“Jenseis des Kinos”

Jenseis des Kinos: Die Kunst der Projektionen. Filme, Videos, und Installationen von 1963 bis 2005” (Beyond Cinema: The Art of Projection. Films, Videos, and Installations from 1963 to 2005) proves once again that less is more. Moving from Barbara Rubin to Peter Welz, the retrospective underscores the difference between artistic and conventional cinema while setting a high new standard for showing projections by leaving lots of empty space around each work. The curatorial team of artist Stan Douglas, Christopher Eamon, Joachim Jäger, and Gabriele Knapstein installed their twenty-seven selections inside the vast Rieckhallen as though they were big sculptures in an expansive outdoor park. One wanders through a seemingly endless twilight, punctuated here and there by glowing surfaces: walls, screens, free-standing structures, and even a replica of 303 Gallery’s interior, reconstructed to capture the debut screening of Doug Aitken’s eraser, 1998. There are no black boxes with matching curtains, except for the installation of Rubin’s Christmas on Earth, 1963, whose sexual explorations benefited from the peep-show-like setting, which unfortunately has in other exhibitions been used indiscriminately for projections, whatever their content. Also gone were the blinding reentries into the white cube. Additional kudos are due to installation designer Tomski Binsert, for putting the labels in light boxes (easy to read in the dark).

Slightly less convincing is the selection, organized into six themes—from Selbstumrundung (Persona) to Fundus Kino (Repertory Cinema)—which leave some inevitable gaps, like documentary (and its critique), the impact of television, and the specificity of video versus digital. As Repertory Cinema suggests, the curators’ drive to distinguish artist projections from traditional movie screenings does not mean leaving out the movies themselves. Selections like Monica Bonvicini’s Destroy She Said, 1998, and Pierre Huyghe’s L’Ellipse, 1998, question the conventions of the silver screen, but they take up just as much physical space, if not more. Artistic critique of cinema also comes in much smaller sizes. The art of projection would have come across more clearly if the curators had included fewer monumental projections and left the same vast amount of space around them. Tucking Tony Oursler’s Criminal Eye, 1995, into a corner of the lit entrance hall, like a meek usher, did not help. Adding Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Paradise Institute, 2001, would have.

Nevertheless, the curators review the lessons taught by Expanded Cinema and more or less forgotten until the ’90s, when the moving image (video and then digital) was liberated from “video sculpture,” a quaint yet bizarre medium that offered timid collectors sculpted TV sets to set off the video’s endless reproducibility. Freed from the box, a projection can have as much singularity and volume as any sculpture, taking over a variety of surfaces in different ways. Underscoring this point, Pipilotti Rist screened her classic Ever Is Over All, 1997, as a mirror image of the original projection. Filming is not just about capturing images and telling stories—it is also about making a highly compact chronotope. Stuffing endless places and people into ninety-odd minutes onto one flat screen is a vertiginous experience for the body—a condition that the practitioners of Expanded Cinema attempted to correct by opening up the flatness of the silver screen to both actors and viewers.

Jennifer Allen