Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.

Di sicuro, ci sarà sempre chi guarderà solo la tecnica e si chiederà “come”, mentre altri di natura più curiosa si chiederanno “perché”.

(Man Ray)


People say: “Oh, you are a serious artist, what is it?” – “Well. I don’t know. I just do what I do!”

(Stefano Fake)



One of the first technological precursors of film is the PINHOLE CAMERA


followed by the more advanced camera obscura, which was first described in detail by Alhazen in his Book of Optics (1021), and later perfected by Giambattista della Porta.


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Light is inverted through a small hole or lens from outside, and projected onto a surface or screen. Using camera obscura, it was possible to project a moving image, but there was no means of recording the image for later viewing.

Moving images were produced on revolving drums and disks in the 1830s with independent invention by:

Simon von Stampfer (Stroboscope) in Austria


Joseph Plateau (Phenakistoscope) in Belgium

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and William Horner (zoetrope) in Britain



zoetrope-M.-Bradley-small-in-box-I ZOETROPE

1867 Milton Bradley Co. – “Zoetrope Series”


On June 15, 1878, under the sponsorship of Leland Stanford, Eadweard Muybridge successfully photographed a horse named “Sallie Gardner” in fast motion using a series of 24 stereoscopic cameras. The experiment took place on June 15 at the Palo Alto farm in California with the press present.


The exercise was meant to determine whether a running horse ever had all four legs lifted off the ground at once. The cameras were arranged along a track parallel to the horse’s, and each camera shutter was controlled by a trip wire which was triggered by the horse’s hooves. They were 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by the horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second.

In 1878 and 1879 Muybridge shot photographic sequences of animals in motion at the Palo Alto race track in California. In1881 he puplished a selection of the results in a hand-made folio book of circa 15 copies entitled “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion”. The first chapter (which is presented in animated form in this video) contains 73 plates with 6 to 24 pictures per plate depicting horses moving across the track. Muybridge meticulously composed the plates by cropping the negatives into clear and consistent frames and placing them in a logical progressive order. He also retouched the horses in many pictures to show not much more than contours. The instantaneous photographs could not offer the detail of his ‘still’ photography works. He enhanced the different esthetic quality of dark contours against the very light background of a white wall in the Californian sun, making the positions of the horse’s legs even clearer.

In 1877 Muybridge had started photographing horses with 12 cameras with electro-magnetic shutters triggered by the horse or the wheel of a sulky as it made contact with wires stretched across the track. By 1879 he started using 24 cameras and sometimes used a clock-work to regulate the exposures.

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Six of the sequences had already been published in several widespread editions of cabinet cards in 1878. Many newspapers and magazines also reported on Muybridge’s work, sometimes including his pictures as a zoetrope strip. A demonstration with a zoetrope in a shop window was reported to attract crowds. From 1880 onwards Muybridge showed several sequences in lectures with his Zoogyroscope (later called Zoöpraxiscope) which projected drawings based on his photographs. At the Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition a “Zoopraxographical Hall” was built in the “Midway Plaisance” arm of the exposition to show moving images to a paying public. The Zoopraxographical Hall was arguably the very first commercial movie theater ever built, more than two years before the Lumiere brothers projected their first movies for a paying audience. However, Ottomar Anschütz had been projecting his own photographic sequences with a more or less similar device since 1886, drawing 15.000 paying customers at the Ausstellungspark in Berlin in 1887 and touring through the United States in 1888 and 1889. And Charles-Émile Reynaud showed his animations to a total of more than 500.000 paying customers between October 1892 and 1900 at the Musée Grévin in Paris.







Étienne-Jules Marey invented a chronophotographic gun in 1882, which was capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second, recording all the frames on the same picture. He used the chronophotographic gun for studying animals and human locomotion.


Marey using his chronophotographic 'gun' chronophotographicgun marey-chronophotographic-gun_c Marey_Plate_01 Marley's chronophotographic gun
Roundhay Garden Scene 1888, the first known celluloid film recorded. The elderly lady second from right was LePrince’s mother-in-law, she died the day after this scene was shot.

The first real film, Roundhay Garden Scene, made by Louis Le Prince on October 14, 1888 in Roundhay, Leeds, England, is now known as the earliest surviving motion picture.


On June 21, 1889, William Friese-Greene was issued patent no. 10131 for his ‘chronophotographic’ camera.It was apparently capable of taking up to ten photographs per second using perforated celluloid film. A report on the camera was published in the British Photographic News on February 28, 1890. On 18 March, Friese-Greene sent a clipping of the story to Thomas Edison, whose laboratory had been developing a motion picture system known as the Kinetoscope. The report was reprinted in Scientific American on April 19.Friese-Greene gave a public demonstration in 1890 but the low frame rate combined with the device’s apparent unreliability failed to make an impression.

As a result of the work of Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, many researchers in the late 19th century realized that films as they are known today were a practical possibility, but the first to design a fully successful apparatus was W. K. L. Dickson, working under the direction of Thomas Alva Edison. His fully developed camera, called the Kinetograph, was patented in 1891 and took a series of instantaneous photographs on standard Eastman Kodak photographic emulsion coated on to a transparent celluloid strip 35 mm wide. The results of this work were first shown in public in 1893, using the viewing apparatus also designed by Dickson, and called the Kinetoscope.

This was contained within a large box, and only permitted the images to be viewed by one person at a time looking into it through a peephole, after starting the machine by inserting a coin. It was not a commercial success in this form, and left the way free for Charles Francis Jenkins and his projector, the Phantoscope, with the first showing before an audience in June 1894. Polish inventor Kazimierz Prószyński had built his camera and projecting device, called Pleograph, in 1894. Louis and Auguste Lumière perfected the Cinématographe, an apparatus that took, printed, and projected film. They gave their first show of projected pictures to an audience in Paris in December 1895.

After this date, the Edison company developed its own form of projector, as did various other inventors. Some of these used different film widths and projection speeds, but after a few years the 35-mm wide Edison film, and the 16-frames-per-second projection speed of the Lumière Cinématographe became standard.

The other important American competitor was the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, which used a new camera designed by Dickson after he left the Edison company.

In May 1891, it became the first American film shown to a public audience.


The zoopraxiscope is an early device for displaying motion pictures. Created by photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge in 1879, it may be considered the first movie projector. The zoopraxiscope projected images from rotating glass disks in rapid succession to give the impression of motion. The stop-motion images were initially painted onto the glass, as silhouettes. A second series of discs, made in 1892–94, used outline drawings printed onto the discs photographically, then colored by hand. Some of the animated images are very complex, featuring multiple combinations of sequences of animal and human movement.

At the Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Muybridge gave a series of lectures on the Science of Animal Locomotion in the Zoopraxographical Hall, built specially for that purpose in the “Midway Plaisance” arm of the exposition. He used his zoopraxiscope to show his moving pictures to a paying public, making the Hall the first commercial film theater.






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William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, chief engineer with the Edison Laboratories, is credited with the invention of a practicable form of a celluloid strip containing a sequence of images, the basis of a method of photographing and projecting moving images. Celluloid blocks were thinly sliced, then removed with heated pressure plates. After this, they were coated with a photosensitive gelatin emulsion.

