REDISCOVERING GERMAN FUTURIST CINEMA: 1920-1929
KURT RALSKE & MIRIAM ATKIN
“Rediscovering German Futurist Cinema: 1920-1929” is a lecture-performance which presents a historical narrative that is largely untrue. The lie this performance tells is that German filmmakers of the Weimar era, such as Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau, had developed an avant-garde body of work in the futurist-vein that they kept hidden from the public; it was just too strange, too unprecedented. This piece is meant to explore the ways in which our most shattering truths often come about via outright deception or selective telling, as is the case with information given by filmic or photographic depictions of history. The reality this work seeks is the one that inhabits the space between the event and its artificial representation, materializing in the staggering concreteness of the present tense at the moment a lie announces itself.
I begin the performance with a slideshow introduction to a fallacious history which describes the recently unearthed futurist footage. Superimposed still images and swirling film clips that disintegrate the conventions of cinematic figuration are shown from the secret oeuvre attributed to Lang and Murnau. The spectacle slowly tumbles into absurdity as Miriam interpolates a “talk” which is in fact a pre-recorded sound piece addressing art, technology, and fascism by way of a robotic tech-poetry periodically interrupted by the live voice of the author.
My expository narrative increasingly reveals its own glitches and culminates in a live flugelhorn accompaniment to Fritz Lang’s images of futurist doom. Futurism is thus revived in the context of 21st-century digital technology in order to expose the violent beauty of that movement’s unforeseen implications. “Rediscovering German Futurist Cinema: 1920-1929” was staged in 2012 at St. Marks Poetry Project, New York, and the AS 220 Black Box Theater, Providence.