by J. Hoberman.
Sept. 25, 2012: Artforum, Three's Company, by Suzanne Buchan.
September: SPIKE Art Quarterly (Austria) - "Oskar Fischinger" by Fionne Meade. On cargocollective.com
August 28. Time Out New York Review by Joseph Wolin.
July 26, 2012. New York Times The Lines and Shapes of a Mystical Stenography by Ken Johnson.
Keefer, Cindy. 'Raumlichtmusik' - Early 20th Century Abstract Cinema Immersive Environments. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Creative Data Special Issue. Leonardo: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, and MIT Press. October 2009. PDF.
2009 Press about CVM's preservation project, online at Animation World Network
Keefer, Cindy. "Space Light Art" - Early Abstract Cinema and Multimedia, 1900-1959. White Noise. Ernest Edmonds and Mike Stubbs, Eds. Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Moving Image, 2005. Ex. Cat.
Bibliography via the Center for Visual Music website.
About Center For Visual Music
Center for Visual Music (CVM) is a nonprofit film archive dedicated to visual music, experimental animation and abstract media. CVM is committed to preservation, curation, education, scholarship, and dissemination of the film, performances and other media of this tradition, together with related historical documentation and artwork. CVM’s films and programs are featured in museums and cultural centers worldwide. CVM’s collections include Fischinger’s films and papers, which they continue to preserve, promote and distribute.