In 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, Thomas Edison introduced to the public two pioneering inventions based on this innovation; the Kinetograph – the first practical moving picture camera – and the Kinetoscope.

thomas_edison edison Portrait Edison Edison Kinetoscope 06 Interior of Thomas Edison's Kinetograph Theater

As a result of the work of Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, many researchers in the late 19th century realized that films as they are known today were a practical possibility, but the first to design a fully successful apparatus was W. K. L. Dickson, working under the direction of Thomas Alva Edison. His fully developed camera, called the Kinetograph, was patented in 1891 and took a series of instantaneous photographs on standard Eastman Kodak photographic emulsion coated on to a transparent celluloid strip 35 mm wide. The results of this work were first shown in public in 1893, using the viewing apparatus also designed by Dickson, and called the Kinetoscope.

This was contained within a large box, and only permitted the images to be viewed by one person at a time looking into it through a peephole, after starting the machine by inserting a coin.

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The latter was a cabinet in which a continuous loop of Dickson’s celluloid film (powered by an electric motor) was back lit by an incandescent lamp and seen through a magnifying lens. The spectator viewed the image through an eye piece. Kinetoscope parlours were supplied with fifty-foot film snippets photographed by Dickson, in Edison’s “Black Maria” studio. These sequences recorded both mundane incidents, such as Fred Ott’s Sneeze, and entertainment acts, such as acrobats, music hall performers and boxing demonstrations.

Kinetoscope parlors soon spread successfully to Europe.

Kinetoscope parlor SF 1895 KinetoscopeParlor Edison Kinetoscope 06

Edison, however, never attempted to patent these instruments on the other side of the Atlantic, since they relied so greatly on previous experiments and innovations from Britain and Europe. This enabled the development of imitations, such as the camera devised by British electrician and scientific instrument maker Robert W. Paul and his partner Birt Acres.

In 1887 Ottomar Anschütz, wanting to display moving pictures to large groups of people, presented his Electrotachyscope that used 24 images on a rotating glass disk. In 1894 his invention projected moving images in Berlin.

At about the same time, in Lyon, France, Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematograph, a portable camera, printer, and projector.

In late 1895 in Paris, father Antoine Lumière began exhibitions of projected films before the paying public, beginning the general conversion of the medium to projection (Cook, 1990). They quickly became Europe’s main producers with their actualités like Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory and comic vignettes like The Sprinkler Sprinkled (both 1895). Even Edison, initially dismissive of projection, joined the trend with the Vitascope, a modified Jenkins’ Phantoscope, within less than six months. The first public motion-picture film presentation in the world, though, belongs to Max and Emil Skladanowsky of Berlin, who projected with their apparatus “Bioscop”, a flickerfree duplex construction, November 1 through 31, 1895.

That same year in May, in the USA, Eugene Augustin Lauste devised his Eidoloscope for the Latham family.

original eidelscope

But the first public screening of film ever is due to Jean Aimé “Acme” Le Roy, a French photographer. On February 5, 1894, his 40th birthday, he presented his “Marvellous Cinematograph” to a group of around twenty show business men in New York City.


Auguste and Louis Lumiere : portable motion-picture camera

Auguste and Louis Lumiere are often credited as inventing the first motion picture camera in 1895. But in truth, several others had made similar inventions around the same time as Lumiere. What Lumiere invented was a portable motion-picture camera, film processing unit and projector called the Cinematographe, three functions covered in one invention. The Cinematographe made motion pictures very popular, and it could be better be said that Lumiere’s invention began the motion picture era. In 1895, Lumiere and his brother were the first to present projected, moving, photographic, pictures to a paying audience of more that one person.

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The Lumiere brothers were not the first to project film. In 1891, the Edison company successfully demonstrated the Kinetoscope, which enabled one person at a time to view moving pictures. Later in 1896, Edison showed his improved Vitascope projector and it was the first commercially, successful, projector in the U.S.



The first public motion-picture film presentation in Europe, though, belongs to Max and Emil Skladanowsky of Berlin, who projected with their apparatus “Bioscop”, a flickerfree duplex construction, November 1 through 31, 1895.

Skladanowsky_Bioscop 17 Skladanowsky_Bioscop 16 Skladanowsky_Bioscop 15 Skladanowsky_Bioscop 14 bioskop_diagram1895 Max Skladanowsky Skladanowsky_Bioscop 12 Skladanowsky_Bioscop 10 Berlin-Pankow, Italienischer Bauerntanz, Kinder Max Skladanowsky neben Bioscop Skladanowsky_Bioscop 05 Filmprojektor Bioscop II Skladanowsky_Bioscop 03 Skladanowsky_Bioscop 02 Max Skladanowsky mit Bioskop / Foto 1933


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The films of the time were seen mostly via temporary storefront spaces and traveling exhibitors or as acts in vaudeville programs. A film could be under a minute long and would usually present a single scene, authentic or staged, of everyday life, a public event, a sporting event or slapstick. There was little to no cinematic technique: no editing and usually no camera movement, and flat, stagey compositions. But the novelty of realistically moving photographs was enough for a motion picture industry to mushroom before the end of the century, in countries around the world. “The Cinema was to offer a cheaper, simpler way of providing entertainment to the masses. Filmmakers could record actors’ performances, which then could be shown to audiences around the world. Travelogues would bring the sights of far-flung places, with movement, directly to spectators’ hometowns. Movies would become the most popular visual art form of the late late Victorian age”.

Edison Black Maria

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Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties.

The term describes a range of filmmaking styles that are generally quite different from, and often opposed to, the practices of mainstream commercial and documentary filmmaking. Avant-garde is also used, for the films shots in the twenties in the field of history’s avant-gardes currents in Italy, France or Germany, to describe this work, and “underground” was used in the sixties, though it has also had other connotations.

Today the term “experimental cinema” prevails, because it’s possible to make experimental films without the presence of any avant-garde movement in the cultural field. Though experimental film is known to a relatively small number of practitioners, academics and connoisseurs, it has influenced and continues to influence cinematography, visual effects and editing. The genre of music video can be seen as a commercialization of many techniques of experimental film. Title design and television advertising have also been influenced by experimental film.


Stop motion (also known as stop frame) is an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence. Dolls with movable joints or clay figures are often used in stop motion for their ease of repositioning. Stop motion animation using plasticine is called clay animation or “clay-mation”. Not all stop motion requires figures or models; many stop motion films can involve using humans, household appliances and other things for comedic effect. Stop motion using objects is sometimes referred to as object animation.Stop motion animation has a long history in film. It was often used to show objects moving as if by magic.



Charles-Émile Reynaud (8 December 1844 – 9 January 1918) was a French science teacher, responsible for the first projected animated cartoon films. Reynaud created the Praxinoscope in 1877 and the Théâtre Optique in December 1888, and on 28 October 1892 he projected the first animated film in public, Pauvre Pierrot, at the Musée Grévin in Paris. This film is also notable as the first known instance of film perforations being used.



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Ryanaud died in a hospice on the banks of the Seine where he had been cared for since 29 March 1917. His late years were tragic from 1910 when, crushed by the new Cinematograph, dejected and penniless, he threw the greater part of his irreplaceable work and unique equipment into the Seine as the public had deserted his “Théatre Optique” shows which had been a celebrated attraction at the Musée Grevin between 1892 and 1900.




James Stuart Blackton (January 5, 1875 – August 13, 1941) was an Anglo-American film producer, most notable for making the first silent film that included animated sequences recorded on standard picture film – The Enchanted Drawing (1900) – and is because of that considered the father of American animation. Both stop-motion and drawn animation techniques were used in his films.

