Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oskar Fischinger

Born on June 22, 1900, Oskar Fischinger was a pioneer abstract filmmaker from Germany. After being introduced to the work of Walter Ruttmann by Bernhard Diebold, Oskar began experimenting with a wax slicing machine, which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera's shutter and enabled video of progressive cross sections.

Walter Ruttmann: Opus 1, 2, 3 and 4:

Summer of 1927: Walking from Munich to Berlin

Fischinger was hired to work making special effects with rockets and planet surfaces for Fritz Lang's 1929 science-fiction film Woman in the Moon. He broke his ankle on the set, and while in the hospital experimented with charcoal-on-paper animation. These led to his 17 Studies.

Woman in the Moon:

Study Number 6, 1930:

After Nazi takeover, Fischinger was denied permits for making more abstract films. He created Composition in Blue anyway, which won him the King's prize at the Brussels World Fair in October 1935. Paramount saved him from this dangerous position by giving him work in Hollywood. Fischinger was unhappy at Paramount because they did not allow him to work in color and edited his work undesirably.

Composition in Blue:

He then moved onto MGM where he created An Optical Poem. Due to MGM's bookkeeping process, he received no profits.

An Optical Poem:

Fischinger moved onto Disney, where he worked on the film "Tocatta and Fugue by Bach" for Fantasia, but quit because his designs were simplified and made more representational.

Later, Fischinger created Radio Dynamics, which conveyed sound and rhythm with color and shapes.

Radio Dynamics:

Fischinger turned to oil painting when frustrated by his film making. He experimented with photographing the process of his paintings by taking a photo after every brush stroke. Hilla Rebay, curator of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, gave Fischinger several grants during the war. Fischinger struggled in particular because he was labeled an enemy alien while living in the US. After an argument with Rebay, he never again received funding to produce another film. He continued painting and invented the Lumigraph, a home light show instrument.

Fischinger utilized various methodologies in his work:

Material experiments with wax, clay, light and oil painting

Syncing music to film

Stop motion/photographing of each brush stroke while painting

Conveying sound and rhythm with color and shapes

Fischinger's influence can be seen today on Youtube and in the music video for Silent Shout by The Knife, which was inspired by Fischinger's work as well as the graphic novel Black Hole:

Silent Shout by The Knife:

Connections between Fischinger and Michel Gondry have also been made.

Michel Gondry, Bjork and a Paint-Piano:

Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger By William Moritz. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004

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