A Fullframe Perspective

Professors and punks preview Austrian avant-garde video

On The Town | Annelies Guisset | April 2009

Artists collaborate on a live act at the Fullframe Festival (Photo: fullframefestival.net)

Confusing, scary, funny, calming – none of the experimental videos during the Fullframe Festival at the Gartenbaukino in Vienna left the viewer without a surge of at least one of these emotions on the evening of Mar. 19. The 120-square-meter screen at the spacious 60s theater screened a variety of experimental and avant-garde video works and films of different genres, creators, and, especially, ideas.

The lobby of the theater held the buzz of a beer hall that night, filled with both the usual and unusual guests – professors and punks, the curious and the quaint. Through the flurry of bright stockings, formal ties, and baggy hats and trousers, the facial expressions were more or less the same – uncertain expectation. What sorts of incredulities and strangeness would they be shown tonight? Would they like it, hate it, understand it?

Though a general, unifying theme seemed to be lacking, not much else was left to the imagination. After an introduction by film scholar and movie maven Gabriele Jutz, the first video showed an American general explaining to his men, for about six and a half minutes, how to make a great Thanksgiving turkey. The stark irony of this piece had an ice-breaker effect, setting the mood and allowing the audience to slip into the stream of videos with ease.

Other pieces included furniture dropping from the ceiling and smashing onto the apartment floor (five minutes), a black and white view of Bratislava and its graffiti-ridden ruins (a long thirteen minutes), plants falling over behind a pool of dripping water (a whopping six minutes), a live act with strange drawings and clicking sounds (fifteen minutes), and a three-minute long silent, black and white video of two divorced parents meeting after fifty years, finally reunited and facing one another on screen.

The submission to receive the most amount of applause (though perhaps not entirely with justice) was named 24/7 – Into the Direction of Light by Michael Aschauer. The concept was simple; the passing of day and night over the northern view of an ocean. Through fast-forwarding, the soft blues of morning and day quickly passed into the red and purples of evening, fading into black.

Now, the assumption at this sort of an event is that, essentially, you applaud at a black screen, because it means the film is over. This had been the routine for all other films. However, the day followed the night on the screen again, and again, and again… As the title suggests, the film showed not one day, but a whole week, pressed into approximately nine minutes. The first four nights, audience members clapped, expecting the end, unfortunately not yet realizing the actual intention of the film. Guidance would have been helpful.

Whatever the weaknesses of the material, the presentation was professional throughout. All films were displayed almost majestically on the enormous screen. The theater itself, originally built in 1919 and refurbished in 1960, retains a sense of the dignity of an era long past, without unnecessary glamour, making it the perfect spot for art-house film shows such as this March for the Kunstfilmfestival and the Viennale each November. The 700 plush seats, the rippled maroon curtain, and the curious acoustical blocks on the ceiling blend in without reprise, allowing the audience to view the films with complete attention and moderate comfort.

At the night’s end, around 11pm, with most of the audience still present, the films had left a memorable if rather bewildering impression on the mind and heart. Stepping out into the cold wind of the street, the range of ideas, genres, sounds, and images left a blurred sense of reality. What were we meant to think of the films? What were we supposed to feel? What were the creators’ intentions?

Had there, in fact, been an intention at all? A question inside a question; which perhaps was the point.

Other articles from this issue