For this edition of Fan Mail, Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube of Bielefeld, Germany has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.
Dennis’s “stilled film” projects are exercises in visualizing the art of filmmaking—-charting changes in time, compressing linear space, and stripping away character and narrative. Beyond appropriating imagery or quoting an influence, Dennis’s works are an analysis of great films, specifically ones by auteurs such as Hitchcock and Kubrick, and Hollywood gems such as The Wizard of Oz which have permeated culture globally. Knowledge of the content of these films is widespread and their influence is far-reaching. To examine their structure and form, Dennis reconfigures film; because these films are so well-known, the public can compare their memory of the film with the new viewing.
His analysis of The Wizard of Oz takes two forms—as a book and video installation. In the book, each page corresponds to exactly one minute of film time, so flipping through it puts the film in fast motion. When reading text on the page, you move linearly from left to right, then down to the next line, but looking at the film laid out on the page in this same style, the need to scroll linearly to understand the content is broken. When watching a film on the screen, the viewer is taken on a prescribed journey and time is dictated by the filmmaker. When The Wizard of Oz takes on Dennis’s book form, the viewer is free to let his own formal questions about the film guide him, such as—how much green is there in this film?
In Dennis’s video installation of The Wizard of Oz, characters are merged using one voice. The image grid maintains a sense of linear progression but allow for a fuller context of past and future events. The viewer is still watching a film in time, but the installation format allows him to come and go at will. The 35 mm film stills are shrunken down, appearing like pixels when shown on youtube, to appears as pixelated images taking 35mm cinema film, rendering down the high quality still into a dot of color, a pixel, abstracting the high definition reality.
Music has an ability to control emotion and make a motion picture more captivating, but Dennis has removed this element for the viewer. Dennis method is systematic, like running an equation on a piece of art and stripping it of all emotional qualities. But what is the advantage of seeing a film’s form only, with the impact of character and sequence removed?
The Wizard of Oz was the book I carried around with me all the time as a kid, a gift from my uncle, a fantasy landscape, the idea of being swept away, swept out of the challenges of the world on a new journey with new friends. I read it often and I would skip around to my favorite parts—imagining the mice carrying the passed out friends through the poppy fields, for example. Both book and movie allowed me to enter the journey at will with multiple re-readings and re-watchings; the book produced an even greater fantasy experience—allowing me to enter the motion picture of my mind in isolation. Knowing the outcome, it was not about finding any deeper meaning—it was pure enjoyment of language and story. I was often that little girl walking down the yellow brick road, not knowing what to make of it, wishing a good witch would leave an indelible kiss on my forehead.
How a viewer understands a film or story transforms through multiple rounds of navigating it. But a good narrative often has the ability to bring the viewer to a meditative state, where reflection and analysis are challenged by the beauty and enjoyment of the art. Television has this effect too—but often through trickery rather than artistic vision, pulling in the viewer through fast editing and layered sound, producing a bombardment on the senses that is mesmerizing. A competent viewer can reflect on these qualities of film as many a film-school student does but Dennis aims to pull us out of the picture in a new way. Creating a document of art, Dennis gets us out of the fantasy. To see the end and know the progression, to know how it all works out, allows us to study structure.
The long shot and long exposure are two other areas of study for Dennis. He shows us the real length of a scene in Godard’s Weekend by showing the strips laid out. The shot is some 8 minutes long—the camera pans across a crowded route, moving faster than traffic, showing stalled out vehicles and upset motorists. This is the kind of scene that isolates many viewers from “art house” films which, though beautiful, often have some boring or confusing quality that makes them somewhat unwatchable. Dennis’s depiction of the scene allows any viewer immediate access to the length of the shot without having to experience that length in time.
Color is an essential element of Dennis’s experiments. Transitions of color pass over you in the viewing of The Wizard of Oz. Long exposures render an entire film into a vibrant monochromatic still in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. So like the Color Field painters, even when action and gesture are stripped down, the effects of color on emotion are still present. Dennis’s experiments allow the viewer to face the reality of their sensory experience more clearly.
In 2012, Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube exhibited his projects at The Finnish Museum of Photography – “D Book Show” (Helsinki, Finland), Baumwollspinnerei – “f/stop Festival” (Leipzig, Germany), and at Le Bal – “Photobook Festival” (Paris, France). He studied at the University of Applied Sciences (Bielefeld, Germany).