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He was also director of the Silent Era, the founder of Vitagraph Studios. The first instance of the stop motion technique can be credited to Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton for Vitagraph’s The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1897), in which a toy circus of acrobats and animals comes to life.

In 1899, Cooper made for Bryant and May what is considered the earliest surviving stop-motion advertising film, Matches Appeal (also known as Matches: An Appeal). The film contains an appeal to send money to Bryant and May who would then send matches to the British troops which were fighting in the Boer War in South Africa. It was shown in December 1899 at The Empire Theatre in London. This film is the earliest known example of stop-motion animation. Little puppets, constructed of matchsticks, are writing the appeal on a black wall. Their movements are filmed frame by frame, movement by movement.

In 1902, the film Fun in a Bakery Shop used the stop trick technique in the “lightning sculpting” sequence. French trick film maestro Georges Méliès used true stop motion to produce moving title-card letters for one of his short films.

The Haunted Hotel (1907) is another stop motion film by J. Stuart Blackton, and was a resounding success when released.

Segundo de Chomón (1871–1929), from Spain, released El Hotel Eléctrico later that same year, and used similar techniques as the Blackton film.


In 1908, A Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Nightmare was released, as was The Sculptor’s Nightmare, a film by Billy Bitzer.

Italian animator Roméo Bossetti impressed audiences with his object animation tour-de-force, The Automatic Moving Company in 1912.

The great European stop motion pioneer was Wladyslaw Starewicz (1892–1965), who animated The Beautiful Lukanida (1910), The Battle of the Stag Beetles (1910), The Ant and the Grasshopper (1911).
One of the earliest clay animation films was Modelling Extraordinary, which dazzled audiences in 1912. December 1916 brought the first of Willie Hopkins’ 54 episodes of “Miracles in Mud” to the big screen. Also in December 1916, the first woman animator, Helena Smith Dayton, began experimenting with clay stop motion. She would release her first film in 1917, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
In the turn of the century, there was another well known animator known as Willis O’ Brien (known by others as O’bie). His work on The Lost World (1925) is well known, but he is most admired for his work on King Kong (1933), a milestone of his films made possible by stop motion animation.
O’Brien’s protege and eventual successor in Hollywood was Ray Harryhausen. After learning under O’Brien on the film Mighty Joe Young (1949), Harryhausen would go on to create the effects for a string of successful and memorable films over the next three decades. These included It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) and Clash Of The Titans (1981).
In a 1940 promotional film, Autolite, an automotive parts supplier, featured stop motion animation of its products marching past Autolite factories to the tune of Franz Schubert’s Military March. An abbreviated version of this sequence was later used in television ads for Autolite, especially those on the 1950s CBS program Suspense, which Autolite sponsored.

In the 1960s and 1970s, independent clay animator Eliot Noyes Jr. refined the technique of “free-form” clay animation with his Oscar-nominated 1965 film Clay (or the Origin of Species). Noyes also used stop motion to animate sand lying on glass for his musical animated film Sandman (1975).
In 1975, filmmaker and clay animation experimenter Will Vinton joined with sculptor Bob Gardiner to create an experimental film called Closed Mondays which became the world’s first stop motion film to win an Oscar. Will Vinton followed with several other successful short film experiments including The Great Cognito, Creation, and Rip Van Winkle which were each nominated for Academy Awards. In 1977, Vinton made a documentary about this process and his style of animation which he dubbed “claymation”; he titled the documentary Claymation. Soon after this documentary, the term was trademarked by Vinton to differentiate his team’s work from others who had been, or were beginning to do, “clay animation”. While the word has stuck and is often used to describe clay animation and stop motion, it remains a trademark owned currently by Laika Entertainment, Inc.
Sand-coated puppet animation was used in the Oscar-winning 1977 film The Sand Castle, produced by Dutch-Canadian animator Co Hoedeman. Hoedeman was one of dozens of animators sheltered by the National Film Board of Canada, a Canadian government film arts agency that had supported animators for decades. A pioneer of refined multiple stop motion films under the NFB banner was Norman McLaren, who brought in many other animators to create their own creatively controlled films. Notable among these are the pinscreen animation films of Jacques Drouin (His films follow the tradition established by Alexandre Alexeïeff (1901-1982) and Claire Parker (1906-1981), who pioneered the technique), made with the original pinscreen donated by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker.
Italian stop motion films include Quaq Quao (1978), by Francesco Misseri, which was stop motion with origami, The Red and the Blue and the clay animation kittens Mio and Mao. Other European productions included a stop motion-animated series of Tove Jansson’s The Moomins (from 1979, often referred to as “The Fuzzy Felt Moomins”), produced by Film Polski and Jupiter Films.
One of the main British Animation teams, John Hardwick and Bob Bura, were the main animators in many early British TV shows, and are famous for their work on the Trumptonshire trilogy.
Disney experimented with several stop motion techniques by hiring independent animator-director Mike Jittlov to do the first stop motion animation of Mickey Mouse toys ever produced for a short sequence called Mouse Mania, part of a TV special commemorating Mickey Mouse’s 50th Anniversary called Mickey’s 50th in 1978. Jittlov again produced some impressive multi-technique stop motion animation a year later for a 1979 Disney special promoting their release of the feature film The Black Hole.



Pixilation (from pixilated) is a stop motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject in an animated film, by repeatedly posing while one or more frame is taken and changing pose slightly before the next frame or frames. The actor becomes a kind of living stop motion puppet. This technique is often used as a way to blend live actors with animated ones in a movie, such as in The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb by the Bolex Brothers.
Early examples of this technique are El hotel eléctrico from 1908 (The film displays one of the earliest uses of stop motion animation in history, though it is not de Chomón’s first try at this technique. His 1906 film, Le théâtre de Bob, uses animated puppets. However, El Hotel eléctrico is also an early use of pixilation)

El hotel eléctrico – 1908 – Segundo de Chomón


and Émile Cohl’s 1911 movie Jobard ne peut pas voir les femmes travailler (Jobard cannot see the women working).


The term is widely credited to Grant Munro. He made an experimental movie named “Pixillation”.




The son of Count Tullio Ginanni Corradini (who was also mayor of Ravenna) and brother of Bruno Corra (Ginna and Corra names were suggested by Giacomo Balla by assonance with the words gym and run), studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna, and graduated in Florence.
He focused on the occult sciences, theosophy and Eastern philosophies. In 1910 he published a book with his brother entitled Method and New Life.

He theorized about a future non-figurative painting with chromatic music, i.e. translation of feelings and moods in sound and color.

An important moment in his artistic research was the early meeting with the Futurist group. This occurred in Milan, in the house of Tommaso Marinetti. This Futurist group included Boccioni, Carrà and Russolo . Unlike that group, which was interested in the dynamic aspect of painting, he developed a propensity to a painting of pure color, with strong spritualistic inflections.


Between 1910 and 1912 he worked with Corra on some short abstract films, using the color directly on the untreated film. These cinepitture, consisting of overlapping colorful dots, were a commentary on the musical works of Mendelssohn symphonies and abstract compositions to avant-garde.

