The Handmade Cinema of Peter Tscherkassky


Analog cinema is generally being replaced today by digitally codified, electronically generated motion pictures. Seen in this light, my films distinguish and emphasize fundamental differences between digital versus analog cinema and demonstrate aesthetic possibilities that will be forever lost if the photochemical basis of classic cinematography is condemned to obsolescence.

I make films without using a camera, employing a manual technique foregrounding their photochemical origin. Working in a darkroom I place found footage directly on blank film, exposing each image individually, frame by frame, and often involving multiple exposures. That is, each frame is made up of up to seven different sources. After this laborious exposure work, each blank film strip is developed by hand.

Naturally, this manual production process leaves its mark on the image. During the projection, constant fluctuations can be observed on different parts, which continuously remind us of the manual production process. A great number of impurities, scratches and material traces are added to the collage images that blend into the film as a whole. Editing marks can also be seen, just as, in terms of sound, a constant oscillation can be heard between the sound worlds assembled again from the original soundtrack and from those manual interventions on the material, which are inevitably “dirty.”

In short, it could be said that the production process itself is deeply etched in the images and sounds of my films; and it is a process that, in this form, is due entirely to manual work with and on the analogue image material, which in no way could be swapped for another base material. This affirmation will be substantiated during the masterclass, through the analysis of my film Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine.

*Translated from the Spanish translation of the original German text written by Peter Tscherkassky.

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