Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rhythm 23

Rhythm 23 (1923) by Hans Richter.

The German modernist Hans Richter (1888 - 1976) was a painter, graphic artist and experimental filmmaker.

He initially painted in a cubist style, but moved into film - being best known for his experiments in avantgarde cinema. He was also a founding member of the Dada movement.

He is quoted as saying:

"Influenced by cubism and its search for structure, but not satisfied with what it offered, I found myself between 1913-1918 increasingly faced with the conflict of suppressing spontaneous expression in order to gain an objective understanding of a fundamental principle with which I could control the ‘heap of fragments’ inherited from the cubists.

Thus I gradually lost interest in the subject – in any subject – and focused instead on the positive-negative (white-black) opposition, which at least gave me a working hypothesis whereby I could organize the relationship of one part of a painting to the other."

His film Rhythmus 21 is generally considered to be the first completely abstract film, and is now viewed as an avantgarde classic.

'Rhythmus 23' is "constructed entirely out of the interplay between square shapes and diagonal lines, often related via superimposition, and the underlying architectonic principle is geometric symmetry.

In the opening of the film, for example, two white squares on the left and right sides of the screen move towards each other along an axially symmetric path until they finally 'fuse' into a larger white square, before breaking apart into shrinking squares that careen off diagonally, in parallel with one another.

At the end of the film, this same sequence re-appears, but this time inverted, with black squares moving against a white background."

Suggested further reading: here, here and here for example.

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