He participated in the Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture in 1912 at the company’s Belle Arti in Florence, showing the works Neurasthenia (1908) and Romantic walk (1909). In April 1914 he participated in the Free Futurist International Exhibition, held at the Galleria Sprovieri in Rome. In 1915 he published the text painting of the future and with Corra, the synthesis theatrical Alternation of character in the Futurist Synthetic Theatre of Marinetti, Corra and Settimelli. Up residence in Florence, in addition to true artistic, tried her hand in both theoretical writing treatises on the costume and the occult, political texts and narrative.

In 1916 he produced and directed the film VITA FUTURISTA (Futurist Life), in collaboration with Corra, Balla and Marinetti. However, there now exist only a few frames of this film.

Vita futurista
Inserzione per il film Vita futurista, 1916, dalla rivista L’Italia futurista, Firenze.

primo-film-futuristaVita_futurista_uno3_dei_fotogrammi_superstiti_1916 Vita_futurista_uno2_dei_fotogrammi_superstiti_1916 primo-film-futurista 2 Marinetti Vita_futurista_uno_dei_fotogrammi_superstiti_1916 cinema_futurista ginna & corra

L’esperienza più significativa di questo periodo per Arnaldo Ginna è la realizzazione del film Vita futurista, il primo film futurista e probabilmente il primo film d’avanguardia nella storia del cinema. Grazie all’esperienza sulla pellicola cinematografica acquisita negli anni delle sperimentazioni giovanili con il fratello Bruno, Marinetti decide di affidargli l’organizzazione e la realizzazione del progetto.

Il film per Ginna fu un impegno notevole fisico ed economico, tutto sulle sue spalle, dato che i futuristi coinvolti nel progetto erano spesso indisciplinati, pigri, dormiglioni, insomma più impegnati in una impresa goliardica che in un’opera dagli esiti così importanti che diventerà la matrice di quasi tutto il successivo cinema europeo d’avanguardia. Sempre nel 1916 viene pubblicato, a firma di Marinetti, Ginna, Corra, Settimelli e Chiti, il manifesto La cinematografia futurista, nel quale si teorizzano e si ufficializzano tutte le possibilità artistiche date dal nuovo mezzo espressivo cinematografico. Molte delle idee proposte da questo manifesto saranno poi adottate dalla ricerca sperimentale sul cinema condotta
dall’avanguardia europea.

I primi esperimenti di teatro e cinema d’avanguardia.
La musica è l’espressione creativa più completa da un punto di vista scientifico-artistico e anche l’unico tramite per arrivare a una condizione comune delle arti. Seguendo questo pensiero Arnaldo Ginna e il fratello Bruno Corra, costruiscono già nel 1909 uno strumento sperimentale per l’analogia suono-colore, una specie di pianoforte cromatico formato da una tastiera a cui erano collegate lampadine colorate. Inoltre teorizzano e sperimentano una nuova forma di spettacolo teatrale non tradizionale, il dramma musicale e cromatico nel quale, con la collaborazione dell’amico conterraneo musicista Balilla Pratella, cercano di ottenere la piena fusione di passione, musica, immagine e colori. I tentativi di accompagnare la scena teatrale con musica e colori contemporaneamente falliscono per la qualità dei mezzi tecnici a disposizione, così i due artisti trasportano queste esperienze nel cinematografo come strumento ideale per poter realizzare l’unione spazio-temporale. Ecco alcuni appunti di Ginna sull’argomento:

“Esperienze fatte con la musica di colore, colori presentati in un ambiente e sullo schermo, variamente nello spazio e nel tempo. Le luci che imbevevano di colore l’ambiente erano ottenute con diverse lampadine elettriche comandate da una tastiera simile a quella del pianoforte. Sullo schermo si ottenevano colorazioni varie nel senso spaziale e temporale, usando la solita pellicola cinematografica, fotografando varie forme nere su fondo bianco in modo che sviluppandole si ottenevano trasparenti e perciò variamente colorabili.”

Nel testo Musica Cromatica del 1912, firmato solo da Bruno, sono testimoniate e descritte tutte le fasi degli esperimenti teatrali e cinematografici. La descrizione dei cortometraggi realizzati da Ginna e Corra su temi musicali e pittorici ci fa pensare ai cartoni animati ante litteram, (peraltro successivamente molto amati da Ginna) con la pittura-colore che viene applicata direttamente sulla pellicola vergine, ed effetti speciali veramente prodigiosi per l’epoca.

Corra si rendeva perfettamente conto dell’importanza storica di queste esperienze:

“I frutti di questo periodo di esperimenti, … quattro rotoletti di pellicola dei quali uno soltanto supera i duecento metri di lunghezza, sono qui, dentro il mio cassetto, chiusi nelle loro scatole, etichettati, pronti per il museo futuro (scusate, non è superbia, è solo amore di padre per questi figlioletti che mi piaccion tanto col loro musino sporco d’ arcobaleno e con le loro piccole arie di mistero).”

Purtroppo le pellicole vennero distrutte, insieme allo studio di Corra, in un bombardamento a Milano durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale.

Vita futurista.
Grazie all’esperienza acquisita in materia cinematografica negli anni delle sperimentazioni, Marinetti decide di affidare a Ginna l’organizzazione e la realizzazione del film Vita futurista, il primo film futurista e probabilmente il primo film d’avanguardia nella storia del cinema. Ecco come ci racconta lo stesso Ginna le fasi di lavorazione dell’opera:

“Fu girato a Firenze nell’estate del 1916. Marinetti incaricò Arnaldo Ginna di fare Vita futurista, che doveva essere composto sinteticamente da brevi sequenze ognuna dedicata ad un suo speciale problema psicologico avvenirista.”

Il film per Ginna fu un impegno notevole fisico ed economico, tutto sulle sue spalle, dato che i futuristi coinvolti nel progetto erano spesso indisciplinati, pigri, dormiglioni, insomma più impegnati in una impresa goliardica che in un’opera dagli esiti così importanti che sarebbe poi diventata la matrice di quasi tutto il successivo cinema europeo d’avanguardia. Si capisce perciò il suo risentimento quando Settimelli, all’inizio degli anni Trenta cercò di impadronirsi della totale creazione del film relegando Ginna alla sola attività di tecnico. Si diede così origine ad una lunga diatriba sulle pagine dei giornali d’epoca, che portò comunque ad una riaffermazione della paternità di Ginna suffragata anche dalle testimonianze di Marinetti.

Nel 1958 l’ultima bobina di Vita Futurista venne affidata dall’Artista ad uno studioso che avrebbe dovuto curarne il restauro e poi la donazione ad un Museo parigino. L’opera invece scomparve, probabilmente distrutta nel tentativo di restauro e da allora ne sono stati pubblicati solo alcuni fotogrammi, purtroppo le uniche testimonianze visive che rimangono di quest’opera.

Nel 1916 Ginna è firmatario del manifesto La cinematografia futurista, un testo fondamentale per la nascita della cinematografia d’avanguardia.


