Stupid Structures, Happy Structures – Ludwig Schönherr
The German artist Ludwig Schönherr produced a body of work in film and photography from the 1960s until the late 1980s, but never presented it to the public until 2009, when I curated a series of film programs and an exhibition for the Forum Expanded section of the Berlin Film Festival. The idiosyncrasy of Schönherr’s work, however, is not simply that of its sudden, belated emergence into the public eye. The work of this shy, reticent artist engages with, yet remains peripheral to the dominant artistic currents of its time. This aesthetic position “on the sidelines” echoes Schönherr’s fleeting personal and working relationships with a number of significant figures in the European and American avant-garde of the 1960s and ’70s, including Otto Mühl, Jack Smith, Dieter Roth and Nam June Paik. This program provides an overview of some of Schönherr’s most striking films. Throughout his work he focused on specific technical, formal and representational aspects of the medium, namely the zoom, single-frame technique, the use of flickering color and the depiction of the face. (Marc Siegel)
ZOOM DOKUMENTATION, FRG, 1968, Super 8, 19′
This film documents a series of Schönherr’s experiments on the perceptual effects of variations with zoom technique.
FACE 1 & 2, FRG, 1968, Super 8, 9′
This is one of the director’s many portrait films, this time employing single-frame technique to proliferate images of the face of his wife, the prima ballerina Beatrice Cordua.
NEW YORK. A VISUAL WORKING JOURNAL, 1976-1979, Super 8, 107 hours (7′ excerpt)
During a series of stays in New York City in the mid-1970s, Schönherr shot a one hundred hour (!) visual journal (NEW YORK. EIN VISUELLES ARBEITSTAGEBUCH) of impressions of the city juxtaposed with images filmed off the television. In fact much of Schönherr’s artistic and theoretical work was focused on the role of television and television images in everyday life. His series of approximately twenty-five self-titled “electronic films” or “TV Art” are single- and multiple frame films of television images interrupted by bursts of flickering color.
ELECTRONIC NO. 18 (SERIES RED), FRG, 1968, Super 8, silent, 28′ (5′ excerpt)
This is a diligently structured film which alternates two images from the television with two brilliant images of the color red. Schönherr fascination for popular culture and aesthetic preference for bright colors and crisp surfaces lends his work a Pop art quality and evidences the artist’s debt to Andy Warhol.
FILM NO. 57A (ANDY WARHOL CATALOGUE FILM), FRG 1968, Super 8, silent, 23′
In another of the director’s explorations of single and multiple frame technique, this time turning his lens to the pages of Warhol’s seminal 1968 catalog from his first European exhibition. Schönherr alternates between catalog images and self-chosen Warholesque visuals (from banana pornography to soup can labels) in a mesmerizing experiment in visual perception.
SONATA FOR 4 MONITORS, 1968-1971
This four channel video installation was conceived by the artist, Ludwig Schonherr in 1970 but not realized until 2013. The work consists of four of Schönherr’s “electronic films,” single and multiple frame Super 8 films of television images that are interrupted by bursts of brilliant color. Three of the films are diligently structured by alternations between the television images and a single color (red, white or yellow) whereas the fourth film is freely structured by the interruption of various colors. Schönherr produced the flickering colors by filming colored lightbulbs.