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CELLULOID PANIC

The films of Peter Tscherkassky (1958-) hearken back to golden period of experimental cinema.  Despite the capabilities of today’s film editing software, they engender not the uneasy multiple exposures, the interruptions of sprocket holes, and eruptions of grinding sounds populating Tscherkassky’s films.  Since his introduction to the everyman’s Super 8 in 1979, his works, frenetic and phantasmagoric, have sprung from his unyielding dedication to the often unfruitful and always painstaking analog processes undertaken by the explorers of film’s frontier before the advent of software.

Since the 1980s, the Austrian steadily created an unique aesthetic counter to the romantic, one could say Instagram, visuals of much independent filmmaking today.  Reaching for comparisons: in look, Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures come to mind; in sheer dedication to process, Tacita Dean.  Perhaps his closest relative stylistically and chronologically is the American filmmaker Guy Maddin (of Brand Upon the Brain!, Heart of the World, and My Winnipeg fame), a producer of rambunctious, theatrical pieces, sly in his impeccable imitation of silent cinema.  However, Tscherkassky’s retro aesthetic denies nostalgia for atavism, painting grinding scenes of emotional tumult and psychological confusion.

Indeed the most seductive aspects of the films undeniably trace back to cinema’s roots–the aftermath of the vision, the remaining question: How did he do that?

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