La cinematografia futurista
(Manifesto futurista pubblicato nel 9° numero del giornale «L’Italia Futurista» – 11 settembre 1916) (a cura di Benedetto Brugia)
Il libro, mezzo assolutamente passatista di conservare e comunicare il pensiero, era da molto tempo destinato a scomparire come le cattedrali, le torri, le mura merlate, i musei e l’ideale pacifista. Il libro, statico compagno dei sedentari, dei nostalgici (1) e dei neutralisti, non può divertire né esaltare le nuove generazioni futuriste ebbre di dinamismo rivoluzionario e bellicoso.
La conflagrazione agilizza sempre piú la sensibilità europea. La nostra grande guerra igienica, che dovrà soddisfare tutte le nostre aspirazioni nazionali, centuplica la forza novatrice della razza italiana. Il cinematografo futurista che noi prepariamo, deformazione gioconda dell’universo, sintesi alogica e fuggente della vita mondiale, diventerà la migliore scuola per i ragazzi: scuola di gioia, di velocità, di forza, di temerità e di eroismo. Il cinematografo futurista acutizzerà, svilupperà la sensibilità, velocizzerà l’immaginazione creatrice, darà all’intelligenza un prodigioso senso di simultaneità e di onnipresenza (2). Il cinematografo futurista collaborerà cosí al rinnovamento generale, sostituendo la rivista (sempre pedantesca), il dramma (sempre previsto) e uccidendo il libro (sempre tedioso e opprimente). Le necessità della propaganda ci costringeranno a pubblicare un libro di tanto in tanto. Ma preferiamo esprimerci mediante il cinematografo, le grandi tavole di parole in libertà e i mobili avvisi luminosi.
Col nostro Manifesto Il Teatro sintetico futurista, con le vittoriose tournées delle compagnie drammatiche Gualtiero Tumiati, Ettore Berti, Annibale Ninchi, Luigi Zoncada, coi 2 volumi del Teatro Sintetico Futurista contenenti 80 sintesi teatrali, noi abbiamo iniziati in Italia la rivoluzione del teatro di prosa. Antecedentemente un altro Manifesto futurista aveva riabilitato, glorificato e perfezionato il Teatro di Varietà. È logico dunque che oggi noi trasportiamo il nostro sforzo vivificatore in un’altra zona del teatro: il cinematografo.
A prima vista il cinematografo, nato da pochi anni, può sembrare già futurista, cioè privo di passato e libero di tradizioni: in realtà, esso, sorgendo come teatro senza parole, ha ereditate tutte le piú tradizionali spazzature del teatro letterario. Noi possiamo dunque senz’altro riferire al cinematografo tutto ciò che abbiamo detto e fatto per il teatro di prosa. La nostra azione è legittima e necessaria, in quanto il cinematografo sino ad oggi è stato, e tende a rimanere profondamente passatista, mentre noi vediamo in esso la possibilità di un’arte eminentemente futurista e il mezzo di espressione piú adatto alla plurisensibilità di un artista futurista.
Salvo i film interessanti di viaggi, cacce, guerre, ecc., non hanno saputo infliggerci che drammi, drammoni e drammetti passatistissimi. La stessa sceneggiatura che per la sua brevità e varietà può sembrare progredita, non è invece il piú delle volte che una pietosa e trita analisi. Tutte le immense possibilità artistiche del cinematografo sono dunque assolutamente intatte.
Il cinematografo è un’arte a sé. Il cinematografo non deve dunque mai copiare il palcoscenico. Il cinematografo, essendo essenzialmente visivo, deve compiere anzitutto l’evoluzione della pittura: distaccarsi dalla realtà, dalla fotografia, dal grazioso e dal solenne. Diventare antigrazioso, deformatore, impressionista, sintetico, dinamico, parolibero.
Occorre liberare il cinematografo come mezzo di espressione per farne lo strumento ideale di una nuova arte immensamente piú vasta e piú agile di tutte quelle esistenti. Siamo convinti che solo per mezzo di esso si potrà raggiungere quella poliespressività verso la quale tendono tutte le piú moderne ricerche artistiche. Il cinematografo futurista crea appunto oggi la sinfonia poli-espressiva che già un anno fa noi annunciavamo nel nostro manifesto: Pesi, misure e prezzi del genio artistico. Nel film futurista entreranno come mezzi di espressione gli elementi piú svariati: dal brano di vita reale alla chiazza di colore, dalla linea alle parole in libertà, dalla musica cromatica e plastica alla musica di oggetti. Esso sarà insomma pittura, architettura, scultura, parole in libertà, musica di colori, linee e forme, accozzo di oggetti e realtà caotizzata. Offriremo nuove ispirazioni alle ricerche dei pittori i quali tendono a sforzare i limiti del quadro. Metteremo in moto le parole in libertà che rompono i limiti della letteratura marciando verso la pittura, la musica, l’arte dei rumori e gettando un meraviglioso ponte tra la parola e l’oggetto reale.
I nostri film saranno:
Analogie cinematografate usando la realtà direttamente come uno dei due elementi dell’analogia, Esempio: Se vorremo esprimere lo stato angoscioso di un nostro protagonista invece di descriverlo nelle sue varie fasi di dolore daremo un’equivalente impressione con lo spettacolo di una montagna frastagliata e cavernosa.
I monti, i mari, i boschi, le città, le folle, gli eserciti, le squadre, gli aeroplani, saranno spesso le nostre parole formidabilmente espressive: L’universo sarà il nostro vocabolario.
Esempio: Vogliamo dare una sensazione di stramba allegria: rappresentiamo un drappello di seggiole che vola scherzando attorno ad un enorme attaccapanni sinché si decidono ad attaccarcisi. Vogliamo dare una sensazione di ira: frantumiamo l’iracondo in un turbine di pallottole gialle. Vogliamo dare l’angoscia di un Eroe che perdeva la sua fede nel defunto scetticismo neutrale: rappresentiamo l’Eroe nell’atto di parlare ispirato ad una moltitudine; facciamo scappar fuori ad un tratto Giovanni Giolitti che gli caccia in bocca a tradimento una ghiotta forchettata di maccheroni affogando la sua alata parola nella salsa di pomodoro.
Coloriremo il dialogo dando velocemente e simultaneamente ogni immagine che attraversi i cervelli dei personaggi. Esempio: rappresentando un uomo che dirà alla sua donna: Sei bella come un gazzella, daremo la gazzella. — Esempio: se un personaggio dice: Contemplo il tuo sorriso fresco e luminoso come un viaggiatore contempla dopo lunghe fatiche il mare dall’alto di una montagna, daremo viaggiatore, mare, montagna.
In tal modo i nostri personaggi saranno perfettamente comprensibili come se parlassero.
Poemi, discorsi e poesie cinematografati. Faremo passare le immagini che li compongono sullo schermo.
Esempio: Canto dell’amore di Giosuè Carducci:
Da le rocche tedesche appollaiate
sí come falchi a meditar la caccia…
Daremo le rocche, i falchi in agguato.
Da le chiese che al ciel lunghe levando
marmoree braccia pregano il Signor
. . . . . . . . . . .
Da i conventi tra i borghi e le cittadi
cupi sedenti al suon de le campane
come cucùli tra gli alberi radi
cantanti noie ed allegrezze strane…
Daremo le chiese che a poco a poco si trasformano in donne imploranti, Iddio che dall’alto si compiace, daremo i conventi, i cuculi, ecc.
Esempio: Sogno d’estate di Giosuè Carducci:
Tra le battaglie, Omero, nel carme tuo sempre sonanti
la calda ora mi vinse: chinommisi il capo tra ‘l sonno
in riva di Scamandro, ma il cor mi fuggí su ‘l Tirreno
Daremo Carducci circolante fra il tumulto degli Achei che evita destramente i cavalli in corsa, ossequia Omero, va a bere con Aiace all’osteria dello Scamandro Rosso e al terzo bicchiere di vino, il cuore, di cui si debbono vedere i palpiti, gli sbotta fuori dalla giacca e vola come un enorme pallone rosso sul golfo di Rapallo. In questo modo noi cinematografiamo i piú segreti movimenti del genio.
Ridicolizzeremo cosí le opere dei poeti passatisti, trasformando col massimo vantaggio del pubblico le poesie piú nostalgicamente monotone e piagnucolose in spettacoli violenti, eccitanti ed esilarantissimi.
Simultaneità e compenetrazione di tempi e di luoghi diversi cinematografate. Daremo nello stesso istante-quadro 2 o 3 visioni differenti l’una accanto all’altra.
Ricerche musicali cinematografate (dissonanze, accordi, sinfonie di gesti, fatti, colori, linee, ecc.).
Stati d’animo sceneggiati cinematografati.
Esercitazioni quotidiane per liberarsi dalla logica cinematografate.
Drammi d’oggetti cinematografati. (Oggetti animati, umanizzati, truccati, vestiti, passionalizzati, civilizzati, danzanti — oggetti tolti dal loro ambiente abituale e posti in una condizione anormale che, per contrasto, mette in risalto la loro stupefacente costruzione e vita non umana).
Vetrine d’idee, d’avvenimenti, di tipi, d’oggetti, ecc. cinematografati.
Congressi, flirt, risse e matrimonî di smorfie, di mimiche, ecc. cinematografati. Esempio: un nasone che impone il silenzio a mille dita congressiste scampanellando un orecchio, mentre due baffi carabinieri arrestano un dente.
Ricostruzioni irreali del corpo umano cinematografate.
Drammi di sproporzioni cinematografate (un uomo che avendo sete tira fuori una minuscola cannuccia la quale si allunga ombelicamente fino ad un lago e lo asciuga di colpo).
Drammi potenziali e piani strategici di sentimenti cinematografati.
Equivalenze lineari plastiche, cromatiche, ecc., di uomini, donne, avvenimenti, pensieri, musiche, sentimenti, pesi, odori, rumori cinematografati (daremo con delle linee bianche su nero il ritmo interno e il ritmo fisico d’un marito che scopre sua moglie adultera e insegue l’amante — ritmo dell’anima e ritmo delle gambe).
Parole in libertà in movimento cinematografate (tavole sinottiche di valori lirici — drammi di lettere umanizzate o animalizzate — drammi ortografici — drammi tipografici — drammi geometrici — sensibilità numerica, ecc.).
Pittura + scultura + dinamismo plastico + parole in libertà + intonarumori + architettura + teatro sintetico = Cinematografia futurista.
Scomponiamo e ricomponiamo cosí l’Universo secondo i nostri meravigliosi capricci, per centuplicare la potenza del genio creatore italiano e il suo predominio assoluto nel mondo.


