Kestner Cinémathèque

In our Kestner Cinémathèque, as part of our educational programme, we show various short films that have been selected by the artists and curators as referential accompaniment to the exhibitions.

Cinema at kestner Gesellchaft with film program to the El Lissitzky exhibition

1. El Lissitzky: Russischer Künstler der 1920er Jahre (Avantgardist, Konstruktivist), Leo Lorenz, (Reg./Dir.), Deutschland, 1991, 39:40 min

This film is a portrait of the Russian artist El Lissitzky (1890-1941). El Lissitzky was an important Russian avant-garde artist who made a significant theoretical and practical contribution to the realisation and dissemination of constructivist ideas through a wide range of activities in the fields of painting, architecture, graphic design, typography and photography.

2. El Lissitzky: A Film of the Life, Alexandra Arkhipova (Reg./Dir.), Russland, 2013, 43 min

This documentary portrait of the artist El Lissitzky was directed by Alexandra Arkhipova. With an auditory accompaniment to the images, Arkhipova and Dr Alexander Kantsedikas give us detailed information about the life and work of El Lissitzky. The film was supported by Sergei Lissitzky and Tamara Lissitzky, through the provision of material. El Lissitzky was the Russian avant-garde’s unofficial emissary to the West, travelling and lecturing extensively on behalf of Russia’s modern artists who believed that abstraction was a harbinger of utopian social values.

3. Walter Ruttmann: Lichtspiel Opus, 1921, 11:38 min

Walter Ruttmann (1887-1941) was a German cinematographer, film director and, along with Hans Richter, the most important representative of German abstract experimental film. Ruttmann's "Opus 1", which premiered in 1921, is the first abstract work in film history. It contains no images of reality, but consists only of colours and forms, as Ruttmann had already formulated in his manifesto for a "painting with time". The long-lost film "Opus 1" was followed by three other purely abstract films that are just as elaborately coloured by hand.

4. Hans Richter: Rhythmus 23, Deutschland, 1923, 3:23 min

Hans Richter's "key film of modernism" shows pure visual "art of movement": a "ballet" of black, white and few grey geometric surfaces "in a uniform rhythm running through the whole picture" inspired by the theory of musical counterpoint. Hans Richter (1888-1976) joined the Constructivists in 1922 and is one of the most important representatives of early abstract film in Germany.

5. Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack: Farbenlichtspiele, Deutschland, 1923, 15:54min

“Farbenlichtspiele" by German painter and “color-light musician” Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack (1893-1965) is not a film in the conventional sense. By means of a mechanically operated light show box, abstract shapes in bright colours were projected live onto a screen for the audience. The box was equipped with six spotlights with exchangeable colour filters, switches to control the light intensity and stencils in geometric patterns. Three operators were needed, one to coordinate the music, another to project the light and the third to move the stencils.

6. Viking Eggeling: Symphonie Diagonale, Deutschland, 1924, 7min

“Symphonie diagonale” is the French title of the silent German experimental film Diagonal Symphony, completed by Swedish-born painter and filmmaker Viking Eggeling (1880-1925) in Berlin in 1924. At the beginning, you see a tilting figure, consisting mostly of right angles, gradually growing larger. Then short straight lines and curves are added, sprouting from the existing design. The figure disappears and the process begins again with a new pattern. Each cycle lasts about a second or two. All the figures are drawn in an uncertain art deco style and are reminiscent of all sorts of things: they could be an ear, a harp, panpipes, a grand piano with trombones, etc., only highly abstracted. The mood is playful and has something hypnotic. With his film “Symphonie diagonal”, Eggeling had a lasting influence on the art world of the 1920s—and especially on the Constructivist László Moholy-Nagy.

7. Fernand Léger: Ballet Mécanique, Frankreich, 1924, 16min

"Ballet Mécanique" by Fernand Léger (1881-1955) develops its logic from the communication between the natural and the artificial, between man and machine. Automated motors, repeating circles and triangles as well as lifeless prosthetic legs begin to dance. The film is also innovative in terms of the medium's self-reflection, for example when Léger and filmmaker Dudley Murphy can be spotted with their camera as a reflection in a sphere: distracted from what has happened, the illusion is revealed. All this distinguishes "Ballet Mécanique" as an important and influential work of the European avant-garde of the 1920s.


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