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The Mechanical Bride

Twin solo exhibitions by Kurt Ralske and John Carpenter

Sept 22, 2011 – Jan 6, 2011




Works in the Exhibition


Lobby area: photographic prints

Kurt Ralske

"Motion Extraction: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927, Dreyer)" 2008

Archival pigment print, 44" x 44"


Kurt Ralske

"Three Silent Accretions: Faust, Pandora's Box, Nosferatu" 2009

Platinum print, 26" x 20"


Kurt Ralske

4 Photographs by Eugen Schüfftan (and Kurt Ralske)

"Untitled Film Still from Der Tod des Lulu" 1929/2011

Sepia-tinted silver gelatin print, 7" x 5"

"Untitled Film Still from Der Tod des Freder" 1929/2011

Sepia-tinted silver gelatin print, 7" x 5

"Untitled Film Still from Der Tod des Hotelportier" 1929/2011

Sepia-tinted silver gelatin print, 7" x 5"

"Untitled Film Still from Der Tod des Thymian" 1929/2011

Sepia-tinted silver gelatin print, 7" x 5"



flat screen TV

Kurt Ralske, “Correspondence #4 2008

single channel SD with sound 0:30 mins

(Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968).


Large projection

front room

John Carpenter, “Shadows” (2011)

Interactive software, computer, camera, and projector


Main room

mirror area


Projection on cube


Kurt Ralske

"The Enraged Al-gorithm (Battle of Algiers, 1966)" 2010

single channel SD, 1:00 min

(Facial recognition software used to scan the entire film for actors and extras)


Large 16:9 screen to the right


Kurt Ralske

"Faust Golden Vivisection" 2010

single channel HD, 3:00 min

(116 minutes of F.W.Murnau's classic German silent film "Faust" -- all 167,000 frames -- are compressed into a 3 minute omniscient view of the totality of the film's action.)


John Carpenter

“Dandelion Clock” (2011)

original software, interactive camera, computer and projector.

(An ever moving dandelion reacts to the viewer’s movements)


Mirror Installation

(3 screens, each exploring a different analytic approach to an individual film,

where the entire film is presented at once: From front to back)


Kurt Ralske

"The 41 Brightest Shots of Tokyo Story, Ozu, 1953" 2011

single channel HD, 2:20 min


Kurt Ralske

"The 29 Slowest Shots of Equinox Flower, Ozu, 1959" 2011

single channel HD, 2:20 min


Kurt Ralske

"The 5 Longest Shots of Early Summer, Ozu, 1951" 2011

single channel HD, 2:20 min


Mid Area

behind room divider


Eugen Schüfftan & Kurt Ralske, three works:

"Der Tod des Dr. Schön" 1929/2011

single channel SD with sound, 8:00 min

"Der Tod des Lulu" 1929/2011

single channel SD with sound, 8:00 min

“Der Tod des Faust” 1929/2011

single channel SD, silent, 8 mins.


Large back room


John Carpenter

Fields, 2011

Interactive software, camera, projector

Small backroom through doorway


Kurt Ralske

"Avatar One-D" 2010

single channel SD with sound, 162 min

(The entire film crushed to a single pixel line)


YoungProjects is proud to present a significant exhibition that not only marks the first solo show of New York’s Kurt Ralske, but presents a selection of the historically important, Furturist films of Eugen Schüfftan, as well as new interactive digital works by John Carpenter. All twenty works on display represent the edge of contemporary image making practices, where technology serves as both, inspiration and content. Ralske’s photographs and videos use custom designed software to create highly organic mosaics that comment on, and engage specific Modernist aesthetics and notions of temporality and history. Carpenter too, uses advanced technologies to create works that not only explore notions of time, but “sense” their environment in the present tense and respond accordingly, and Schüfftan, who’s own experiments in the 1920s contributed greatly to the evolution of German Expressionism, was equally ahead of his time; creating some of the most extraordinary Futurist films ever committed to celluloid.


The title of the show refers to Marshal McLuhan’s first book, “The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man” (1951), which itself was a reference to Marcel Duchamp. For McLuhan, the book was designed to explore the hidden meanings found within newspaper advertisements of the day (five years before Roland Barthes), and in the process he defined a new literary approach, which he called the “written mosaic.” As the title suggests, the most common subtext that McLuhan found was an intense preoccupation with technology, which to Post War Americans, suggested a bright new future where the artificial could produce greater pleasures than the organic.