Nel 1915, Marinetti, Corra e Settimelli firmano il Manifesto del Teatro futurista sintetico, e Ginna, insieme al fratello Corra, scrive Alternazione di carattere, in: Teatro futurista sintetico, che conteneva appunto alcuni esempi di innovazione futurista del teatro tradizionale.

Intorno al 1915, a Firenze, Ginna con l’appoggio di Marinetti, dà il via ad un nuovo progetto: con l’aiuto anche di Settimelli, destinato a dirigerla, rileva una vecchia compagnia teatrale con l’intento di creare il Teatro libero italiano, ossia una compagnia teatrale sperimentale itinerante con cui mettere in scena alcune sintesi teatrali futuriste. La compagnia ebbe breve durata ma fece in tempo a portare sul palcoscenico alcuni spettacoli scritti da Marinetti: le prime rappresentazioni di teatro sintetico.

Da alcune lettere spedite da Corra e da Ginna a Francesco Balilla Pratella dal 1930, si conosce un altro interessante progetto che ha unito questi tre artisti: la realizzazione di un film questa volta col sonoro su soggetto di Bruno Corra. La regia doveva essere di Ginna mentre la parte sonora veniva affidata naturalmente a Balilla Pratella. Il progetto parte nel 1930, Ginna costruisce insieme al fratello Francesco, ingegnere, un tipo di amplificatore capace di trasmettere «tutte le frequenze musicali». Con ogni probabilità il film non venne mai realizzato. Stessa fine fece un progetto successivo, del 1936, che coinvolgeva in primis Corra e Pratella per la realizzazione di un film musicale intitolato Balilla e Tonietta. Ginna collabora alla stesura del copione ma il soggetto non ottiene il benestare della direzione generale della cinematografia presieduta tra l’altro da un cugino di Pratella ed è l’ultimo approccio non da teorico che Ginna compie in ambito cinematografico.

Nel 1938 Ginna con Marinetti, firma La cinematografia, aggiornando il testo del manifesto del 1916 con le nuove scoperte tecniche degli ultimi venti anni: sonoro, doppiaggio, nuovi macchinari e nuovi criteri di ripresa.



Walter (Walther) Ruttmann (28 December 1887 — 15 July 1941) was a German film director and along with Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling and Oskar Fischinger was an early German practitioner of experimental film. Dadaist Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 was the first abstract film (1921) but “Lichtspiel Opus I” of Walter Ruttmann was the first abstract animation to be screened publicly (1921).

Ruttmann was born in Frankfurt am Main; he studied architecture and painting and worked as a graphic designer. His film career began in the early 1920s. His first abstract short films, “Lichtspiel: Opus I” (1921) and “Opus II” (1923), were experiments with new forms of film expression, and the influence of these early abstract films can be seen in some of the early work of Oskar Fischinger. Ruttmann and his colleagues of the avant garde movement enriched the language of film as a medium with new form techniques. Ruttmann was a prominent exponent of both avant-garde art and music. His early abstractions played at the 1929 Baden-Baden Festival to international acclaim despite their being almost eight years old. Ruttmann licensed a Wax Slicing machine from Oskar Fischinger to create special effects for Lotte Reiniger. Together with Erwin Piscator, he worked on the experimental film Melodie der Welt (1929), though he is best remembered for Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, 1927).


During the Nazi period he worked as an assistant to director Leni Riefenstahl on Triumph of the Will (1935). He died in Berlin.

Pure Cinema was influenced by such German “absolute” filmmakers as Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann, and Viking Eggeling. Richter claimed that his 1921 film, Rhythmus 21, was the first abstract film ever created. This claim is not true (premiere Theatre Michel, Paris , 6 July 1923) : he was preceded by the Italian Futurists Bruno Corra and Arnaldo Ginna between 1911 and 1912 (as they report in the Futurist Manifesto of Cinema ), as well as by fellow German artist Walter Ruttmann who produced Lichtspiel Opus 1 in 1921.
Due to licence (copyright) problems regarding the dedicated music score (Max Butting (6 October 1888 in Berlin, German Empire — 13 July 1976 in Berlin, East Germany) we use a new soundtrack .

Lichtspiel Opus I, produced, directed, animated and edited by Walter (Walther) Ruttmann for Ruttmann-Film GmbH; original music by Max Butting; original length: 243 m; original format: 35 mm, 1:1.33, hand-colored: censorship number: M.00789, 29 october 1921; previewed 1 April 1921 in Frankfurt, U.T im Schwan; premiere: 27 April 1921, Berlin Marmorhaus.




Hans Richter (April 6, 1888 – February 1, 1976) was a German painter, graphic artist, avant-gardist, film-experimenter and producer.He was born in Berlin into a well-to-do family and died in Minusio, near Locarno, Switzerland.
Richter’s first contacts with modern art were in 1912 through the “Blaue Reiter” and in 1913 through the “Erster Deutsche Herbstsalon” gallery “Der Sturm”, in Berlin. In 1914 he was influenced by cubism. He contributed to the periodical Die Aktion in Berlin.[2] His first exhibition was in Munich in 1916, and Die Aktion published as a special edition about him. In the same year he was wounded and discharged from the army and went to Zürich and joined the Dada movement. His first abstract works were made in 1917. In 1918, he befriended Viking Eggeling, and the two experimented together with film. Richter was co-founder, in 1919, of the Association of Revolutionary Artists (“Artistes Radicaux”) at Zürich. In the same year he created his first Prélude (an orchestration of a theme developed in eleven drawings). In 1920 he was a member of the November group in Berlin and contributed to the Dutch periodical De Stijl.

hansrichter28229 1950s_drawings-for-pr richter-film2 richter-film richter-film-cans-1 040110-hans-richter Rhythm 23 - Hans Richter (1923) 2 images Hans Richter1

“I conceive of the film as a modern art form particularly interesting to the sense of sight. Painting has its own peculiar problems and specific sensations, and so has the film. But there are also problems in which the dividing line is obliterated, or where the two infringe upon each other. More especially, the cinema can fulfill certain promises made by the ancient arts, in the realization of which painting and film become close neighbors and work together.”

Richter moved from Switzerland to the United States in 1940 and became an American citizen. He taught in the Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York.[5]
While living in New York, Richter directed two feature films, Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) and 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements (1957) in collaboration with Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Paul Bowles, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, and others, which was partially filmed on the lawn of his summer house in Southbury, Connecticut.
In 1957, he finished a film entitled Dadascope with original poems and prose spoken by their creators: Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Kurt Schwitters.
After 1958, Richter spent parts of the year in Ascona and Connecticut and returned to painting.
Richter was also the author of a first-hand account of the Dada movement titled Dada: Art and Anti-Art [6] which also included his reflections on the emerging Neo-Dada artworks.



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Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger (22 June 1900 – 31 January 1967) was a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for inventing abstract musical animations many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos. He created special effects for Fritz Lang’s 1929 Woman In The Moon, one of the first sci-fi rocket movies. He also made over 50 short animated films, and painted around 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide.

In Frankfurt, Fischinger met the theatre critic Bernhard Diebold, who in 1921 introduced Fischinger to the work and personage of Walter Ruttmann, a pioneer in abstract film. Inspired by Ruttmann’s work, Fischinger began experimenting with colored liquids and three-dimensional modelling materials such as wax and clay. He conceptualized a “Wax Slicing Machine”, which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera’s shutter, enabling the efficient imaging of progressive cross-sections through a length of molded wax and clay. Fischinger wrote to Ruttmann about his machine, who expressed interest. Moving to Munich, Fischinger licensed the wax slicing machine to Ruttmann and began working on the first production model. Upon delivery, Ruttmann found that hot film lights often melted the wax to a serious degree. Ruttmann gave up, though during this time Fischinger shot many abstract tests of his own using the machine. Some of these are distributed today under the assigned title Wax Experiments.

In 1924, Fischinger was hired by American entrepreneur Louis Seel to produce satirical cartoons that tended toward mature audiences. He also made abstract films and tests of his own, trying new and different techniques, including the use of multiple projectors. Between 1926 and 1927, Fischinger performed his own multiple projector film shows with various musical accompaniments. These shows were titled Fieber (Fever), Vakuum, Macht (Power) and later, R-1 ein Formspiel.[2] In 2012, a multiple screen event, “Raumlichtkunst,” from the series first performed in Germany in 1926, was re-created by the Center for Visual Music[3] and exhibited at the Whitney Museum[4] and Tate Modern, London.

Facing financial difficulties, Fischinger borrowed from his family, and then his landlady. Finally, in an effort to escape bill collectors, Fischinger decided to surreptitiously depart Munich for Berlin in June 1927. Taking only his essential equipment, he walked 350 miles through the countryside, shooting single frames that were later released as a film in itself: Walking from Munich to Berlin.

Arriving in Berlin, Fischinger borrowed some money from a relative and set up a studio on Friedrichstraße. He soon was doing the special effects for various films. His own proposals for cartoons were not accepted by producers or distributors, however.[5] In 1928, he was hired to work on space epic Woman In The Moon (German: Frau im Mond), directed by Fritz Lang, which provided him a steady salary for a time. On his own time, he experimented with charcoal-on-paper animation. He produced a series of abstract Studies that were synchronized to popular and classical music. A few of the early Studies were synchronized to new record releases by Electrola, and screened at first-run theatres with a tail credit advertising the record, thus making them, in a sense, the very first music videos.

The Studies — Numbers 1 through 12 — were well received at art theatres and many were distributed to first-run theatres throughout Europe. Some of the Studies were distributed to theatres in Japan and the US. His Studie Nr. 5 screened at the 1931 “Congress for Colour-Music Research” to critical acclaim. In 1931, Universal Pictures purchased distribution rights to Studie Nr. 5 for the American public, and Studie Nr. 7 screened as a short with a popular movie in Berlin, and many other cities worldwide. The special effects Fischinger did for other movies led to his being called “the Wizard of Friedrichstraße”. In 1932, Fischinger married Elfriede Fischinger, a first cousin from his hometown of Gelnhausen.

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As the Nazis consolidated power after 1933, the abstract film and art communities and distribution possibilities quickly disappeared as the Nazis instituted their policies against what they termed “degenerate art”. Fischinger continued to make films, and also found work producing commercials and advertisements, among them Muratti Greift Ein (translated as Muratti Gets in the Act, or Muratti Marches On) (1934), for a cigarette company, and Kreise (Circles) (1933), for an advert agency. The color Muratti commercial with its stop-motion dancing cigarettes screened all over Europe. Though Fischinger at times ran afoul of the Nazi authorities, he managed to complete his abstract work Komposition in Blau in 1935. It was well-received critically, and contrary to popular myth, was legally registered.[6] An agent from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer screened a print of Komposition in Blau and Muratti in a small art theatre in Hollywood, and Ernst Lubitsch was impressed by the films and the audience’s enthusiastic response to the shorts. An agent from Paramount Pictures telephoned Fischinger, asking if he was willing to work in America, and Fischinger promptly agreed.

Upon arriving in Hollywood in February 1936, Fischinger was given an office at Paramount, German-speaking secretaries, an English tutor, and a weekly salary of $250. He and Elfriede socialized with the émigré community, but felt out of place among the elites. As he waited for his assignment to begin, Fischinger sketched and painted.[7] He prepared a film which was originally named Radio Dynamics, tightly synchronized to Ralph Rainger’s tune “Radio Dynamics”. This short film was planned for inclusion in the feature film The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936). However, Paramount changed the film project from Technicolor to black-and-white and intercut the film with various live action images, so it was no longer totally abstract. Fischinger requested to be let out of his contract and left Paramount. Several years later, with the help of Hilla von Rebay and a grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting(later The Guggenheim), he was able to buy the film back from Paramount. Fischinger then redid and re-painted the cels and made a color version to his satisfaction which he then called Allegretto. This became one of the most-screened and successful films of visual music’s history, and one of Fischinger’s most popular films.