Technology, both cinematic and digital, has particular relevance to New York’s Kurt Ralske, a Faculty member and Artist-in-Residence at the Rhode Island School of Design’s graduate department of Digital + Media. Following Kierkegaard who famously remarked that "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards,” Ralske is interested in the nature of time as it relates to both life and aesthetics. In particular, he’s interested in the difference between what we understand as the present and what we understand as the past. Much of his practice deals with engaging with preexisting forms of cinema through a process that he likes to refer to "Hauntology" to quote Derrida, which is essentially the study of how the past lives of the undead haunt the present. (This is a distinctly different stance than appropriation). As he explains, “My goals are an engagement with history and with questions of temporality. These go beyond what most people mean when they say "appropriation". The Dadaists appropriated to take a shocking stance; Warhol appropriated to make high and low collide; the Pictures Generation appropriated because they were intoxicated by the conceptual implications of making art that way. I'm more interested in Walter Benjamin's quasi-mystical engagement with history as a living force: the image of the past, present, and future doing battle on the same field. In working with relics of cinematic history, my goal is to expose what lies dormant inside these films: to make visible what lives on invisibly.”


That goal lead him to the F.W.Murnau Foundation in Weisbaden, Germany, in December 2010, where he began researching the filmmaker as part of a research project. During that time he chanced upon a number of unlabeled reels of Silver Nitrate film from the 1920s. After looking closer, he discovered that the reels were experiments by Eugen Schüfftan, a master cinematographer and special effects technician who contributed greatly to the German expressionist movement. (Schüfftan was also the inventor of the Schüfftan Process, a process designed to create a multiple exposure on a single image through a complex combination of mattes and mirrors.) To Ralske’s surprise, Schüfftan’s experiments turned out to be the closest representation of Cubism ever committed to film, with multiple points of view being presented simultaneously.


Ralske subsequently used Schüfftan experiments as the basis for a series of performances, which often take the guise of a lecture, where he places Schüfftan in an art historical context and details how cinematic cubism deserves the same recognition as painterly and sculptural cubism.


Ralske has also designed his own software to create a series of video works that rework—and carefully analyze—cinematic masterpieces by the likes of Murnau, Bergman, Ozu, Tati and other cinematic greats. This mathematical, scanning process allows him to isolate specific patterns that are inherent to the work, which are then used to create painterly, nearly static videos, which ebb and flow with an uncanny grace. That idea of presenting the entire work all at once, much like a static work of art, is consistent with the German Expressionist preference of mise-en-scene over montage, which inspired some of the most heated debates in cinematic history. (While Eisenstein was experimenting with the capacity of editing or montage to give heightened emotional and political impact to his filmed narrative, Murnau and his contemporaries were concentrating on the potentials of the enframed image, the way specific photographic effects could add psychological expressiveness to the profilmic action.)


The show also includes a number of photographic prints by Ralske, which he points out where were “discovered, not created.” Each is a representation of 90 seconds of a German Expressionist film from the 1920s, which is manipulated through custom software programs, and which makes visible the latent Modernist roots of Murnau, Lang, Pabst and others. His “Motion / Stasis Extractions” follow a similar trajectory, where each still image is a record of the entirety of a movie. Thus the motion is presented as something without duration, narrative, or signification. What remains is only the workings of motion and rest.


Time is also an essential element of John Carpenter’s work as well. Carpenter is an interactive artist and designer who primarily interested in exploring the ways in which complex data can interact, engage and define both virtual/actual spaces. He currently runs the interactive media department at Morphosis Architects in Culver City and teaches programing at Loyola University in Santa Monica. His practice often uses advanced technologies to explore both, nature’s underlying structures and real-time, living environments. Thus, he often immerses the viewer in large-scale projections where the viewer’s body encounters, and engages with fluid, dynamic and emergent fields of natural phenomena. That process remains entirely in the present moment, yet questions the expression of digital code, notions of authorship and the very nature of time-based work. The Mechanical Bride presents two of his latest works, which are in conjunction with ACME gallery, which is presenting a third piece of Carpenter’s at the same time.

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