Most of Fischinger’s filmmaking attempts in America suffered difficulties. He composed An Optical Poem (1937) to Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody for MGM, but received no profits due to studio bookkeeping systems. He designed the J. S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor sequence for Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940), but quit without credit because Disney altered his designs to be more representational. According to William Moritz, Fischinger contributed to the effects animation of the Blue Fairy’s wand in Pinocchio (1940).[8] In the 1950s, Fischinger created several animated TV advertisements, including one for Muntz TV which unfortunately never aired due to the arrest of Muntz himself.

The Museum of Non-Objective Painting commissioned him to synchronize a film with a march by John Philip Sousa in order to demonstrate loyalty to America, and then insisted that he make a film to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, even though he wanted to make a film without sound in order to affirm the integrity of his non-objective imagery. Secretly, Fischinger composed the silent movie Radio Dynamics (1942).

Frustrated in his filmmaking, Fischinger turned increasingly to oil painting as a creative outlet. Although the Guggenheim Foundation specifically requested a cel animation film, Fischinger made his Bach film Motion Painting No. 1 (1947) as a documentation of the act of painting, taking a single frame each time he made a brush stroke—and the multi-layered style merely parallels the structure of the Bach music without any tight synchronization. Although he never again received funding for any of his personal films (only some commercial work), the Motion Painting No. 1 won the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Experimental Film Competition in 1949. Three of Fischinger’s films also made the 1984 Olympiad of Animation’s list of the world’s greatest films.

Fischinger died in Los Angeles in 1967. A great deal of inaccurate information continues to be published about Fischinger, largely taken from decades-old sources, often repeated in online databases such as William Moritz’s Film Culture essay from the 1970s and Optische Poesie, 1993.

In the late 1940s Fischinger invented the Lumigraph (patented in 1955) which some have mistakenly called a type of color organ. Like other inventors of color organs, Fischinger hoped to make the Lumigraph a commercial product, widely available for anyone, but this did not happen. The instrument produced imagery by pressing against a rubberized screen so it could protrude into a narrow beam of colored light. As a visual instrument, the size of its screen was limited by the reach of the performer. Two people were required to operate the Lumigraph: one to manipulate the screen to create imagery, and a second to change the colors of the lights on cue.

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The device itself was silent, but was performed accompanying various music. Fischinger gave several performances in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco in the early 1950s, performing various classical and popular music pieces, and many were impressed by the machine’s spectacular images. In 1964 the Lumigraph was used in the science fiction film The Time Travelers, in which it became a ‘lumichord’, although this was not Fischinger’s intent, but the decision of the film’s producers. Fischinger’s son Conrad even built two more machines in different sizes. After his death, his widow Elfriede and daughter Barbara gave performances with the Lumigraph, along with William Moritz, in Europe and the US.

Today one of the instruments is in the collection of the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and the other two are in California. In February 2007 Barbara Fischinger performed on the original Lumigraph in Frankfurt. Film and video documentation of Elfriede’s Lumigraph performances are at the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles.

“The New Color-Play Instrument – A New Invention by Oskar Fischinger. The Instrument is played by HAND and produces the most fantastic color display – but controlled direct through the Player” –



Viking Eggeling (21 October 1880, Lund – 19 May 1925, Berlin) was a Swedish avant-garde artist and filmmaker connected to dadaism, Constructivism and Abstract art and was one of the pioneers in absolute film and visual music. His 1924 film Diagonal-Symphonie is one of the seminal abstract films in the history of experimental cinema.

In Zurich in 1918, he re-connected with Hans Arp and took part in several Dada activities, befriending Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Taeuber, and the other dadaists connected to the Cabaret Voltaire. In 1919 he also joined the group Das Neue Leben (“New Life”), that was based in Basel and featured Marcel Janco, Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Augusto Giacometti, and others. The group supported an educational approach to modern art, coupled with socialist ideals and Constructivist aesthetics.
In its art manifesto, the group declared its ideal of “rebuild[ing] the human community” in preparation for the end of capitalism. In the same year Eggeling was co-founder of the similar group Artistes Radicaux (“Radical Artists”), a more political section of the Neue Leben group. During this time, in 1918, Tristan Tzara introduced him to Hans Richter, with whom he would work intimately for a couple of years, and in 1919 the two of them left Switzerland for Germany. Richter later wrote that “The contrast between us, which was that between method and spontaneity, only served to strengthen our mutual attraction…for three years we marched side by side, although we fought on separate fronts.

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In Germany his first stop was Berlin, where he met with Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch and other radical artists. He here also joined the Novembergruppe (“November Group”), a radical political group that featured many artists connected to Dada, Bauhaus and Constructivism. After moving to Klein-Kölzig with Richter, he continued his experiments with “picture rolls”. These scrolls were sequences of painted images on long rolls of paper that investigate the transformation of geometrical forms and could be up to 15 meters in length. As they were to be “read” from left to right, this soon evolved into cinematographic experimentation on film stock. In 1920, Eggeling began producing his first film, Horizontal-Vertikal-Messe, based on a “picture roll” containing approximately 5000 images. In 1921, he ends his collaboration with Richter and postpones his work on Horizontal-Vertikal-Messe. In 1923 he instead collaborates with Erna Niemeyer and works on Diagonal-Symphonie, a synthesis of image, rhythm, movement and music, created from series of black sheets of paper with cut-out geometrical shapes. This film was completed in 1924 and shown for the first time in November the same year. Its first public screening was in Berlin in May 1925, at the film program “Der absolute Film”, arranged by the Novembergruppe. 16 days later, Eggeling died.




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Norman McLaren, CC, CQ (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish-born Canadian animator and film director known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). He was a pioneer in a number of areas of animation and filmmaking, including drawn on film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixilation and graphical sound.
His awards included an Oscar for the Best Documentary in 1952 for Neighbours, a Silver Bear for best short documentary at the 1956 Berlin International Film Festival Rythmetic and a 1969 BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film for Pas de deux.

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Constantly innovative, McLaren tried techniques such as drawings scratched directly on film, cutout animation, painting directly on film, etc. During the COLD WAR in 1952, using a technique of stop-motion cinematography called pixilation, he made Neighbours, a political fable on the futility of using violence to resolve conflict. After this – his ultimate ideological statement – his films concentrated more on aesthetics and technique than on content. His work earned him increasing international recognition, and for over 30 years he produced roughly one film per year. Some of the more interesting examples are Blinkity Blank (1954), the didactic Rythmetic (1956), the absurd humour of Il était une chaise (1957) and the fantasy of Le Merle (1958).


Many of McLaren’s films were co-directed by Evelyn Lambart. In Lines Vertical (1960), Lines Horizontal (1962) and Mosaic (1965), he opted for an austere, abstract style and exercises in which technology took precedence. He began a series of films about BALLET(see DANCE AND THE MEDIA) and the beauty and harmony of movement with Pas de deux (1967); it was followed by Ballet Adagio (1972) and Narcissus (1983).


He also produced more didactic films on the art of FILM ANIMATION, such as L’Écran d’épingles (1973) and Animated Motion (1977).McLaren’s creative genius made him Canada’s leading director of animated film. His life work of 72 films was donated in 1985 to the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles. In 1988, the Association internationale du cinéma d’animation in Canada (ASIFA-Canada) created the Norman McLaren Prize.



Walt Disney – 1940 – Fantasia

Chuck Jones – 1965 – The Dot and the Line



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